Make this super quick and easy vegan pesto with the freshest flavors of summer – basil leaves! Use it as a pasta sauce or tossed into gnocchi, or spread it on your favorite sandwich or just eat it by the spoonful – it’s that good.
Pesto is the quintessential summer sauce. Its base is of fresh basil leaves. Whenever I smell basil leaves, I am immediately transported into a summery state of mind. I love the smell of fresh basil.
If you just use basil and olive oil, you’ll have a very oily sauce with a slightly bitter, leafy flavor. When you add the basil to a base of pureed pine nuts, then the pine nuts balance any bitterness of the basil with their sweet creaminess, and the whole concoction turns into a beautifully smooth sauce.
Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow, and if you’re growing tomatoes, just tuck some basil plants at the base of the tomatoes. They’re partner plants which means they help each other to grow better. And the flavors naturally complement each other, too.
As for your super yummy pesto sauce, it’s more versatile than you think. Of course, it’s dreamy on most any kind of pasta – especially my homemade gnocchi – but you can also spread it on a sandwich or toast. Stir it into polenta or mashed potatoes. Go wild and just enjoy it. It’s pesto, after all – you can’t go wrong with pesto.
Why You’ll LOVE this Recipe:
- Vegan and dairy free
- Summery and fresh flavors
- Easy and quick
- Versatile sauce
Ingredients for Pesto Sauce:
- Pine nuts
- Fresh basil leaves
- Olive oil
Notes on Ingredients:
Pine nuts – Pine nuts are the best nut for pesto sauce. They’re smooth and creamy with the most delicate of nut flavors. But. They’re expensive. And sometimes they’re hard to find. You can use walnuts or pistachios (shelled, of course) in place of the pine nuts. The flavor will be nuttier, but it works just fine.
Basil leaves – Use the freshest basil leaves you can find. They shouldn’t have any black spots on them. Depending on where you live, it can be hard to find good basil leaves except for in summer. I don’t like the basil that comes in those tiny plastic herb packages. If I can’t find a good bunch or box of fresh basil leaves, then I’ll see if I can find an actual potted basil plant and harvest the leaves off of it. If you have any space to grow herbs, basil is really worth growing. It's one of the few plants that I feel like actually saves me money if I grow it myself, because it’s so expensive in the supermarkets. I’ve grown broccoli and corn, and while they were delicious and very satisfying to grow as a gardener, it’s definitely cheaper to buy broccoli or corn in the supermarket (unless you’ve really got a big patch of broccoli – and hats off to you, then!) But it’s super easy to grow basil at home, and it grows well in containers. Honestly, pesto is one of those summer delights, one of those dishes that seems to capture the smell of the sun in its flavors, so if you can only make it in summer, that’s okay. Savor it. Alternatively, you can freeze any leftover pesto in silicone ice cube trays and store it in the freezer for a mid-winter burst of summer flavor. But… I don’t usually have any leftover pesto.
Olive oil – Use first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. The better the olive oil, the better the pesto will taste, so for olive oil connoisseurs out there, you can experiment with changing the flavor profile by using differerent olive oils. But, really, any good EVOO will get the job done.
How to Make Vegan Pesto Sauce From Scratch
You can just dump all the ingredients in the food processor and call it a day – and it will still be yummy. But – it’s worth it to take just a minute or two more to process the ingredients in a specific order so that the pesto sauce you get at the end is not merely satisfactory… it’s sublime.
The trick is processing the pine nuts first. When you process the pine nuts first, they have the opportunity to get really finely ground and to achieve a smooth, paste-like consistency. You don’t want to have chunks of pine nuts in your sauce. When you eat your pesto, you want to be immersed in pure basil bliss. The pine nuts are the foundation for showcasing the basil’s wonderful fresh summer flavor.
Then, once the pine nuts are smooth, add the basil and process it until it is completely incorporated into the pine nuts. You’ll have a green paste now.
With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil. This allows the oil to incorporate fully into the paste, and it also allows you to make sure you don’t put too much oil. You want just enough so that the paste turns into a smooth sauce but not so much that you can see the oil pooling in puddles.
Add the salt, and you’re done! You’ve got a beautiful, delicious pesto sauce. You can use it immediately or keep it in the refrigerator for a few days before using it.
Enjoy and please leave a comment below to let me know how it turned out for you.
Pesto Sauce - Vegan
- 1 food processor
- ¾ cup pine nuts
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- In a food processor, blend the pine nuts on high until they are so finely ground that they are almost a paste.
- Add the basil to the food processor and blend on high until the basil is completely incorporated into the pine nuts.
- With the food processor running, slowly drizzle the olive oil in.
- Add salt.
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