vegan pesto sauce on bread - is it vegan

Is Pesto Vegan? Plus 6 Vegan Pesto Brands & Recipe Tips!

Is Pesto Vegan?

Unfortunately, most pesto brands have parmesan cheese in them - even if only a small amount. This means that they are not vegan.

Still, like all foods, there are many vegan basil pesto alternatives made nutritional yeast or options that simply leave out the parmesan cheese in favor of extra olive oil or pine nuts.

We'll show you which brands of pesto sauce don't contain any animal products and leave you with some awesome tips and vegan pesto recipes.

Vegan Pesto Brands

Firstly, let's talk about some of the vegan pesto brands that are available to purchase online. For the most part, in the standard US supermarket most pestos have hidden animal products - namely cheese.

vegan pesto in a jar on a table

Picture of vegan pesto in a jar on a table.

Specialty markets like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's might be an exception so you can probably find some dairy free pesto there as they tend to carry a lot more vegan foods on the whole.

​With this in mind, most of these dairy free pesto brands on this list are imports - so if you're looking for them in a typical grocery store, be sure to check the international aisle.

Be sure to double check all ingredient statements statements. As is the case with any prepared food they are liable to change from time to time.

Biona Organic Pesto

Green Pesto with Pine Kernels

The first brand is Biona Organic, and they offer a Green Pesto with Pine Kernels. This pesto is similar in taste to traditionally-made pesto, but is made with an all-organic simple ingredient list: Fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and pine nuts.

Zest Vegan Basil Pesto

Vegan Basil Pesto

Zest has a pesto made with brazil nuts, cashew nuts, and hazelnuts, which actually states that its suitable for vegans and vegetarians on the jar. It’s perfect if you’re looking for something without pine nuts.

Their Vegan Basil Pesto is a classic tasting pesto, perfect if you’ve been missing the traditional parmesan version.

Zest is a UK brand, but you can find them online in the US as well.

Organico Jarred Vegan Pesto (Gluten Free)

Vegan Pesto

Organico is, like its name suggests, an organic brand that’s made with all-vegan ingredients.

Their Vegan Pesto replaces parmesan cheese with tofu and uses cashew nuts and walnuts instead of pine nuts.

Because of this, it’s a bit different than a standard recipe – great for if you like to try new things. 

Le Conserve Della Nonna Classic Green Pesto

Green Pesto

This classic Italian-style Green Pesto is made without dairy and nuts to make it accessible to everyone – even if you’ve got allergies.

If, for you, pesto without nuts isn’t pesto, then this is unlikely to be the best choice. But if you’re into a lighter sauce, this is a great pick. 

Amore Pesto Paste

Green Pesto

Amore offers a very classic-style pesto in terms of taste, but unusual in terms of presentation; while their Pesto Paste is made with all the same ingredients as a regular pesto (minus any animal products), it’s a smoother consistency, and comes packaged in a tube.

With this in mind, it’s flavor profile tends to be a little more concentrated than other pesto brands so be sure to use sparingly!

Sacla Italia Free From Gluten, Dairy, Wheat Basil Pesto

Green Pesto

Sacla is one of the most popular dairy free pestos on the market. Their Free From Basil Pesto is gluten free, dairy free, and wheat free, which makes it great for vegans, vegetarians, and even those with Celiac.

Like the Organico product, this pesto replaces parmesan with tofu. It also adds both cashews and, unusually, potato flakes. Great over pasta or as a salad dressing!

Vegan Pesto Recipes and Tips

Even if buying vegan pesto online or in stores isn't possible for you, don't worry!

You can still make it at home and completely customize it to fit your flavor profile with a blender or food processor.

Here's a quick video to show you the easiest way to do it:​

Additionally, we've included a bunch of recipes and tips below to illustrate all the different options and help you get cooking!

Easy Vegan Pesto by Minimalist Baker

One of the most popular recipes is this Easy Vegan Pesto by the Minimalist Baker. Although the core ingredients are olive oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and fresh basil, you have the option of making it in several different styles including a walnut pesto!

picture of walnuts in a bag

Walnuts can be a great replacement in pesto if pine nuts are too expensive.

Quick Tip

Because this pesto is so quick and easy to make, you have the option of putting it on almost anything. Try it on a cold pasta salad, as a dip for bread, or even brussels sprouts! We personally love to use it as a salad dressing.

