This Vegan Walnut Pesto is perfect for a variety of uses. We love it with a bit of raw courgetti just as much as we enjoy pairing it with pasta or spreading it on a panini. It’s also great on pizza or added to your favorite soup. Using walnuts in place of pine nuts makes this pesto more accessible and slightly more affordable without losing any flavor. Walnuts are widely used in Italy and favored for their rich yet delicate flavors. With just 7 ingredients, this recipe can even be made raw when using cold-pressed olive oil. For added brightness and a bit of zing we’ve included lemon and (optional) lemon zest. Savor and appreciate the simplicity and rustic flavors of the ingredients with our quick and easy Vegan Walnut Pesto recipe.
We used a food processor but this recipe can just as easily be made with an immersion blender, one of our favorite and most versatile appliances in the kitchen. If you like to be even closer to your food, while following traditional methods and exerting a bit more energy in the process, make this Vegan Walnut Pesto using a mortar and pestle.
For a raw or gluten-free pasta version, serve the vegan walnut pesto with zucchini spaghetti (or ‘courgetti’). Two medium zucchinis should be suitable for the entire recipe of Vegan Walnut Pesto. For an affordable yet functional spiral slicer, we recommend the Joyce Chen Saladacco Spiral Slicer. You can also use this julienne peeler (Kuhn Rikon) for cleanly sliced vegetables from shoestring jicama to zucchini. Season your pasta with dried chili flakes for added heat.
April 24th, 2016: This is an updated version of our Vegan Walnut Pesto recipe. If you would like the original recipe (as of May 2013), view here.
Vegan Walnut Pesto
Yield: about 1 cup
- 40g (2 cups) basil leaves, packed
- 50g (½ cup) raw walnuts, chopped
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil* (See Notes for a raw version)
- 3g (1 tablespoon) nutritional yeast
- 2 small garlic cloves (10g)
- 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest (optional but recommended)
- ¼ sea salt, and more to taste
Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until broken into small pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for olive oil, and pulse a few more times until the ingredients are combined. Scrape the sides to incorporate any large pieces that remain if needed. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a thin stream and continue to blend until fully incorporated. Stop to scrape the sides if needed and continue blending until the pesto is smooth. Season with salt to taste.
Add extra olive oil for a smoother, more unctuous pesto. For a thicker pesto, add more raw walnuts and nutritional yeast. Season your pesto with salt to taste. Keep in mind that you want the pesto to be salty on its own since it will likely be served with a more neutral vegetable, pasta or bread.
Advance preparation: Store in the fridge for up to 4 weeks, keeping a layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to help retain the color and freshness.
For a raw version, use cold-pressed olive oil (We recommend Village Press).