An easy vegan Cashew Pesto recipe made with fresh basil and lemon juice! It's thick, creamy, and completely dairy-free. Enjoy it as a condiment or flavor-enhancer on pasta, pizza, wraps, sandwiches, soup, and more. (Vegan, gluten-free, oil-free.)
This flavor-rich vegan Cashew Pesto recipe is so simple to make! It's a great plant-based alternative to classic pesto.
Plus it's dairy-free, oil-free, gluten-free, and protein-rich as well. The flavor is slightly different than traditional pesto because we use cashews instead of pine nuts. But I find it to be delicious, and the texture 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: You'll need raw unsalted cashews. I use soaked cashews so they're 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 with hot water which only takes about 10-15 minutes. See recipe for guidance.
- Fresh basil: This fresh herb is a major component of classic pesto. You'll 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: Parmesan cheese is a standard ingredient in pesto, so I substitute it with this dairy-free alternative. Nutritional yeast gives the mixture a cheesy, savory taste. (Or you can also substitute Vegan Parmesan Cheese if desired.)
- Lemon juice: You'll need two tablespoons fresh lemon juice, which is about a half lemon.
- 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. (However I haven't tested these versions yet.)
Adding olive oil: If you wish to prepare this pesto with oil, 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 & condiment: Spoon it on toasted bread, garlic bread, wraps, sandwiches (like this Roasted Vegetable Panini), quesadillas, or as a flavorful dip with crackers. You can also spread it as pizza sauce instead of traditional tomato sauce.
Pasta: Try it in this Mushroom Pesto Pasta or tossed with your own favorite pasta or zucchini noodles.
Flavor enhancer: Toss with roasted or steamed veggies for a flavorful side dish, or dolloped on soup or salad.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I find it keeps for about 3 days or so. Stir again before serving.
Freezing: I haven't tried freezing this pesto yet, so I can't say for sure how it would hold up in the freezer. But my best guess is it would freeze great!
Cashew Pesto (Vegan & Oil-Free!)
- 1/2 cup raw cashews (soaked*)
- 1 cup fresh basil (or more to taste)
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
- 1/4 cup dairy-free 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)
Sodium: This is omitted as I cannot provide an accurate number. I encourage you to calculate your own to provide a much more precise reading based on the exact ingredients, brands, and amounts you're using.
If you are enjoying this vegan Cashew Pesto recipe with basil, also check out:
- Vegan Teriyaki Sauce
- Vegan Ricotta Cheese (Chickpea Ricotta)
- Vegan Cashew Mac and Cheese
- Lemon Dill Hummus