Easy Vegan Almond Pesto
This deliciously addictive and easy to make vegan almond pesto is a unique spin on the standard pesto, using almonds instead of pine nuts and nutritional yeast instead of cheese. But that’s not all, this recipe calls for toasting half of the almonds and leaving some raw because…after many trials, turns out that’s the tastiest formula! Nutty, cheesy, healthy, and addictive, this may just be your new go-to pesto recipe!
Inspiration for this Vegan Pesto
It had been a while since I’d made pesto from scratch, as the Trader Joe’s Vegan Pesto is just so easy!
To be honest, I had so many raw almonds in my cupboard and I wanted to find a delicious way to use them! I had made vegan pine nut pesto and vegan walnut pesto and vegan cashew pesto before, why not try it with almonds?
So I began experimenting…with raw almonds, roasted almonds, toasting my own almonds, and then combining them into…the perfect almond pesto! Why? Turns out that while the toasted almonds bring that freshly smoked, nutty flavor, the raw ones balance it out with their natural sweetness and creaminess.
After a handful of recipe trials, my raw almond stash is almost gone! I may need to stock up again now for this recipe😉.
Why I love this Almond Pesto recipe
This pesto sauce is:
Whole 30 Friendly
Made from Whole Foods
Is almond pesto vegan?
It depends. The difference between vegan pesto and regular pesto is actually the cheese. Regular pesto uses dairy cheese, usually parmesan. Vegan pesto does not use dairy cheese. Sometimes, vegan pesto includes nutritional yeast, a natural yeast that has a nutty, almost cheesy taste (and also happens to be uberhealthy!).
So…the almonds are not the ingredient that will determine if the pesto is vegan or not. Check to see if the recipe or package (if store bought) uses cheese.
- Almonds: The star of this recipe, almonds offer a nutty flavor not dissimilar to the traditional pinenuts (in fact, my kids can’t tell the difference!). However, this recipe is unique in that it calls for using both raw almonds and toasted almonds for a creamy and toasty flavor combination that is perfectly balanced.
- Basil: Like a traditional pesto, this recipe uses basil..a lot of it! So fresh and bright, basil not only tastes delicious, it makes the house smell divine!
- Nutritional Yeast: The secret ingredient to make vegan pesto taste cheesy, “nooch” is a staple in most plant-based kitchens (including mine!).
- Lemon: No pesto would be complete without fresh lemon juice! And if you can get your hands on Meyer lemons, even better, as they add natural sweetness that balance the sometimes bitter greens (if I could find Meyer lemons more readily, I would have specified in this recipe).
- Garlic: If you love pesto, you are likely a garlic person. Just a clove or two go a long way for flavor!
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil is key to the flavor in pesto. I have tried other oils and they just don’t match up to the taste and depth of flavor!
- Sea Salt: You really don’t need a lot; just a 1/2 teaspoon brings the flavors together (I have tried other recipes that call for WAY too much salt).
- Black Pepper: To taste (I love a lot!).
- Water: I find that just a tablespoon or two of water helps to thin the thick pesto without adding a watered-down flavor (or making overly oily pesto with more oil), and the water also miraculously brightens the green color of the sauce, too!
Pin this Vegan Almond Pesto recipe for later:
Substitutions and Omissions
This recipe calls for using half raw almonds, and half freshly toasted almonds. However:
- If you want to make a raw vegan pesto, simply use only raw almonds instead of toasting some.
- Only have roasted almonds on hand? No problem, those will work too. They may not taste as freshly toasted or creamy in texture, but still delicious. If they are salted roasted almonds, consider omitting the salt in the recipe until you blend and taste first; you may not need to add any additional salt.
- Can I just toast all of the almonds? Yes. I find the flavor to be a bit toastier than I prefer, but still delicious!
- Walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are all awesome substitutes for almonds (or using as a combination with almonds). I recommend using half raw and toasting half per the recipe.
While basil is the traditional green in pesto, you can also:
- Use a different herb, like cilantro, parsley, mint, dill, or Thai basil. Or try a combination of herbs!
