How To Make Vegan Pesto

How to make a tasty vegan pesto sauce without cheese.
Vegan pesto is all about the herbs and nuts. You won't miss the cheese.



The thing is, making pesto is not an exact science. It's intuitive. It's flexible. And lucky for us dairy-free folks- whipping up fresh pesto sauce is easy-as-pie (I should say, easier than pie, because gluten-free vegan pie is not all that easy).

You can whip up a vegan pesto from any combination of fresh herbs, nuts and good tasting olive oil that your little heart desires. You can use cilantro or basil. Or both. Or try a light and fresh combo of mint, basil and parsley- my favorite. Choose pecans or walnuts or traditional pine nuts. Even hazelnuts.


Dairy-free sauce never packed so much goodness.

More than just a pasta sauce- pesto adds a big flavor boost to all kinds of recipes. Stir it into tomato sauce  just before serving. Or plop a dollop into a bowl of Italian soup. Add a spoonful to stew. Schmear some on croutons,  gluten-free toast and grilled cornbread. It's a fabulous base for pizza toppings.

You can also add pesto to roasted potato wedges and grilled vegetables. Stir it into polenta- or spread it on wedges of broiled polenta. It dresses up rice and risotto, pasta, noodles, and even grilled tortillas. It kicks up salad dressings and hummus.


For flexitarians, pesto is a bright, herbalicious accent for grilled salmon, shrimp, and fish.  Not to mention, egg dishes. Pesto and huevos is a match made in ovo-lacto vegetarian heaven.

So even if pesto is considered passé by some, an eighties foodie fad gone by...

Do we care?




How To Make Vegan Pesto - A Recipe Template

Recipe posted February 2008 by Karina Allrich.
 
This vegan pesto is big on taste, zero on dairy. You won't miss the cheese, I promise. It never lasts long around here. The nuts you choose influence the taste.

Ingredients:

2 cups, washed, loosely packed stemmed fresh herbs- basil, cilantro, parsley, mint
1/2 cup shelled pecans or walnuts or pine nuts
1-2 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 to 1/2 cup good tasting extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Sea salt, to taste

Instructions:

Combine the fresh herbs, nuts, and garlic in a food processor and process the mixture until it turns into a coarse meal.


Slowly add extra virgin olive oil in a steady drizzle as you pulse the processor on and off. Process until it becomes a smooth, light paste. Add enough olive oil to keep it moist and spreadable.


Season with sea salt, to taste.

Cover and store chilled for at least an hour to saturate the flavors. I like to pour a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil over the top to help keep it bright green.

Makes roughly a rounded cup.


Recipe Source: glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com

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Recipe note:

Pesto can darken if heated (basil turns black when hot) so add it to hot dishes (like cooked pasta) at the very last minute if the color is important to you.






41 comments:

  1. YUM. Once again you have done it. Can't wait to have this with dinner tonight!

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  2. I also like make pesto with other fresh herbs, but have never tried with cilantro yet.

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  3. What is the utensil in the photo?

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  4. Hello Virginie! I imagine you have access to wonderful fresh herbs. What is your favorite combination?

    Hi Sally! You mean the little cocktail knife? I found a set of four in Santa Fe. They're perfect for spreading pesto or tapenade on grilled toast, etc.

    Karina

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  5. I LOVE the idea to use pecans in pesto! I have to try this out.

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  6. I love cilantro pesto, I used to be a basil pesto purist and then one day I broke the barriers down and I am happy I did! We just made some pesto with frozen spinach and it too was great and has a fabulous green factor when it is gray outside. I love the cocktail knife, great style.

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  7. cilantro walnut pesto IS good. A dash of jalepeno in there gives it a nice kick too.
    :)

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  8. By the Bay- I've been loving pecans in pesto. Toasted- really rocks. ;)

    Thanks, CelticJig! I discovered cilantro pesto years ago- when there was no basil available- and I was surprised at how much I LOVED it (I was a die hard basil girl). The spinach idea sounds intriguing...

