Many people are saddened to realize, when they go vegan, that most pesto is off-limits. Of course, if you read labels (and you should) you will quickly realize that parmesan cheese is a key ingredient in every container of store-bought pesto; it’s ever-present in restaurant pesto as well. So you are to be forgiven if you wonder if it’s even possible to make a vegan pesto without dairy parmesan cheese. Happily, indeed it is!
The cool thing about pesto is that it is actually a very versatile recipe, and can be made in a number of different ways, with a diverse selection of ingredients. It is only that people are familiar with the typical “basil and parmesan” version that keeps people from realizing just how easy it is to make a vegan version of pesto. You don’t even need to use basil, you can make pesto with arugula, chard, or even kale. And you don’t need to use pine nuts, you can use walnuts, or even sunflower seeds. You can use vegan parmesan, or that oh-so-versatile ingredient, nutritional yeast (also known as “nooch”). In fact, our recipe uses nutritional yeast, but you can certainly substitute a vegan parmesan. If you’re jonesing for pesto, try our recipe!
The Best Vegan Pesto You’ll Ever Have
Our recipe, as written, makes a ‘traditional’ pesto, but feel free to substitute different nuts, or different greens, or vegan parmesan for the nutritional yeast.
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1/3 cups pine nuts
2/3 cups olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1-2 large handfuls of basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté the pine nuts in a bit of olive oil until they are slightly brown, but not burned. Pour the remaining olive oil into a blender or food processor, then added the pine nuts, minced garlic, yeast, salt and pepper and basil leaves. Flip the switch and blend until smooth. That’s all there is to it! Serve over fresh, gluten-free noodles, and sprinkle with vegan parmesan cheese for an additional treat. This concoction is so much better than store-bought varieties. Your taste buds will thank you, and you’ll wonder where this recipe has been all your life!
If you’re on a tight budget, substitute sunflower seeds for pine nuts. Pine nuts can cost up to $40.00 a pound, but sunflower seeds are about $2.00 a pound. That’s an enormous difference! Your pesto will taste just as delicious with sunflower seeds, and your friends and family won’t know the difference.
If you want to get fancy, and/or add more nutrients to your pesto, toss in some arugula, chard, red pepper, and/or kale.
If you have leftover pesto (and you almost certainly will, because this stuff is rich), purchase some gluten-free pita bread, fresh vegetables, and vegan mozzarella cheese. Spread the pesto liberally on the pita and cover it with grated vegan cheese. Add the vegetables of your choice, and maybe some vegan pepperoni. For an extra-fancy touch, sprinkle a few diced basil leaves on the top, and a little fresh oregano. Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until the edges of the pita bread are crispy. You won’t believe how good this pita pizza tastes!
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