This Spinach Pesto is a budget-friendly and versatile sauce you can serve with pasta, pizza, and so much more. Easy to make in 5 minutes!
If you love making homemade pesto but not the cost that comes with it, you should try this Spinach Pesto recipe! Fresh spinach leaves add bulk while walnuts are used in place of pine nuts, making this a budget-friendly alternative to the classic Italian sauce. You’ll never know it, though, because it tastes just as herby, bright, savory, and bold as the real thing.
Another reason to make pesto with spinach is that it sneaks in more nutrients without making the sauce taste like salad. They single-handedly load this vegan pesto with fiber, vitamin A, antioxidants, and a long list of other vitamins and minerals.
Lastly, making pesto at home is just plain easy. Simply blend all of the ingredients in a food processor until smooth, then you’re done! It’s the best 5-minute sauce you’ll want to make all the time and use on everything.
Is pesto vegan?
Traditionally, no, but it’s pretty easy to keep it vegan. Classic pesto is made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, oil, and parmesan cheese. If you don’t need it to be vegan, you can use parmesan cheese. If you want it vegan, use vegan parmesan or just leave it out entirely. We’re only using a few tablespoons in this recipe. Violife is my favorite brand for dairy free parmesan cheese. Or make your own: Vegan Parmesan Cheese.
Ingredients needed (with substitutions)
- Baby spinach – Fresh baby spinach bulks up the pesto while sneaking in more nutrients. It doesn’t leave a salad flavor behind, either; just a vibrant green color. And if you don’t have spinach at home, this recipe works just as well with kale or arugula instead.
- Basil leaves – Making pesto with both spinach and basil gives it its signature herbaceous and bright flavor. But if you can’t find fresh basil leaves, replace it with an extra 1 cup of spinach or the leafy greens of your choice.
- Walnuts – While pine nuts are the traditional nut used in pesto recipes, they aren’t always accessible or affordable. That’s why I wanted to make this pesto with walnuts instead. They still give the sauce structure and a warm, nutty flavor without hurting your wallet. Raw slivered almonds or cashews should work well, too.
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil – A key ingredient in pesto! It emulsifies the sauce, balances the flavors, and smooths out the texture.
- Lemon juice
- Parmesan – An optional ingredient, but it adds the salty, cheesy flavor known to pesto. I used dairy free Violife but you can use any store-bought parmesan you like or nutritional yeast instead.
How to make spinach pesto
Find the complete recipe with measurements in the recipe card below.
Add the spinach, basil, garlic, walnuts, salt, and pepper to a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
While the machine is running, slowly stream in the olive oil until it’s incorporated and the sauce is emulsified. Finish with lemon juice and parmesan.
Serve and enjoy!
Pesto comes with endless uses and because it’s so delicious, you’ll want to use it everywhere! Use it any way you like or give these ideas a try:
- Pasta – It’s a simple and versatile pasta sauce. Toss it with freshly cooked noodles with vegan meatballs on top, use it in any pasta salad recipe, or add some coconut milk to make a creamy pesto sauce instead.
- Pizza – Swap the classic red sauce for pesto on homemade vegan pizza or drizzle it over top as a finishing sauce.
- Spread – Spread the pesto on veggie burgers, sandwiches, vegetable wraps, or puff pastry tarts.
- Salads – It’s a quick, easy, and flavor-packed salad dressing. Use it on leafy green salads, hearty Cobb salads, quinoa salads, potato salads, or any type of salad you love!
- Dipping sauce – Surround a bowl of pesto with crudites, pita bread, crackers, pita chips, or vegan mozzarella sticks for dipping.
Frequently asked questions
Yes! If you have a nut allergy, either omit the walnuts or replace them with sunflower seeds or pepitas.
Oil does help the pesto taste smooth and satisfying but you can replace it with water instead. Use as much as you need to help all of the ingredients blend together.
Any leftovers will last for about 1 week when kept in the fridge. To store, keep the pesto in an airtight container with a layer of plastic pressed directly on top to prevent it from browning.
Yes, pesto freezes very well. To freeze, pour the sauce into ice cube trays and freeze until solid. Transfer the pesto cubes to a ziplock bag or container, then freeze for up to 6 months.
Want more tasty sauce recipes?
- 3 cups baby spinach lightly packed
- 1 cup basil leaves lightly packed
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- few shakes black pepper
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, optional I used dairy free Violife
- Add the baby spinach, basil, garlic, walnuts, salt and pepper to a food processor and pulse several times to combine.
- While pulsing, drizzle in the olive oil and blend until well incorporated. Add the lemon juice and parmesan, if using.
- Serve and enjoy!
You may use all spinach and not basil if needed, or a mix or arugula and spinach or even some kale.
Instead of walnuts, you can use pine nuts, cashews or even sunflower seeds for a nut free option.