    Shamana- Ooh, yeah. Jalapeño is always good in my book. I love it in hummus. Have not put it into pesto- but- why the heck not? ;)

    Karina

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  9. Ohh, I LOVE This. Never thought of doing this and it seems so bright and green. I think I miss green...

    :)

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  10. Barbara17:16

    I've mad this walnuts, but pecans sound much more appealing!

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  11. I can't wait to make this for Emily now that I finally found a pizza crust we like! Dairy free pesto recipes are really hard to come by, thank you! As for the nuts...hmmmm...I think our only options here would be almonds, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds. Chopped, toasted pumpkin seeds might be good. What do you think?

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  12. Hey SM! This pesto is a favorite here- we even add it to tuna salad. ;)

    Barbara- Pecans are fab!

    Hi FoodAllergyMom- I've made this with toasted almonds- very good. Toasting almonds- or the seeds you mentioned- would help.

    Personally- I wonder about the texture of the pumpkin seeds. Toasted sunflower seeds would grind up nicely.

    If the seeds are salted, cut back on salt and season to taste after the seeds are added.

    Let me know what you try. ;)

    Karina

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  13. Oh wow! Karina, this pesto is YUMMY. I made it this evening and posted what I did with it just now on my blog. I'm looking forward to tomorrow night's dinner, too, that I posted about in there.

    Thanks!

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  14. this looks wonderful! question: how long can it keep? If I made a big enough batch, could I freeze and use for later? thanks for all your wonderful recipes.

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  15. Rachel- Cool- glad you like this pesto. I need to make some- soon!

    Hi Sara- I've never had enough left to freeze, so I have no personal experience. But I don't see why not. I've read of cooks putting pesto in ice cube trays and freezing it as cubes. You'd need to store it as air-tight as possible; as ice crystals will diminish the flavor/taste.

    Karina

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  16. Anonymous19:22

    try adding a bit of miso paste to the pesto as well - adds a little extra dimension of flavour!

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  17. I've frozen non-vegan pesto before. I lined a cookie sheet with plastic wrap, spread a layer of pesto over it, and covered with another layer of plastic wrap.

    I tossed it in the freezer for a few days and then cut it apart with kitchen shears, then tossed all of the chips in a ziplock bag in the freezer. When cutting the pesto apart, you've got to move quickly because the pesto will melt rather quickly and it's really messy.

    This way I can stock up on basil when the farmer's market has it on special and I am able to add 'fresh' pesto to dishes in the middle of the winter when fresh basil is out of season in the northeast.

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  18. What if you're allergic to garlic...is there ANY hope for eating pesto sauce again?!?

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    1. Anonymous04:33

      You could always try using Garlic Chives as they have a similar flavour to garlic (they are used a lot of places like China in place of garlic).

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  19. Are you also allergic to leek and onion? Because elephant garlic is actually in the onion/leek family- if you'd like a garlicky taste (and are NOT allergic to onions as well).

    You can certainly make pesto without garlic. It will taste fresh and green. For a flavor boost you could also add in other elements, such as sun-dried tomatoes or olives. This will alter the color, though.

    When it comes to pesto- you can create your own flavor combos...!

    Karina

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  20. Bobo20:36

    canned artichoke hearts, pureed in with the pesto, will give you that extra creaminess that is missing from a creamy (dairy) pesto sauce.

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  21. made the parsley-pecan pesto for the first time last night... it was delicious!!! :)

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  22. Thank you so much! Just found your blog, when I was looking for dairy-free recipes for pesto. I am lactose intolerant, yet I love pesto! I am going to try this out later.

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  23. I made this today, and it came out fantastically. I did add a little more herbs and some more garlic to conform to my taste, and added a little bit of water to create a good consistency for pasta. Thank you so much!

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  24. I made this today, and it came out fantastically. I did add a little more herbs and some more garlic to conform to my taste, and added a little bit of water to create a good consistency for pasta. Thank you so much!

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  25. My favourite very Australian combo is coriander(cilantro) and macadamia nut pesto tossed through gluten free pasta with prawns (shrimp)

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  26. Karina came aboard to learn about eye candy clean healthy desserts to fins for my newly diagnosed husband..... but I stay now mainly for the writing ~ it pulls me into your current ~ the ride is easy ~ the rhythm suits me....

