This vegan pesto has a bright pop of fresh basil, a nutty foundation of pistachio, cheesy umami undertones, and just a touch of fresh garlic. As a spread, sauce, or dip, it’s a really easy way to add sophisticated flavor to pretty much anything.
Vegan Basil Pesto – Simple, Fresh, and Satisfying
If you have some fresh basil and want it to shine, make this pesto with it. Everything in the recipe serves the purpose of elevating the bright flavor of the basil, and it becomes a sauce that you can use on practically anything.
I developed this recipe to use with homemade gnocchi, but the pesto is great with any kind of pasta, spread onto bread, in salad dressing, on a sandwich, in hummus, or even on pizza.
Why the Vegan Basil Pesto Works
My recipe is based on the classic pesto alla genovese – a traditional Italian recipe that dates back to the 19th century.
I replaced the parmigiano and pecorino with a combination, nutritional yeast, and a touch of sauerkraut brine.
Traditionally, pine nuts are used in this type of pesto, though I improvised and used pistachios and it was great.
Nutritional yeast gives a certain cheesiness, and the brine gives a lactic “funk” that’s similar to sheep’s milk cheese.
Aside from the cheese replacement, the recipe is the same as the classic – garlic, nuts (either pistachios or pine nuts), and olive oil.
How to Use This Pesto
I recently made some homemade gnocchi that pair perfectly with the pesto. I like to saute the gnocchi until nicely browned, and then toss them in the pesto – you get the toastiness of the browning plus the bright flavors of the pesto. The gnocchi are chewy, but they also just sort of melt. It’s super satisfying.
But you can also use the pesto on other types of pasta – it’s like a sauce that clings nicely to the noodles and it imparts so much flavor. Try Ligurian style linguine – combine the boiled pasta with cooked potatoes and green beans, all coated in this pesto – it’s divine.
The flavor profile works with all sorts of Mediterranean flavors as well:
- Spread it on crusty bread as a snack with wine, sliced tomatoes optional
- Drizzle some pesto into your hummus or baba ghanoush
- Toss roasted veggies or cooked beans/peas in it
More Italian-Inspired Vegan Sauces
- Marinara – the classic all-purpose tomato sauce, accented with basil and garlic
- Carbonara – my plant-based version of the cheesy, eggy pasta, featuring smoky mushroom “bacon”
- Bolognese – full-bodied and hearty ragu loaded with mushrooms, eggplant, and other veggies
- Caesar Salad Dressing – rich and cheesy with that signature garlic-mustard tang
Possible Pairings with the Pesto
- Air Fryer Tomatoes – spread some pesto on a piece of toasted bread, then top it with one of these juicy and concentrated tomatoes
- Mediterranean Buddha Bowl Meal Prep – the pesto flavors work great as a sauce for everything in this bowl
- Air Fryer Roasted Potatoes – toss the hot potatoes in a few spoons of pesto to take them to the next level
- Vegan “Chicken” Nuggets – the pesto is perfect for dipping these, or any nuggets
As always, if you try this recipe out, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @gastroplant on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Let me know in the comments if you have questions and happy cooking!
Vegan Basil Pesto alla Genovese
- 30 grams fresh basil leaves about 2 cups
- 1 teaspoon white miso
- 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ½ cup pistachios or pine nuts toasted lightly in the oven or a skillet
- 2 Tablespoons sauerkraut brine
- ½ clove raw garlic
- ½ cup olive oil
- Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor or use a mortar and pestle. Blend until smooth. Use or store immediately.