- Use greens like kale or spinach either instead of basil or as a combination to your choice of herbs in almond pesto.
Don’t have or don’t eat garlic? No problem, this recipe is still super flavorful garlic free (I have tried it when I didn’t have any garlic).
Can’t find (or not into) nutritional yeast? You can simply use the recipe without yeast; the pesto will still be full of flavor and nuttiness from the toasted almonds.
Or, if you taste the pesto without “nooch” and want a little more flavor, try white miso paste, a tiny bit of brewers yeast (it is more bitter so be careful), or a few cashews.
If you are not vegan or dairy free, you can substitute with parmesan cheese.
How to Make Vegan Almond Pesto
This tasty pesto comes together in just 2 steps!
- Preheat oven to 325℉.
- Take half of the raw almonds (1/4 cup) and lay them out flat over parchment paper or silicon pad on baking sheet.
- Toast whole almonds for 8-9 minutes (or 6 minutes if using slivered or sliced).
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Simply add all ingredients to food processor or mini food processor (starting with 1 tbsp water) and process for about 10-15 seconds, the open and scrap sides, and ground again to desired fineness.
- Taste. Adjust as necessary:
- To thin, add additional tablespoon water.
- For more brightness, add 1 teaspoon lemon.
- For more cheesiness, add 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast.
- For more savoriness, add 1/8 tsp sea salt.
- For a kick, add a dash of red pepper flakes.
- Is your pesto slightly bitter? See expert tip below.
- Process again. Taste. Serve.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. After that (if you have any left, which I doubt😉), pesto can be frozen in air tight container for up to 6 months.
Serving Suggestions: What to do with vegan pesto
The vegan pesto meal ideas are endless! Try:
- quinoa pesto
- vegan pesto potato salad
- panini sandwich with pesto
- pesto pizza
- pesto flatbread
- vegan pesto alfredo by combining this pesto with my Easy Vegan Ricotta Cheese
- pesto gnocchi
- pesto zoodles
- almond pesto pasta
- vegan pesto and tomato pasta
- cold vegan pesto pasta salad
- Be sure not to leave the almonds in the oven for too long, if they over toast or burn, the toasted almonds will impact the flavor of the pesto. Set a timer or use the toaster oven.
- Is your vegan almond pesto tasting slightly bitter? That is most likely coming from the basil. To fix that, try adding other fresh herbs or greens into the pesto to balance the flavor out. Or, try adding a could drops of maple syrup or agave nectar to balance out the taste (not too much though, start with less than 1/8 tsp., you don’t want sweet pesto!).
Yes, vegan pesto tastes quite similar to regular pesto. Not only do they include the same key ingredients (basil, lemon, garlic, olive oil, nuts), but nutritional yeast is often an ingredient in vegan pesto. Nutritional yeast brings that nutty, cheesy flavor that parmesan brings to the more traditional pesto.
Yes. Freeze vegan pesto in air tight container for up to 6 months.
For more easy vegan sauce recipes, check out:
Tried this healthy pesto recipe? I would love to know what you thought! Please rate and review below!
Easy Vegan Almond Pesto
- 1/2 cup whole raw almonds, divided
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves do not use large stems
- 1-2 garlic cloves 1 large or 2 medium
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1-3 tablespoons water start with 1
- dash red pepper flakes optional
- Preheat oven or toaster oven to 325℉.
- Lay out half of the raw almonds (1/4 cup) flat over parchment paper or silicon pad on baking sheet.
- Toast whole almonds for 8-9 minutes (or 6 minutes if using slivered or sliced). Set a timer, as you do not want to over toast almonds.
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Simply add all ingredients to food processor (starting with 1 tbsp water) and process for about 10-15 seconds. Scrape sides and process again as needed until almonds are ground to desired fineness.
- Taste. Adjust as necessary:– To thin, add additional tablespoon water.– For more brightness, add 1 teaspoon lemon.– For more cheesiness, add 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast.– For more savoriness, add 1/8 tsp sea salt.– For a kick, add a dash of red pepper flakes.– Is your pesto slightly bitter? See expert tips above recipe card.Process again. Taste. Serve.