Get Baked: Garlicky Vegan Pesto

Pesto is probably one of the greatest foods on this planet, after anything whatsoever involving blueberries and just on par with hummus.

Plus, making it by hand is either very easy (if you have a food processor) or somewhat easy (if you have a mortar and pestle) and always impressive, like making your own almond milk or roasting red peppers.


This pesto is parmesan-free, so it gets most of its flavor from the basil and garlic. Adding parsley also makes things just a little more interesting. If you wanted to add nutritional yeast you could, but it’s not necessary.

As with all few-ingredient recipes, the fresher your ingredients the better. I used basil, parsley and garlic fresh from the garden (though, not my garden) with pecans a relative recently brought back from Louisiana.

Most pesto recipes call for pine nuts or walnuts, with pecans a distant unlisted third option. I find pecans less bitter and more delicious than walnuts (and far less expensive than pine nuts). Many pesto recipes also call for toasting your nuts of choice before adding them, but with pecans I didn’t have to, and simplicity always wins. (If you do want to toast the pecans, or you’re using walnuts, dump them into a dry frying pan over medium-high heat and stir every so often until they smell toasty and start to darken.)

You can use all sorts of herbs: cilantro instead of (or along with) parsley, a few fresh mint leaves for a brighter flavor, thyme instead of basil or even a combo of fresh basil, oregano, chives and baby arugula. This recipe sticks to the absolute basics, though, and is absolutely delicious.pesto-ingredients

Vegan Pesto


3 cups basil
1 cup parsley
3 to 4 big garlic cloves
1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly-ground pepper (important)


1. Add all ingredients to a food processor.

2. Blend. Make flavor adjustments by adding more of any of the ingredients, if you need or want to.

3. Serve. Pesto is, of course, excellent on pasta. You can also spread it on tofu or fish, use it in salad, put in on wraps, add it to hummus and more.pesto-pasta-done

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. i did this with walnuts and nutritional yeast a little while ago and was the happiest carb monster all week. pesto is the best.

    • I use sunflower seeds in pesto with great success! They’re much cheaper so perfect for my grad student pesto addiction…

    • I was going to ask about mint, but sunflowers sound a bit more interesting. What about sunflower oil instead of olive?

    • That sounds like a great idea! I have very bad tree nut allergies (especially pine nuts, so if I’m not the one making it, I generally avoid pesto altogether), so I was thinking perhaps almonds (which I can deal with), but I like the idea of sunflower seeds too.

  2. I actually made a pretty typical tasting pesto with salted peanuts and fresh basil and a little coconut oil. And added some to my hummus.

    I do want to try this recipe but I fear I will eat it by the spoonful.

  3. My Sicilian Grandma would say, “There is no cheese in pesto! You put the cheese on afterwards!” Which is my way of saying, I heartily approve of this recipe.

  4. You can make pesto without a fancy food processor also. I make it in this all the time, (which cost $13 bucks, and if you get it, buy it through the AS affiliate link, please, so Autostraddle gets money!), but honestly it’s supposed to be with a mortar and pestle. I just don’t have one at the minute, but it’s pretty quick. Mortar and pestle is seriously the way to go, if you need to be convinced, have you ever had a great mojito at a bar and then tried to make it at home? You can’t just throw mint leaves in your drink and squeeze in lime juice, you need to muddle the mint and lime together to release the oils. The same is true of basil; it takes a little longer, but it’s so worth it!

  5. This is super delicious!!! I made some last week and used it on gluten-free pizza crust with mushrooms and tomatoes…it was incredible.

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