An easy homemade Basil Walnut Pesto that is simple and flavorful. This vegan pesto recipe can be used as a pesto sauce for pasta, in your sandwiches, add it to a salad or use it as a dip with your favorite vegetables!
I love condiments and sauces. But I absolutely LOVE pesto! Pesto is extremely fast and easy to make and it's kid friendly...my toddler loved taste testing it!
Traditionally, pesto is made of pine nuts but this is a pesto recipe without pine nuts. Pine nuts are very expensive and aren't really budget friendly or something I keep on hand. I use walnuts in this recipe but really, any nuts work really well. I know with budget constraints that you have to adapt with what you already have in your pantry. I’ve used almonds in a pesto recipe before and even made a pistachio pesto. Plus, walnuts are a great source of the good fats, plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, fiber, and protein.
📋 Basil Pesto Ingredients & Substitutions
In a classic pesto recipe, you use a mortar and pestle to grind basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, and salt. Today, for the ease of convenience, we use a food processor to grind the ingredients.
In this pesto recipe, I used the following:
- Basil leaves. Basil really has a strong taste profile and I highly recommend not replacing this. However, I know basil can be hard to find or sometimes it's just not in the budget. In this case, I have added spinach to my pesto recipe before. You can use part spinach, part basil, or completely replace the basil.
- Walnuts. This is a pesto recipe with walnuts. However, other nuts you can use are: pistachios, almonds, pecans, or even cashews. If you are allergic to nuts, you can try to use sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
- Garlic. Garlic is essential in a pesto recipe. Depending on your flavor preference and the size of your garlic, start with 2 cloves of garlic and add more based on your taste.
- Lemon juice. I like to use freshly squeezed lemon juice to add some freshness and accent the umami flavors.
- Nutritional yeast. Parmesan cheese is a prime ingredient in classic basil pesto. However, parmesan cheese is not considered vegetarian or vegan. This pesto recipe can be made with great quality ingredients and you won't miss the cheese. I like to use nutritional yeast as a substitute for parmesan cheese.
- Olive oil. A good quality extra virgin olive oil is best for this recipe.
- Sea salt. Salt brings all the flavors together. I love using sea salt in this recipe to bring out more flavor. You are welcome to use regular salt, start with ½ teaspoon and gradually increase
💭 How to Make Pesto Tips
- Toasting the nuts first really adds flavor to the pesto. You are welcome to skip this step to save time, however, I highly recommend it. I use toasted nuts for many of my dishes so I like to toast them and store them in my pantry. For toasting your walnuts on the stove top, toast on medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes while tossing occasionally (careful not to burn them, they brown quickly).
- To get the best basil walnut pesto recipe down, add the walnuts to the food processor first. Pulse until they're crumbly. Then add the rest of the ingredients. The pesto should have a little bit of texture to it, not uniformly smooth.
🍽 How to Store Pesto
If you have left over, don’t let it go bad! Keep it refrigerated with a thin layer of olive oil to slow down the oxidation process of basil. You can also freeze pesto which I find the most convenient (Tip: buy basil in season and make a large batch to freeze for the best flavor!). For freezing the pesto, fill the pesto in silicone ice cube trays then remove and place them in a container or reusable ziplock bag for up to 6 months. Don’t forget to date your frozen items!
Vegetarian Pasta Recipes You Might Like
- Creamy Garlic and Vegetable Pasta
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- Asparagus Pasta Salad
- Instant Pot Minestrone Soup
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Basil Walnut Pesto
- 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves
- 1 cup walnuts
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons water, as needed
- For toasting your walnuts on the stove top: In a skillet, toast on medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes until a nutty aroma has released, while tossing occasionally (careful not to burn them, they brown quickly).
- Add the walnuts to the food processor until slightly crumbled. Add the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and sea salt. Blend until it becomes a paste consistency. Scrape the sides and gradually add the olive oil until pesto becomes like a sauce.
- Pesto should have some texture to it and is not completely smooth. If you prefer your pesto to have more liquid or be smoother, add 2-3 tablespoons of water (1 tablespoon at a time) until you reach your preferred consistency.
- Taste test and adjust seasonings according to your preference. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to one week with a layer of olive oil on top. Or freeze up to 6 months.
- Keep refrigerated with a thin layer of
- For freezing the pesto, fill the pesto in silicone ice cube trays then remove and place them in a container or reusable ziplock bag for up to 6 months.