Pesto is one of those words on a menu that immediately grabs my attention. Pesto gnocchi? DONE. Pesto pizza? GIMME. Sandwich with pesto spread? WHY AM I NOT EATING IT YET? This walnut pesto enhances many dishes and satisfies any pesto craving.
One thing that surprised me when I became vegan is that most pesto sauces are not vegan! Traditional pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and parmesan cheese. Sneaky, sneaky; I never realized that cheese was in pesto! I thought it was just straight up basil, oil and seasonings!
I had two goals for this pesto: first, to veganize it while still maintaining a delicious flavor and texture, and second, to make it as inexpensive as possible. The result? Adios parmesan and pine nuts. Have you seen how much pine nuts cost?! A small fortune to say the least. Instead, I made a walnut pesto.
Walnuts make the perfect budget-friendly pine nut substitution. Walnuts are rich in potassium, omega-3s, protein, and other important vitamins. Instead of parmesan cheese, I use nutritional yeast. I LOVE nutritional yeast. It has a cheesy taste and packs a surprising amount of protein per serving. I also buy a brand that’s fortified with vitamin B12, which is usually only in animal products. In other words, this walnut pesto is nutritious, flavorful and downright delicious.
Vegan Walnut Pesto
You’ll just need a food processor, rubber spatula, measuring cups, and a glass jar (for storing the final pesto). First, pulse the walnuts in the food processor to break them into smaller bits.
Add in lemon juice, basil, nutritional yeast, garlic cloves, and salt. Pulse in a food processor until all ingredients are combined and broken down. You may have to scrape the sides down a few times to break down any larger chunks.
With the processor running, add in the oil in a thin stream, one tablespoon at a time. Pause after each tablespoon to scrape down the sides with a spatula. Continue until all the oil has been added and the ingredients are well combined. Adjust seasoning to taste. **Pro tip: for smoother walnut pesto, add more olive oil; for thicker pesto stop with three.
And that’s all there is to it! Five minutes and you’ll have creamy vegan walnut pesto to use for anything your taste buds desire. It makes about 1/2 a cup. You can store the pesto in a glass jar with a thin layer of oil on top for up to two weeks. The layer of oil will keep the pesto from drying out.
I love adding this walnut pesto to toast, tofu scrambles, zucchini noodles and pizza!
What are your menu attention grabbers? What do you like to put pesto on?