Vegan Pesto Recipe – Dairy Free Pesto Genovese

Simplicity and genius of Italian cuisine in one easy pesto, that adds so much flavor to other dishes. Dairy Free Pesto is quick to prepare, super fragrant and utterly delicious.

This Vegan Pesto is lovely with a fresh ciabatta, or in a simple pasta dish. You can put it on pizza or baked potatoes.

Learn how to easily prepare this classic pesto Genovese in a dairy free version.

Why do we love Dairy Free Pesto Genovese?

  • fragrant, homemade and fresh
  • healthy ingredients: basil, garlic, lemon, EVOO
  • super easy
  • 100% plant based
  • perfect bread spread
  • improves taste of many dishes
  • so much better than the store bought pesto

Why should I make pesto myself?

Best pesto is freshly made using good quality fresh ingredients. That’s why it tastes the best and has most nutrients when you grind it yourself and serve ASAP. I’ve seen store bought pesto with canola oil instead of EVOO, or with unnecessary ingredients like acidity regulator. Not to mention animal rennet (yikes!), that’s very often included in parmesan cheese.

Having control over ingredients being used, is an important reason, why I choose to make condiments like pesto or hummus myself.

Pesto spread on a bread laying on a plate, with tomatoes on the side.

Key ingredients in Dairy Free Pesto?

Few ingredients are important basis of pesto recipe, while others can be swapped to some extend. What’s so genius about pesto? Short list of simple, but very fragrant ingredients.

Basil, lemon juice, nuts, olive, garlic and nutritional yeast - ingredients of vegan pesto.


Fresh Basil leaves are basis of this vegan pesto recipe. They are so fragrant and delicious! Did you know you can also make pesto out of spinach, carrot leaves, arugula or even young beetroot leaves? But, today let’s concentrate on classic.

If you have basil in your garden – that’s fantastic. I always find is rather difficult to grow though. Fortunately, it’s easy to find tiny basil bushes in many supermarkets.

Basil is one of the most fragrant herbs and it is also super healthy. Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties are great addition to its amazing taste.

A pot of basil on the counter.


Garlic is important ingredient in pesto. It is responsible for the spiciness and earthy flavor. Not to mention all the health benefits of eating garlic.

It is difficult to say exactly how much garlic you should use in pesto recipe. There are different garlics (size and pungency), and everyone has different preference. I suggest starting with 1 clove. If you decide it is not enough in your ready pesto you can always mince it and add more.


EVOO is one of the basic ingredients that cannot be swapped in pesto recipe. Extra virgin olive oil is not only very healthy, but specific, a little bitter taste is impossible to replace.


Original Pesto Genovese recipe calls for pine nuts. But… they are not easily available everywhere, and in most places they are quite expensive.

What other choice do we have? Fortunately, plenty.

My preference is toasted cashew nuts or pumpkin seeds; or combination of both. You can also use toasted walnuts or almonds.

Will it change taste of pesto? Yes, slightly. But the main flavor is basil and olive oil, so change of nuts shouldn’t be that noticeable.


Small addition of fresh lemon juice adds freshness and acidity.


This is optional ingredient, but I recommend it, as it adds cheesy flavor to our dairy free pesto. We use it instead of parmesan cheese. Moreover nutritional yeast is good source of B12 vitamin.

Dairy Free Pesto

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Recipe by VegnFit Course: SidesCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy


Prep time



Simplicity and genius of Italian cuisine in one easy pesto that can add so much flavor to other dishes. Dairy Free Pesto is very easy to prepare, super fragrant and utterly delicious.

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  • 1.5 – 2 cups fresh basil leaves

  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large garlic clove

  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tbsp pine nuts (or cashews, or pumpkin seeds)

  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast

  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • Peel garlic and cut it in smaller pieces. Wash and dry basil leaves.
    Toast nuts on a pan on medium heat.
  • As a first step start grinding garlic with pinch of salt using mortar and pestle. Add 1/3 of nuts and keep grinding.
  • When garlic looks like a paste add another 1/3 nuts, grind them a little and start adding basil. Start with 1/3 of all the basil leaves. Grind until the leaves turn into paste. Add second part of the leaves.
  • Add last part of the nuts and basil leaves, nutritional yeast, salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Grind till the pesto comes together, but you still see small pieces of nuts.
  • Mince garlic (or chop finely with a bit of salt). Add it to food processor with 1/3 nuts. Process shortly.
  • Add another part of nuts with 1/3 basil leaves. Process until finely ground. Add second part of the basil leaves and process some more.
  • Add remaining ingredients: nuts and basil leaves, nutritional yeast, salt, lemon juice and olive oil to the food processor. Grind in short intervals, stopping to scrape pesto from sides of food processor and to check the texture. Stop processing when pesto is smooth but still with small pieces of nuts.


  • Check ingredient section above the recipe for easy ingredients swaps.
  • Check detailed description of the process under the recipe card.

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On a freshly baked bread and in pasta.. that’s obvious.

But did you know that you can:

  • add pesto to pizza
  • make salad dressing
  • add it to hummus?

You may like other healthy snacks:

Sun Dried Tomato Hummus

Vegan Egg Salad

Pesto spread on a bread laying on a plate, with tomatoes on the side.

How To Make Vegan Pesto?


Peel garlic, cut it into 4-6 pieces. Wash and dry gently basil leaves.


Toast nuts or seeds on a pan on medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool down.

Ingredients of dairy free pesto: basil, nuts, olive oil, garlic lemon juice and nutritional yeast.


Start by grinding garlic with pinch of salt. We don’t want any noticeable pieces of garlic in our pesto, just the taste, so it has to be smooth.


We want our vegan pesto to be smooth with some texture from small pieces of nuts. That’s why we add the nuts in 3 stages. Grind one third of toasted nuts until they are very fine.

Garlic and nuts being ground in the martyr, with other pesto ingredients placed around.


Add more nuts and first part of basil leaves.

Grind using round motions, but also scraping with pestle from top to bottom of the mortar.

Dairy free pesto being ground in the mortar.

When first part of basil leaves is ground add some more and keep grinding.


Now it’s time to add the rest of ingredients – nuts and basil leaves, nutritional yeast, salt, lemon juice and olive oil; and finish our perfect vegan pesto. Make sure to grind only until ingredients come nicely together, so that there’s still some texture.

Try your pesto to decide if you need to add more garlic or salt.

Dairy Free Basil Pesto in a jar with tomatoes and bread on the side.

Can I make this Vegan Pesto NUT FREE?

Nuts are important ingredient not only for the taste, but also for the structure of pesto. They give us crunchy bits in otherwise smooth texture. Fortunately, we can easily substitute them with seeds. Preferably toasted. Here’s the list of what I would choose:

  • toasted pumpkin seeds
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • sesame seeds

How to store Dairy Free Pesto?

You can store your vegan pesto refrigerated in a mason jar for a week. Please remember the flavor and taste is best when pesto is fresh. If you want to store pesto more that 3 days make sure there is a thin layer of olive oil on top.

You can also put pesto in ice cube trays and freeze it. You will have nice small portions of pesto when you want to add it to various dishes.

I would love to hear how did you like this Dairy Free Pesto Recipe! Go ahead and share the recipe on Pinterest and Yummly!

PIN with Dairy Free Pesto on fresh bread.

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