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  27. When I don't have fresh basil around (which is most of the time)--and I'm partial to basil pesto--I have successfully made it with spinach and dried basil. The spinach takes on the basil flavor, and gives the green base needed to make it pesto.

    A fun addition is soaked sundried tomatoes. These make it sundried tomato pesto. Of course, they are good in humus, on pizza, in Italian-style beans... But now I'm totally off topic! :) There is, however, a sundried tomato/red pepper pesto recipe on my blog for anyone who cares to hunt for it. It's GF too. :)

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  28. I love pesto! I will never be passé to me! My latest craze has been putting it in my grilled cheese sandwiches...definitely not vegan, but completely delicious.

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  29. Rondackchick17:12

    HI Karina,
    I just want to say I am so grateful to have found you and your blog! I have had gluten sensitivity for years and many food allergies too! ( oh ya and MS for many years too) It has been frustrating, as most of you know for yourselves, to find balance and stability with my health. I tried your pumpkin pie recipe and my hubby thought it was really good so I made one to bring to friends and they ate half the pie in the first hour!!!! That was a big test for me because I am a New England Girl! and I love to make and eat pumpkin pie! Tonight I am making your Chicken Tropical...It smells wonderful! I just wonder what to do with all the liquid? There is an abundance of it and it doesn't look as creamy as in your picture? Did I do something wrong? I have spent hours reading your blog and recipes. I love your way with words and stories! I also appreciate your loyal audience with their helpful questions and comments!!! I tried macrobiotics for a while and felt better but it was hard to maintain the diet and it was a bit bland for my taste. I have passed your address on to everyone I talk with! Especially my sister in NH that was just diagnosed with full blown Celiac! You are a Gift! xoxoxo I look forward to trying many or all of your awesome recipes. Thanks again for paving a tasty, fun way to better health for so many. Blessings to you and yours xoxo

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  30. Rondackchick- So glad. Thank you. As for the liquid- I made this at higher altitude, in the desert, so that may be why I had less liquid? You can save it for starting a soup- or use it with leftovers to serve over rice... The sauce is delicious. Blessings back to ya- Karina xox

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  31. Anonymous10:50

    Wild garlic pesto is in season now. Just replace the basil with the wild garlic leaves.

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  32. Ooh -- pretty please post to Punk Domestics?

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  33. FoodAllergyMom, I always make pesto with pumpkin seeds because I can get them cheap. They work fabulously!! I also add sun dried tomatoes, an avocado, and a touch of almond milk to the mix and it makes a delicious creamy sauce. It's super tasty as a creamy raw sauce for zucchini noodles!

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  34. I love making pesto with rocket (arugula) and walnuts - the peppery taste is so good! Your idea of combining a bunch of different types of herbs into one pesto is great, and would be a good way to use up any lingering fresh herbs that need to be used before they wilt.
    I love pesto spread on some GF toast, with broad (aka fava) beans, grilled asparagus, and parmesan (if you can eat it), scattered with some leafy greens - perfect for seasonal eating this time of year!

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  35. Anonymous11:11

    I can't wait to try this recipe. I add nutritional yeast to my pesto in place of the cheese. It adds a great deal of cheese flavor and texture.

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  36. Anonymous19:57

    To get a feta &/or parmesan-like kick in your vegan-free pesto, you can also use 1 tablespoon of gluten-free miso - works great!

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  37. Is there a way i can make it with no fat I was thinking just use water, dose that work an/or taste good.

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  38. This Pesto was lovely! I was tempted to add olives to add saltiness but the cupboard was bare (next time). The suggested substitutions made me aware of all the fresh herbs I could add and since my parsley needed a hair cut.... I have to avoid saturated and trans fats so opted for almonds and was surprised at how delicous it is. The harder nut also made the pesto a wonderfully robust texture. Thank you!

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  39. I use arugola and (soaked and/or sprouted) sunflower seeds.. Awesome!
    Enjoy!

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  40. I just made this and it is so yummy! I'm glad I found your site. Thanks!

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