It’s okay to be impressed by walnut pesto- most people are! Using toasted walnuts to make pesto results in a pesto sauce with both flavor and texture turning out just right. This is a versatile walnut pesto recipe that you make and devour in no time.
We recommend making a double batch, one for now and one to freeze in case critical pesto cravings strike. Don’t the boy scouts say ‘always be prepared?’ They must have been eating pesto.
How To Make Walnut Pesto
Time to whip up this homemade vegan pesto sauce! At home, you can use a blender, food processor, or a bullet blender to make pesto very quickly. Of all the kitchen appliances we have tried, we favor our food processor to make vegan pesto.
Here’s the thing, many high powered blenders have a minimum capacity in order to reach a smooth, blending consistency. In our Vitamix, we need to make about 2 cups of pesto (double this recipe) for the blender to work well– and if we don’t have that much basil lying around…. it doesn’t work and we end up switching to the fp…. and washing more dishes.
You can make this recipe without a food processor– simply use a bullet blender or double the recipe for a full-size blender. Let’s just say if you make a double batch you will most definitely use it.
The ingredients you need to make walnut pesto are usual suspects in most vegan kitchens:
- Fresh basil
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- A couple cloves of garlic
- Nutritional yeast
- Salt & pepper
On Cooking & Eating
How to use walnut pesto? We use this pesto in a lot of different ways around our kitchen… some traditional and some full-on, out there unconventional. Fresh walnut pesto has a bright, herby flavor that will dress up pizza or pasta in 10 seconds flat!
Here are some ideas on how to use leftover pesto:
- Pizza sauce
- Pasta sauce–vegan walnut pesto pasta, or even in a lasagna
- As a dressing for a grain bowl– rice & veggies topped with walnut pesto
- On toast. Yes, we do this.
- Use it to flavor hummus or other dips
- Add it to a tofu or chickpea scramble in the morning
- As a spread in quesadillas or sandwiches
- Use as a dressing for cold pasta salads- vegan pesto pasta salads are delicious in the summertime
For year almonds were the nut we used most often in pesto, in part because we always had them around the house. However, the first time we made walnut pesto it was an immediate ‘we are never going back’ moment. The fat content, texture, and flavor are just perfectly matched with a bright herby pesto sauce. Tidbit: Walnuts are also loaded with omega-3’s and antioxidants.
Walnuts are our favorite nut to use when making pesto. Ted talk over.
Additionally, let’s get real: we’d be choosing to purchase pine nuts vs. pay our mortgage with the frequency we make a fresh batch of pesto if we went the traditional pine-nut-route. Pine nuts are ridiculously expensive!
It’s really up to you on whether or not to toast the walnuts. This pesto will definitely have a more pronounced, walnutty flavor if you toast them.
If you want to take a swing at toasted walnut pesto, toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat for 7-9 minutes stirring frequently until walnuts are golden and fragrant. Alternatively, place on a cookie sheet in a 350* oven for 9-11 minutes, removing every 3 minutes to stir.
Be careful! It’s incredibly easy to burn walnuts when you intended to toast them!
Is Walnut Pesto Vegan?
Walnut pesto is a fresh basil and olive oil sauce, right? What makes pesto not vegan? Parmesan cheese is traditionally and commonly used in pesto today, which is why most pesto recipes are not vegan.
In this walnut pesto recipe, we will replace the parmesan cheese with nutritional yeast to achieve the same cheesy, nutty, acidic quality that parmesan cheese lends to traditional pesto.
Troubleshooting Vegan Walnut Pesto
This sauce seems easy enough- what could possibly go wrong? Most sauces made in a blender or food processor are forgiving as you can blend the ingredients, taste test, and adjust as needed. This walnut pesto recipe allows you to do exactly that! I’ll often taste and add a pinch of salt and another dash of lemon juice.
