A vegan pesto recipe that is so simple to make with only 5 ingredients ( + salt/water ). Cashews are used in place of pine nuts and cheese for a budget friendly option. Oil free.

bowl of pasta drenched in pesto sauce, white bowl and background.

Pesto usually involves nuts, cheese, garlic, fresh basil and olive oil. This is my favorite version of vegan pesto, which still has plenty of garlic and fresh basil flavor, but is made without any cheese or olive oil! The cashews provide a buttery, cheesy taste and are a lot cheaper than pine nuts, which are often called for in pesto. 

I think you are going to love it! Try it with any kind of pasta you like for a super quick and fancy meal, or use it on pizza, sandwiches, wraps, as a dip or salad dressing. The possibilities are endless, and I just know this will be your new go-to pesto recipe!

spoonful being taken out of a bowl with pesto in it, white background.

How do you make simple vegan pesto?

It really couldn’t be easier! Add all the ingredients plus 1/4 cup water to a food processor. Process until smooth and creamy, adding more water as desired. 

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ingredients for vegan pesto in food processor before being blended.

Simple Vegan Pesto is good everywhere!

  • Spread some on a sandwich with some veggies and avocado
  • Use as a salad dressing, thinned out with water
  • Serve with any kind of pasta
  • Use in place of pizza sauce for pesto pizza
  • Serve with vegetables and pita chips for a pesto dip
  • Stuff some jumbo shells with it

blended pesto in food processor

Can you make pesto nut free?

If you have an allergy to cashews, you can use raw slivered almonds or pine nuts in place of the cashews. If you can’t have any of those, you can use pepitas or sunflower seeds. But the recipe does taste best with cashews, as they give it a buttery, cheesy flavor.

Can pesto be frozen?

Yes, pesto is one of my favorite meals for freezing! In fact, I froze a version of this in preparation for the birth of my last child. To freeze, I recommend using an ice cube tray. You can freeze the pesto in the tray, then once frozen, pop them out and place in a large ziplock freezer bag or other container with a label, of course. When ready to eat, simply defrost a couple of cubes, or more as needed.

small bowl of vegan pesto, leaves of basil in background

Want more Vegan Pasta recipes?

bowl of pasta drenched in vegan pesto, white bowl and background.

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spoonful being taken out of a bowl with pesto in it, white background.

Simple Vegan Pesto

A vegan pesto recipe that is so simple to make with only 5 ingredients ( + salt/water ). Cashews are used in place of pine nuts and cheese for a budget friendly option. Oil free.
5 from 10 votes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 2-3 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups fresh basil, loosely packed
  • 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water
  • Optional: 8 ounces pasta

Instructions

  • To a food processor, add the cashews, garlic, basil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt and 1/4 cup water. Process until smooth, adding more water as desired for a thinner consistency. 
  • If serving with pasta, cook the noodles according to package instructions, then toss with the pesto, adding more water as needed to thin the pesto.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Pesto also freezes well for up to 6 months. I freeze it in an ice cube tray, then pop the cubes out and stick them in a ziplock freezer bag or container.

Notes

  1. This vegan pesto goes great with any kind of pasta, on pizza, as a dip with vegetables or pita chips, as a salad dressing (thinned out with water), or spread on a sandwich. 
  2. The pesto will thicken up in the refrigerator. Simply thin it out with water each time you use it, as needed.
  3. Allergic to cashews? Use pine nuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds or raw slivered almonds.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 142kcal, Carbohydrates: 9g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 197mg, Potassium: 266mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 422IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 24mg, Iron: 2mg

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