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This killer vegan pesto pasta gets big flavor from emerald green basil pesto, ripe cherry tomatoes, and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s perfection on a plate.

Vegan pesto pasta
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Pesto pasta without cheese? Yes, it’s possible! While emerald-green pesto sauce traditionally gets its flavor from Parmesan cheese, Alex and I decided it was high time for a simple vegan version in our life. And once we created a fabulous vegan basil pesto, then why not put it on pasta? We tried out a vegan version of our favorite pesto pasta recipe, and I must say: we liked it almost more than the original! The silky smooth, savory basil pesto coats the tender pasta, punctuated by the pop of the cherry tomatoes. In short, it’s summer perfection. Keep reading for the recipe!

Vegan pesto pasta

How to make vegan pesto pasta

The most involved part of this vegan pesto pasta is making the homemade vegan pesto! Of course if you can find purchased vegan pesto, feel free to use that — this recipe will be even quicker. (And be surer to let us know in the comments below what brands you enjoy!) But for the very best pesto pasta without cheese: you’ve got to make the pesto at home.

Making vegan pesto requires a healthy amount of basil, and a food processor. You can also use a blender, but we’d try it with a smaller blender or immersion blender because of the quantity of ingredients. The old fashioned way, of course, is to use a mortar and pestle: so if you have one of those, you could try that too!

Here’s how to make vegan pesto pasta:

  • Blend up the pesto: In a food processor, combine cashews, miso, garlic, fresh basil, lemon juice, and olive oil until a thick sauce forms.
  • Boil the pasta: Boil the pasta until al dente, then drain.
  • Combine: Combine the pesto with the pasta, sliced cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and a little bit of pasta water to create a loose sauce. Enjoy immediately!
Vegan cashew pesto

The magic ingredient in our vegan pesto

In a vegan pesto, it’s difficult to mimic the savory flavor of the Parmesan cheese. That’s the reason Parmesan exists, right? However, we found a plant-based ingredient that works like a charm. The magic in our vegan cashew pesto is…drumroll…miso!

Miso is a Japanese ingredient: it’s a fermented soybean paste. If you’ve never had miso it might sound odd to include in a vegan Italian recipe. But before you write it off: the flavor is incredible. Ever had a miso soup? It’s tangy, savory, salty, and super complex. If you eat a vegan diet, you’ve probably cooked with it before because it mimics a meaty flavor so well. It’s full of umami, the so-called fifth flavor that is the definition of savory. You’ll find umami in meats, mushrooms, cheese…and of course, miso!

The other ingredient of top importance in vegan pesto is, of course, fresh basil! Keep reading for more…


How to grow and store fresh basil

Pesto recipes call for a lot of fresh basil: and it’s no wonder, because traditionally in Italy everyone had basil plants on their property. Alex and I highly recommend planting basil if you can. You don’t even need garden space: just a pot and a sunny ledge! It is much, much cheaper than buying basil at the store: especially when a recipe calls for 2 cups of basil leaves!

Here are a few of our basil resources:

  • How to Grow Basil: If you’re looking to grow your own basil plant, we have a step by step guide.
  • How to Store Basil: When you harvest branches of your basil plant and bring them inside, they’ll wilt very quickly. For easy storage, find a large ball jar and place a little water in the bottom. Then place the basil stems inside, cut side down. Add the top and it will stay fresh for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator!
Vegan pesto pasta

How to cook pasta to al dente

When Alex and I visited Italy on our honeymoon, we tasted pasta that was truly al dente for the first time. And it was mind blowing! This wasn’t the limp, gooey stuff we were used to tasting in the US. The pasta was firm enough that you had to really bite through each piece: making it infinitely more satisfying. When we returned home, we knew we had to figure out how to do this for ourselves.

Many of the package directions on pasta call for cooking it much too long! To cook pasta to al dente for this vegan pesto pasta recipe, do the following:

  • Boil it in a large pot of boiling water.
  • Always start taste testing a few minutes before the package instructions indicate to. The pasta should be tender, but still firm on the inside so that it has a little bite. Stay vigilant: pasta can go from al dente to overcooked in minutes!
Vegan pesto pasta

Looking for more vegan pasta recipes?

This vegan pesto pasta is one of our favorite vegan pasta recipes; here are a few more that we love:

This vegan pesto pasta recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free.

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Vegan pesto pasta

Vegan Pesto Pasta

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 3 to 4 servings 1x


This killer vegan pesto pasta gets big flavor from emerald green basil pesto, ripe cherry tomatoes, and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s perfection on a plate.


  • 8 ounces bucatini pasta (or spaghetti)*
  • ½ cup homemade Vegan Cashew Pesto
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons reserved pasta water
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Make the Vegan Cashew Pesto.
  2. Heat a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, checking for doneness a few minutes before the package instructions indicate (the pasta should be tender but still slightly firm). Drain, making sure to reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water.
  3. When the pasta is done, drain it and return it to the pot. Add the pesto, olive oil, reserved pasta water, sliced cherry tomatoes and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and stir. Taste and add additional salt if needed (the exact amount depends on the pesto and your pasta water, so it will vary — salt until the flavor pops!). If you’d like it to be a looser sauce, you could also stir in another splash of reserved pasta water. Serve immediately.


*This quantity makes 3 to 4 modest servings, so you may need to double based on your eaters hunger level.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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