Vegan Basil Pesto

In Appetizers & Healthy Snack Recipes/ Essential Recipes/ Recipes

Vegan Basil Pesto | A Couple Cooks

Vegan Basil Pesto | A Couple Cooks

Vegan Basil Pesto | A Couple Cooks

Have you been growing basil this summer? It’s our #1 favorite herb to grow and use in the summer, from caprese salads to pasta to popsicles. As the weather starts to grow cooler, not only do I mourn the loss of summer, I grieve our basil plant going end of life. The one saving grace–pesto.

Each year to use the last of our basil plants, we make huge batches of pesto. It’s a perfect way to preserve the taste of summer for the cooler months ahead, to use on pizza, sandwiches, pasta, and dips. Since we have a great classic pesto recipe, this year we tried a vegan pesto for dairy-free and vegan / plant-based diet. Another plus: it’s a less expensive option than using the traditional Parmesan cheese. What it does use is one non-traditional ingredient: nutritional yeast— yellow flakes of inactive yeast that provides an instant cheesy, savory flavor to vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s a bit niche, but we buy it online and have it onhand mainly to sprinkle on popcorn (!). We tried it here and loved the result; it tastes very similar to typical pesto. Spread on toast with some end of summer tomatoes, it’s delightful.

Why to make it: To use up your end of season basil; a delicious sauce for pasta, pizza, sandwiches
When to make it: Summer
Caveats: Gotta find nutritional yeast, but it’s worth the purchase to have on hand

More Recipes with Pesto
Pesto Portabello Burgers
Pesto Pizza
Pesto White Bean Dip (use basil pesto)
Ricotta Dumplings with Pesto (use basil pesto)


Vegan Basil Pesto

1 Star (No Ratings Yet)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Yield: 1 cup


  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 2 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
  • ⅓ cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon balsamic vinegar


  1. Peel 3 garlic cloves. In a food processor, pulse the garlic until minced. Add 2 cups basil leaves, ⅓ cup walnuts, ⅓ cup nutritional yeast, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Pulse 5-6 times until the ingredients are chopped finely but not mushy.
  2. Turn on the food processor and add ½ cup olive oil in a steady stream, then 1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. Taste, and add additional salt or pepper as desired.


About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author and recipe developer of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious, and a recipe developer and healthy & sustainable food advocate behind the award-nominated food blog A Couple Cooks.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is photographer and recipe developer of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best new cookbooks” by Bon Appetit, and a recipe developer, photographer, and technical expert at A Couple Cooks.


  • Reply
    September 9, 2015 at 11:43 am

    My basil did not survive in my garden this year, but I did make and freeze a bunch of pesto from the kale I’m growing. I never thought to add nutritional yeast. I’ll have to try it- I too keep it on hand to eat over popcorn.

  • Reply
    September 9, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Yummy pesto!!!

    Just an FYI : it calls for 3 cloves of garlic in the “what you need” section, while stating 4 cloves in the “what to do” details. As a bonafide garlic lover, I’m sure either would be great, but perhaps you’d like to clarify for those folks that like to follow recipes to a “T.” Thanks, as always, for a beautiful and tasty recipe (I used 4 medium-sized cloves and it was lovely, btw!)!

    • Reply
      September 9, 2015 at 9:45 pm

      Proofreader fail :) Thanks for watching my back! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    February 23, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    I did this with 2 big cloves of garlic. perfect. also I missed out the balsamic vinegar because I didn’t have any but will add next time to see the difference. Its very yummy.
    can you freeze pesto?
    I have so much fresh basil in the garden…. many thanks

  • Reply
    Shenier Marks
    June 23, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    I make this again and again…as it is my ‘go-to’ recipe when I crave classic ‘Genovese’ basil pesto…about as good as it gets. I love the hint of balsamic as it gives it that necessary ‘pop’

    • Reply
      June 27, 2016 at 10:32 pm

      So glad you enjoyed this and that it made it as a “go to” recipe! Thanks for letting us know :)

  • Reply
    July 30, 2016 at 12:35 am

    Very delicious.I used pine.nuts and lemon instead of vinegar and walnuts.

  • Reply
    September 9, 2016 at 12:20 am

    So easy, so delicious – I added a 1/4 tsp of Indian black salt (Kala Namak), which adds a cheesy (still vegan) pungency.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.