Lemony Vegan Basil Pesto

Nothing says summer more than a bright and herbaceous pesto! Who’s with me?!

Pesto is a highly underused food, IMO. It is so versatile – from a sauce for pasta or pizza to a simple spread for toast, it is a complete flavour bomb!

Traditionally, pesto is made with five key ingredients: Basil, pine nuts, parmesan, olive oil and garlic (plus salt, but that doesn’t count). And, you want to know the greatest thing about pesto? The ingredients are easily adaptable. That is why turning it vegan is so easy to do.

The herbs – Basil is traditional in pestos, and I stick with it in this recipe as well. However, it can easily be swapped out for any leafy green such as parsley, cilantro, spinach or a combination of these. It depends on what you have, what you like and how adventurous you are!

The nuts – Pine nuts are typically what you find in pesto, but since one bag costs more than my monthly gym membership, I usually switch them for another type of nut. I love walnuts and I chose to use them in this recipe. Pecans would also be good for a sweeter turn-out. Toasting the nuts prior to using them in a pesto also adds another dimension of flavour.

The cheese – Pesto is made with a dry-aged cheese, like parmesan. You can, however, sub it for a cheese of your choice, like romano or even an old sharp cheddar. Since this recipe is vegan, I am using the cheesiest vegan ingredient I know of – Nutritional Yeast. Nutritional Yeast is an inactive yeast that is very cheesy in flavour and is packed with a number of healthy nutrients including: Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate and my favourite, Vitamin B12. I am almost positive it is the only vegetarian food you can find that has B12 in it, which makes me love it even more! The one I use can be found here.

The oil – Use extra virgin olive oil. There are no exceptions for this ingredient. Make it a good olive oil, too, like this one.

Garlic – Same.

Acid – I like to put lemon juice as well as the zest into my pesto. It gives it a ‘zip’ of freshness that adds brightness and vibrancy to any dish!

The process of making pesto can be completed in many ways. Traditionally, it is made by cutting all of the ingredients together with a sharp knife and then pouring the olive over them. It could also be made in a mortar and pestle. I like to use my food processor to save on time.

Whichever ingredients you choose to use and whichever method you bring them together in, I hope you get to enjoy pesto this summer. There is nothing better!

Lemony Vegan Basil Pesto

Serving size: Makes about 1/2 cup

Prep time: 10 minutes



  1. To your food processor, add the basil, walnuts, garlic, salt, nutritional yeast and lemon zest. Pulse until the mixture has broken down into smaller pieces. Add the lemon juice and set your processor to blend. While blending, drizzle in the olive oil slowly. If you want a thicker pesto, add 1/4 cup of oil. If you are looking for a thinner sauce, continue to add more oil until you have reached your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings (salt, lemon juice) accordingly.

This is best used immediately, but can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

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