Vegan Walnut Pesto

Dairy-Free vegan walnut pesto is infused with basil and makes a perfect condiment or sauce for a favorite Italian-themed recipe. This easy recipe use walnuts instead of pine nuts for a more affordable and delicious sauce. Take advantage of the amazing basil flavors all year long.

Be sure to serve this Vegan Garlic Bread with your next pasta night. And don’t forget the Vegan Caesar Salad too.

Two bowls hold walnut pesto, topped with chopped walnuts. Around the bowls are cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, and vegan parmesan cheese.

I was a picky eater as a child. I hated just about everything in today’s recipe. However, taste buds change over time. It’s a good thing too because otherwise I’d be stuck with a diet of macaroni and cheese and Count Chocola. I certainly wouldn’t be eating Walnut Basil Pesto served over pasta with steamed broccoli, chopped tomatoes, and black olives.

Why This Recipe is a Winner

  • Sautéed Garlic — Most pesto recipes call for raw garlic, but we’ll sauté the garlic for this recipe. Raw garlic is too overpowering, but the cooked garlic is perfect
  • Chopped Kale — We’ll add chopped kale for more flavor and a thicker pesto
  • Adding vegan parmesan makes this recipe deliciously dairy-free without sacrificing flavor

What You Need

You can find the full printable recipe, including ingredient quantities, below. But first, here are some explanations of ingredients and steps to help you make this recipe perfect every time.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Walnuts
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh kale leaves (see note)
  • Nutritional yeast flakes
  • Vegan parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How to Make Walnut Pesto

Pesto is so easy to throw together and adds flavor to so many favorite dishes. Here’s a synopsis of the tips to make this walnut pesto recipe.

  1. Place the chopped garlic in a skillet with one tablespoon olive oil. Cook over medium-low heat until the garlic is slightly tender, about 3 minutes.
    Ingredients for pesto in a food processor.
  2. Place the cooked garlic and the remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are combined and to the texture of your preference.
    Green Basil in Food Processor
  3. Serve drizzled over pasta with steamed broccoli, sliced cherry tomatoes, and black olives. It’ also makes a nice topping for warm, toasted bread.

Quick Fix Tip

Keep some garlic confit around to use in making quick pestos. Because the garlic is already tender and the oil is infused with garlic, it’s perfect to infuse a mellow garlic flavor (as opposed to raw garlic) in many dishes.

Freezing Pesto

Here’s how to freeze walnut pesto. Simply transfer the pesto to an ice cube tray and place it in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a freezer bag. Then, when you’re ready to serve, heat either place a few of the frozen cubes out at room temperature or use the defrost setting on your microwave to thaw it out.

Frequently-Asked Questions

What is walnut pesto used for?

Think of garlic pesto recipes as a condiment or sauce for your favorite dishes. You can drizzle pesto over cooked pasta or even over toast (like a crostini). A smear of pesto on a bun for your veggie burger adds a lot of flavors. Pesto can even be used to add irresistible flavor to grilled corn on the cob.

Which nut is used to make pesto?

Usually, pine nuts are used to make pesto. They add great flavor and nutrition, but they are pricey. I love this recipe for making my pesto with walnuts because it’s more affordable and yields an amazing flavor.

Is Pesto good or bad for you?

Pesto is a tasty, low-carb condiment or sauce that’s low in carbs. Walnuts are packed with lots of wholesome nutrients.

How long can you keep walnut pesto?

Transfer any unused walnut pesto to an airtight container and store it in the fridge. Pesto will keep up to 7 to 10 days when stored properly. You can also freeze it.

Looking down on two bowls of green sauce (pesto). There are cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves, along with walnuts around it.

Marly’s Tips

Use these tips and tricks to make this garlic pesto perfect every time:

  • I recommend cooking the garlic in a skillet over medium-low heat until tender because it causes the flavor of garlic to mellow
  • If you don’t have a food processor, a blender will work as well
  • This is a great keto pesto because it’s low in carbs. Serve it over zoodles (zucchini noodles) or low carb noodles; my favorite is Explore Foods Edamame Noodles.
  • Pesto will keep in the fridge for about a week if stored in a sealed container
  • You can substitute nutritional yeast flakes in place of vegan parmesan.

More Italian Recipes

Do you love vegan Italian recipes? Be sure to try these:

A bowl of pasta has chopped tomatoes and fresh basil leaves on top. Behind it is a bowl of green sauce (pesto) that was added to the pasta as well.
A bowl of walnut pesto has chopped walnuts on top. It's surrounded by walnuts, fresh basil leaves, and cherry tomatoes.

Vegan Walnut Pesto

Prepare this herb-infused Vegan Walnut Pesto with nutritious walnuts, olive oil, and basil. Serve this pesto over crostini, on pasta, and even as a condiment for veggie burgers!
5 from 6 votes
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 133kcal
Author: Marly

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh kale leaves (see note)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon vegan parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Place the chopped garlic in a skillet with one tablespoon olive oil. Cook over medium-low heat until the garlic is slightly tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Place the cooked garlic and the remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients are combined and to the texture of your preference.
  • Serve drizzled over pasta with steamed broccoli, sliced cherry tomatoes, and black olives. It' also makes a nice topping for warm, toasted bread.

(The products above contain sponsored links to products we use and recommend)

Notes

Note: Nutritional estimate is for the pesto only, not including the noodles.
I use Nooch It Vegan Parmesan in this recipe which has only 2g net carb per tablespoon.
You can substitute nutritional yeast flakes in place of vegan parmesan.
I added kale to this recipe to add more color and to make a thicker pesto.
Nutrition Facts
Vegan Walnut Pesto
Amount Per Serving
Calories 133 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Cholesterol 1mg0%
Sodium 14mg1%
Potassium 108mg3%
Carbohydrates 2g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 995IU20%
Vitamin C 11mg13%
Calcium 31mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

This post was originally published in 2020 and was updated to include new photos, new text, and an updated recipe in 2021.

10 Responses to Vegan Walnut Pesto

  1. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyJudee@ Gluten Free A-Z Blog Reply

    your photo makes me want to go cook up some steamed broccoli this minute!! It looks amazing and I like the pesto too. Pinning this one for later

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Thanks, Judee!

  2. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyBrianne @ Cupcakes & Kale Chips Reply

    I have wanted to try pesto with walnuts. Once I get enough basil from my plant, I’ll have to try this!

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Grow, basil, grow!

  3. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyDessertForTwo Reply

    First of all, the bright light in these photos is making me so happy 🙂

    Second, I believe you can retrain taste buds! I believe they’re constantly changing. I used to hate raw onion, and now I can’t get enough of it 🙂

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      My husband was the same as you – used to hate raw onions. I don’t think he cared for them cooked either. Sometimes we’ll sit down to dinner and he’ll say, “I can’t believe I’m eating this stuff…and I like it!” Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad you liked my photos – it feels good to make others happy! 😉

  4. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyJulie Reply

    I grew up in a small town too. (1200 people). Fancy was walnuts in the brownies. I love to experiment with food now. My taste buds have definitely changed!

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Julie – OMG, you’re cracking me up. It’s so true. If someone brought brownies with walnut they were highfalutin! Or that green bean casserole with fried onions on the top! I love that you’re trying new things too. Were like small town sisters!

  5. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlySuzi Reply

    Made this! So glad I found this recipe because I didn’t have any pine nuts and was glad to see walnuts in pesto works too!

  6. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyKGL Staff Reply

    I have used this recipe for with the theme of my granddaughters birthday. Last year was the first time she was old enough to help. It’s now our tradition. Party guests look forward to this little extra treat. They are so delicious & ingredients are pantry staples.

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