This vegan Cashew Pesto recipe made with fresh basil and lemon juice is absolutely delicious! It's thick, creamy, and completely dairy-free. Use it as a condiment or flavor-enhancer on pasta, pizza, wraps, sandwiches, soup, and more. (Vegan, gluten-free, oil-free.)
This protein-rich vegan Cashew Basil Pesto is so simple to make! We find it to be a great plant-based alternative to classic pesto.
Plus it's dairy-free, oil-free, and gluten-free as well. The flavor lends itself well to a variety of dishes.
This homemade pesto is especially great in the summer when fresh basil is at peak harvest. (This is usually when the flavor and nutrients are best, and cost is generally lowest.)
Ingredients for Cashew Pesto
For this recipe you will blend in a small high-speed blender or food processor:
- Cashews: I use raw, unsalted cashews. It's best to soak them first so they are softer and able to blend into a creamier consistency. You can either soak the cashews for several hours before blending, or use my "quick soak" method noted below which only takes about 10-15 minutes.
- Fresh basil: You will need about one cup fresh basil leaves for this recipe.
- Fresh garlic cloves: Use as much as you'd like depending on how much you enjoy the flavor.
- Nutritional yeast: This gives the mixture a cheesy, savory taste. You can also substitute vegan parmesan cheese if desired.
- Fresh lemon juice
- Plant milk: Any dairy-free milk should work. Just be sure it's plain and unsweetened.
- Salt: I use fine grain salt for this recipe. You can also include black pepper to taste.
Omit cashews: You can try swapping out the cashews for the more traditional pine nuts, or even slivered almonds or walnuts instead. (Although I haven't tested these versions yet.)
Add olive oil: If you don't wish to prepare this pesto oil-free, then simply add about a tablespoon of high quality extra-virgin olive oil or to desired consistency.
Herbs + flavor: You can also include other fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or dill in addition to the basil.
- Spread on toasted bread or garlic bread
- Mushroom Pesto Pasta (or tossed with your favorite pasta or zucchini noodles)
- Pizza sauce (instead of traditional tomato sauce)
- Wrap or sandwich spread (like this Roasted Vegetable Panini)
- On quesadillas (such as this Spinach & Tomato Quesadilla with Pesto)
- Tossed with veggies for a flavorful side dish
- As a flavorful dip
- Dolloped on soup or salad
For more inspiration, also browse all vegan sauce and seasoning recipes.
Cashew Basil Pesto (Vegan + Oil-Free)
- 1/2 cup raw cashews (soaked*)
- 1 cup fresh basil (or more to taste)
- 1-2 cloves garlic (I use 2)
- 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
- 1/4 cup plant milk (plain and unsweetened)
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- Add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides if needed.
- Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Nutrition Per Serving (Estimate)
If you are enjoying this Vegan Cashew Pesto recipe with basil, also feel free to check out:
- Easy Teriyaki Sauce
- Vegan Ricotta Cheese (Chickpea Ricotta)
- Vegan Cashew Mac and Cheese
- Lemon Dill Hummus