What’s better than fresh pesto? The bright and mouthwatering aroma of all that basil with hints of lemon and garlic? Mmmm. It’s seriously one of my favorite things! And though it couldn’t be easier to make a vegan version of pesto, it does traditionally contain parmesan. So for vegans, or anyone who avoids dairy, many restaurant and other prepared pesto dishes are a no-go because of that one sad ingredient. This is why Mark and I decided this year (what took us so long?) to plant basil at home so we can enjoy fresh pesto all season long!
Believe me, we don’t have the greenest of thumbs. Yet, we planted seeds in a large container, ensured they got plenty of sun and water, and voila! So much basil. If you’ve thought about planting basil but haven’t tried it yet, I’m your new biggest cheerleader. Get some good quality seeds next spring, and go for it. No elaborate garden plot necessary. If you have a spot in your yard or on your deck or balcony that gets 5 or 6 hours of sun a day, you can have this beautiful herb at your fingertips, too! Now back to pesto…
All you need is a food processor or small blender, and within minutes you’re ready to use fresh pesto on pasta, toast, pizza, raw veggies, beans, grains, crackers, wraps and sandwiches.
Hey, here’s a pesto sandwich idea…
This particular day Mark and I decided on a Pesto Cannellini Mash Sandwich. I added 1/4 cup pesto to one 15 ounce can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans and mashed everything together with a fork. We toasted some bread and spread it with extra pesto, of course. Then we piled on the cannellini mixture and topped it with thinly sliced cucumber and tomato. We also added some Tempeh Bacun Bits (recipe coming soon). I sprinkled the tempeh on top of the bean mixture, but I think mixing it in would taste even better.
The contrast of the salty pesto with the clean, cool cucumber and tomato, contrasted again by the smoky and rich tempeh? That’s my kind of lunch.
Easy Vegan Pesto
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups basil leaves; tightly packed while measuring
- 1/2 cup pine nuts; sub walnuts for a less traditional but still delicious version
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, optional; if omitting, add a bit of lemon zest and more salt, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- pinch sea salt
- 1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or water for oil-free version (I used 1 Tbsp of each)
- Add basil, pine nuts, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Blend until paste-like, stopping to scrape down the sides of bowl as needed.
- With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and/or water.
- Taste for saltiness and acidity, adding more salt, lemon or nutritional yeast, if desired.