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  • Prep-time: / Ready In:
  • Makes ¾ cup

Traditionally used as a pasta topper, homemade pesto adds a pop of fresh herbal flavor to lots of different dishes. Try drizzling it over grilled pizza, hearty grain bowls, or creamy tomato soup. This no-oil recipe rivals any store bought pesto you can find and will transform your meal into an Italian-inspired feast with each spoonful. 

Tip: Add the amount of plant milk you like to get the desired consistency. Pesto should be spreadable but not too runny!

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup raw cashews
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons unsweetened, unflavored plant milk, such as almond, soy, cashew, or rice

Instructions

  1. Place cashews in a bowl; cover with boiling water. Let soak for 30 minutes; drain. Place cashews in a food processor with the next five ingredients (through salt). Cover and process until nearly smooth, adding plant milk 1 tablespoon at a time to reach desired consistency, and stopping to scrape sides of the processor as needed.
  2. To serve, toss 2 tablespoons of pesto with every 1 cup of hot cooked pasta. Or use as directed in recipes. Transfer extra pesto in an airtight container. Cover surface with plastic wrap; chill up to 2 days.

Comments (30)

(5 from 9 votes)
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Debbie Lindsey1 month ago
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Can you use dried basil instead of fresh to make pesto?

Deveney2 months ago
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Was really nice but next time I will use smaller pieces of garlic

Sandra4 months ago
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Can you freeze this?

Forks Over Knives4 months ago
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Hi Sandra! Yes you can freeze this recipe. It should stay good for up to three months in an air-tight container. Enjoy!

James4 months ago
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Try Vegan pesto sauce

Sofia4 months ago
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Traditional pesto is made with pine nut, are cashews better? Can pine nuts still be used instead in this recipe

0054 months ago
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Cashews make it a nice and creamy pesto. Occasionally I’ll use almonds or walnuts in this recipe. Each results in a slightly different flavor. Cashew is probably my favorite because of the creaminess.

Rachewl4 months ago
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I just made it with half cashews and half pine nuts – it was delicious! I haven’t made it with only cashews, so I don’t know how that compares.

Cindy4 months ago
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I’d like to know too!

D’Arcy5 months ago
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Yes! Yes! Yes! Creamy consistency. The cashews and nooch are the parmesan replacement that plant-based pestos need.

Rebekah Welch6 months ago
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Amazing! So delicious! I followed the recipe as-is except I used water instead of plant milk. This is the best pesto I have ever eaten. Before switching to a whole food plant based diet I made pesto with olive oil. This tastes so much better than pesto made with oil.

Nancy10 months ago
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Delicious, just as written! My omnivore hubby added extra salt and pepper and the enjoyed it as well.

Su11 months ago
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Not tried it yet, but will give it a go.

Traditional pesto is basil, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil. My Italian friend never added the parmesan until serving so as not to loose the cheese sticking to a hot saucepan.

To replace the parmesan there are a few homemade or shop bought vegan replacements or just add nutrional yeast stirred into or sprinkled over the hot pasta

Maureen Ward1 year ago
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Your recipes are great but you do not take into consideration People who have chronic kidney disease and have to limit their potassium…..so I would omit the nuts, but what to replace it with…..hmmm….

Rochelle1 month ago
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I always replace with white beans when the recipe calls for beans.

Chris4 months ago
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I have to limit my potassium and my sodium. I wish there would be a collection of very good recipes for people in my position. If you have heart failure you are possibly taking potassium sparing drugs as I am where you have to limit the amount of potassium you take in. Plus like almost all Heart patients I have to limit sodium.

Josie7 months ago
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Maureen, I have substituted silken tofu instead of cashews.

Cole12 months ago
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Maureen, have you read the success stories from people who had CKD? It might be worth reaching out to them and getting their tips.

Bonnie1 year ago
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Has anyone made this without soaking the cashews? I made traditional pesto (with olive oil) and use many different types of nuts without soaking them. Only almonds were challenging because they are harder than most other nuts & don’t chop up as well. Just wondering why you would need to soak for this vegan version of the pesto?

judy1 year ago
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If you have a high speed vita mix you won’t have to but this small amount of nuts in a food processor may not process as smoothly without soaking.

Tricia1 year ago
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what can I substitute for the cashews without sacrificing the taste?

Lisa Notter1 year ago
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Most vegan recipes for cheese sauces etc I’ve seen can substitute chopped boiled potatoes or white beans for the cashews for a fat free, nut free version.

emily gordon1 year ago
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Easy and delicious

Sara1 year ago
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Just used water not plant milk, and a little miso paste instead of salt, was delicious! Am going to try making a tomato version with oven dried tomatoes

Peg1 year ago
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Looks good! What would be a good replacement for the nutritional yeast?

C.4 months ago
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A little white miso makes a really good substitute for the nutritional yeast/cheese.

Lutice1 year ago
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I would omit the nutritional yeast, have been making pesto for years without cheese, it doesn’t need it.

Kerri1 year ago
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Can you freeze this?

Bonnie1 year ago
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I make regular pesto and freeze it for a year or more. It’s wonderful! Just seal well to keep it from getting freezer burned.

Liz Turner1 year ago
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Yes, it should freeze well for about a month. You can dollop it into ice cube trays or onto wax paper or parchment paper, let it freeze for several hours, then transfer it to a freezer-safe storage bag or airtight container.

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Nancy Macklin, RDN

Nancy Macklin has a bachelor of science in dietetics from Iowa State University and a Master of Science in health services administration from the University of Saint Francis. Macklin worked as a hospital-based clinical dietitian, providing counseling for diabetes, heart disease, and weight loss and as a food service director in health care dining sites. She now serves as a test kitchen dietitian, developing 500+ recipes per year. She is a member of the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics and International Association of Culinary Professionals. Find her on LinkedIn.

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