Creamy Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta

Another awesome dairy free pesto recipe is this Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta by Connoisseurus Veg. This one is unquestionably fabulous as its got all of the elements to be a complete vegan meal. Once you can regularly make vegan meals like this one, it quickly becomes clear how great this lifestyle is!

Quick Tip

You can use the cashew and nut milk blend on this recipe to make all sorts of creamy vegan sauces. Make it as a base and experiment with adding your own set of ingredients, perhaps a vegan tomato sauce to make it vodka-style!

Creamy Avocado Basil Pesto 

If you're into raw foods or just wanted to try it out for one meal then this Creamy Avocado Basil Pesto Pasta is for you. Furthermore, avocados are especially great if you're using them in compliment with something that's already green!

a ripe avocado being opened

Avocados can make vegan pesto super creamy!

Quick Tip

You don't have to limit yourself to using the kelp noodles that this recipe calls for. You can always just use regular vegan pasta and top it with some seitan or tempeh!

Frequently Asked Questions on Pesto

Is Red Pesto Vegan?

Unfortunately, standard red pesto ingredients are typically not vegan. Recipes usually call for the same things as regular pesto, but with sun-dried tomatoes instead of fresh basil. They also tend to omit the lemon juice given the fact that the tomatoes are already acidic.

But you can easily make it vegan by using nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese!​

Can I Make Vegan Pesto With No Oil?

When there's a will there's a way! By adding something like white beans to your pesto you can add a creamy element that's a great substitute for olive oil!

As a matter of fact, this recipe by Oh She Glows does just that!​

Are There Any Recipes With No Nuts?

Absolutely!

You can check out this nut free and dairy free pesto recipe for a basic idea on how to do it.

White canned beans in a white ceramic dish.

If you prefer a thicker pesto, try adding some cannelli beans to it!​

Is Pesto Suitable for Vegetarians?

Since vegetarians tend to consume dairy products, yes, most pesto should be vegetarian friendly.

But we do recommend that you try out at least some of the vegan options we've listed on this article!​

They're suitable for vegetarians and vegans!​

Can I Use Cashews Instead of Pine Nuts?

There's absolutely nothing wrong with using cashews instead of pine nuts when making vegan pesto. The flavor is obviously going to be slightly different, but still delicious!

We often do our pesto with cashews because pine nuts can be super expensive. It's much more cost efficient to just use them as a special garnish rather than throwing them in the food processor.

Can I Make Vegan Pesto Without Nutritional Yeast?

You can, but it without nutritional yeast or cheese, your pesto is likely to be lacking in that super savory umami flavor.

Using a little bit of miso paste instead of nutritional yeast can bring back some of those flavor profiles, but just don’t use too much! Overusing miso paste in a dish like pesto will quickly make it taste like Asian cuisine which is not what you want!

traditional japanese miso paste

Miso paste can be a great way to add cheesiness without nutritional yeast.

Try adding small amounts at a time until you achieve the desired flavor that you want.​

Additionally, be sparing with any sea salt you're adding as miso is already quite salty.​

How Can I Add More Nutrients to My Pesto?

Since pesto is green and super flavorful you can get away with adding things like kale and peas without changing the flavor profile too much. 

We recommend making the standalone pesto and slowly adding a green vegetable to taste. You'd be surprised how much you can sneak in there without noticing.

a bunch of peas and a few pods

Peas can be a great way to add nutrients to your pesto.

If you try using white beans in the pesto sauce in addition to the greens, you'll have a complete meal on your hands.​

Serve over a whole wheat p​asta and enjoy all the nutrients!

Conclusion on Vegan Pesto

There are so many ways to enjoy pesto sauce as a vegan. To be honest, most of them are better than the "real" thing.

By exploring some of the tips, recipes, and products in this post, you're sure to master making plant based pesto in no time!​

If you're looking for even more inspiration, be sure to check out our vegan cookbooks page!​

About the Author Michelle B

Hey! I’m Michelle and I write product reviews for ThriveCuisine.com. I’m always preparing healthy / plant based foods and I’ve developed a knack for helping people get the best bang for their buck.

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1 comment
Kaylin says September 28, 2017

Another amazing company that has vegan pesto (but isn’t labeled/marketed as such) is a.g. Ferrari. Best vegan pesto I’ve ever had, hands down. I definitely recommend adding it to the list!

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