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This vegan pesto sauce is oil-free and so flavourful. It is made with pumpkin seeds and pine nuts, for a thicker, nuttier pesto that is also great as a dip.
What is pesto?
Pesto is a green sauce that originated in Italy. It is commonly used as a pasta sauce or in sandwiches.
A classic pesto will typically contain basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese.
Many variations of these classic ingredients now exist. Pine nuts can be switched out for a variety of different nuts or seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, or cashews. The basil can also be substituted for pretty much any leafy green. Some options include spinach, arugula, dandelion greens or kale.
How to make a vegan pesto
As mentioned, pesto recipes often include parmesan cheese. To make a pesto recipe vegan, it is usually as simple as omitting the cheese and adding a bit of nutritional yeast for a slightly cheesy flavour.
To make it whole-foods plant-based (which is what I always do!), the oil will have to be omitted as well. Simply add some water in place of the oil and your pesto will still taste delicious!
Ingredients for this pesto
This pesto is of course vegan and whole-foods plant-based (wfpb). I used both pine nuts and pepitas to give it a nuttier flavour and thicker texture, and for greens I used both basil and arugula.
Here is a list of the ingredients you need (keep scrolling for the full recipe):
- Sweet basil
- Pine nuts
- Nutritional yeast
- Garlic cloves
- Lemon juice
Making oil-free pesto
To make this pesto, you simply need to add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend! Because the recipe is oil-free, you will need to add some water to thin it out and get it blending.
I recommend starting with ¼ cup of water for this specific recipe. After blending with ¼ cup water, you can slowly add more water in increments if the texture is too thick for your liking.
This pesto recipe is thicker than most because it has a higher concentration of nuts and a lower concentration of leafy greens compared to most pesto recipes.
How to use it
One thing I love about pesto is that it is super versatile. Not only can you swap out the ingredients for various substitutions, but you can also use it in so many ways!
Here are some ideas for how to use this pesto:
- On pasta
- As a dip for tortilla chips
- As a veggie dip
- As a spread in a wrap or sandwich
- On pizza
- In a burger
Substitutions and Adjustments
Because pesto is so versatile, substitutions can be easily made.
This recipe uses both pine nuts and pepitas, but you could use just one or the other. Pine nuts are quite expensive, so you could replace them for more pepitas.
This recipe also uses a combination of arugula and basil. These could also be substituted for each other. So you could use just basil, or just arugula, but I love the combination of both!
For the garlic, add as much as you like. I recommend starting with 2 garlic cloves, then taste the pesto and add more if desired. I personally enjoy using 4 cloves for a stronger flavour.
Check out these other vegan dips and sauces:
Oil-Free Vegan Pesto (with Arugula and Basil)
- ½ cup sweet basil loosely packed, 10 grams
- 1 cup arugula loosely packed, 20 grams
- ½ cup pepitas
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2-4 garlic cloves*
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- ¼ – ½ cup water
- Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender or food processor and blend until the nuts and seeds are fully broken down and your desired texture of pesto is reached.