Why is my pesto bitter? This can happen for several reasons, the culprit is usually basil! (Surprise!) Some varieties of basil leaves are more bitter than others and off-season basil can have more bitter notes. If your pesto has a very bitter taste try adding more lemon juice (acid), nutritional yeast (flavor), or nuts (fat + flavor). If this doesn’t curb the bitterness, try adding a few springs of another herb like parsley or cilantro to help counteract the bitterness.
Why is my walnut pesto turning brown? Pesto will oxidize and turn from a bright, cheery green color to dark, muddy green- just like guacamole does. This is completely normal and the pesto is still ok to eat and will taste delicious! If you are making the pesto in advance of using it- you can pour a thin layer of oil on top of the pesto when you store it, this prevents air from reaching the pesto and turning it brown.
Is there a substitute for nutritional yeast? Substitute miso for nutritional yeast. Miso gives a satisfying, umami flavor but it doesn’t provide the same level of ‘cheesiness’ that nutritional yeast does.
WALNUT PESTO FAQS
- How to make vegan pesto without oil? You can use 1/2 an avocado and 2-6 tablespoons of water in place of oil.
- Can I make this pesto without nutritional yeast? Yes, you may need to add more salt if you omit the nutritional yeast.
- How long does pesto last? This keeps in the fridge for up to a week. Pesto freezes well- up to 3 months!
- Do you eat pesto cold? Yes! One of the best qualities of pesto is aroma! If you heat the pesto, the basil flavor will remain but the aroma will fade.
- I don’t have olive oil- Can I use a different oil? Avocado oil would work.
- Is pesto vegetarian? Yes, most pesto recipes are vegetarian.
- Can you freeze vegan pesto? Pesto freezes well for up to 3 months in an airtight container.
- Can you make pesto without a food processor? You can use a mortar and pestle or make this in a blender. To properly blend all ingredients you may need to double the recipe.
- Can you make pesto without garlic? Yes, you can omit the garlic. You can also substitute garlic powder if you are out of fresh garlic.
- Can you make pesto with dried basil? No, we do not recommend this. The texture, flavor, aroma, and consistency of pesto are all based on using fresh, leafy basil.
- What makes pesto not vegan? Parmesan cheese is commonly added to pesto sauces.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: ~1 cup
- Category: Pesto Recipes
- Method: Cold prep
- Cuisine: Walnut Pesto
Walnut pesto is easy to make, delicious on a variety of meals, and easy to freeze for later use. This is one of our favorite pesto variations- we’re sure your family will love it as well. Enjoy this easy homemade walnut pesto recipe!
- 2 cups basil, tightly packed
- 1/3 cup walnuts, preferrably toasted
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1.5 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper (or more to taste)
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast or 2 tablespoon parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil (or 1/3 for thinner consistency)
- Measure and add all ingredients to a food processor and puree until combined.
- You can toast the walnuts if you’d like to, this will increase the flavor of the walnuts!
- Before removing from the food processor, taste and adjust flavors as you see fit.
- Taste a little bland? Try adding more salt, pinch at a time.
- Taste okay, but a little dull? Try adding more lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time.
- Doesn’t taste cheesy enough? Add more nutritional yeast
4. Remove from food processor or blender and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
** This walnut pesto freezes well! Freeze for up to 3 months, defrost in the fridge prior to using!
** Substitute other nut if you don’t have walnuts, almonds can easily be used!
Keywords: Walnut Pesto
This, with the toasted walnuts. This was great with pasta!
The first time I’ve ever toasted the nuts for pesto- excellent!
Remember your first pesto? When it was so sublime, it had to be a trick of the palate? This recipe seriously competes with that sensation.
My husband is allergic to milk proteins. I have had a bumper crop of basil and wanted to try a cheese-less pesto. Also, I have a lot of walnuts, and didn’t want to invest in the pinenuts. I’m typing this as I go to make a second batch – want a paper copy of of this excellent recipe! Toasting the walnuts makes all the difference. Thanks, too, for the tip on oil saving the color.