Basil, raw cashews, miso, lemon juice, and EVOO are all you need to make the best vegan pesto in under 10 minutes.
Pesto is a pretty magical sauce, seeing as anything + pesto = an instantaneous complete meal. Pasta, grains, roasted vegetables, you name it – there’s almost nothing pesto doesn’t make a perfect couple with. Is pesto the J-Lo of sauces…? All signs point to yes.
Having a jar of it in your fridge means you’re halfway to a complete meal. Although there are some decent ones in stores these days, my local supermarket doesn’t carry a vegan version. And even if it did, I’d still likely make my own so I could control the quality of ingredients and leave out any freaky preservatives/chemicals.
This cheese-less version with miso and cashews is, in my opinion, the best vegan pesto ever. I’ve made many, many pestos over the years, and this combo and ratio of ingredients is pretty fool-proof. Here’s how it’s done…
What’s In This Vegan Pesto
This herbaceous sauce has a ton of fresh basil, raw cashews, white miso, a bit of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, a bit of lemon, salt, and pepper. The duo of cashews and miso provides the creamy richness and salty funk, respectively, of the Parmesan cheese you’d typically have in traditional pesto.
How to Make The Best Vegan Pesto
Start by measuring out 3 packed cups of basil; this means you should fill and pack down a 1-cup measure 3 times. If this is your first rodeo, you may be surprised by the colossal amount of basil you need to make just 1 cup of the sauce.
Next, place the basil in a food processor and add the cashews and garlic. Pulse these alone first, in order to break them down before adding the oil.
When the basil and nuts are pulverized, open the processor and toss in the miso, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Then close it back up and measure out your oil. With the motor running, gradually stream in the oil so everything has a chance to come together evenly. The pesto should be creamy, shiny, and fragrant. Be careful not to over-process it, since too much heat created by the movement of the blades can make the pesto bitter.
(Although a food processor is best, you can make pesto in a blender: combine all the ingredients in the blender at once and puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides often. Note: the blender method may require a bit more oil.)
How to Store and Use This Pesto
Scrape the pesto into a small container and close with an airtight lid. Keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 days – or freeze for up to 3 months. Besides pasta, you can stir it into cooked rice or farro, drizzle it on roasted vegetables (like carrots, eggplant, cauliflower, etc.), or use it as a sandwich condiment. The possibilities are nearly endless.
Ingredient Notes + Substitutions
- Basil: Whenever I have other herbs in the fridge – like cilantro, dill, or parsley – I toss them into the pesto. Sometimes I forgo basil altogether and make the sauce entirely with other herbs.
- Cashews: Raw cashews have a sweet, mild flavor, and rich, creamy texture, which makes them perfect for pesto. (They’re also cheaper than traditional pine nuts!) Raw blanched almonds, raw sliced almonds, or pine nuts make good substitutes.
- Miso: This Japanese fermented soybean paste isn’t just for miso soup. It adds umami/a “cheesy” flavor to many vegan recipes. Look for miso in the refrigerated section (next to tofu, kimchi, etc.) or in the international foods aisle.
- Oil: Pesto calls for a lot of EVOO, so you want to use the best quality you have since its flavor will definitely come through. I rely on California Olive Ranch as a tasty and affordable option.
If you’re a fan of pesto, you should also check out…
- Creamy Basil-Spinach Pesto Pasta
- Roasted Carrots and Shallots with Parsley Pesto and Capers
- Summer Rice Salad with Tomatoes and Pesto
- 7 Make-Ahead Grain Bowl Sauces
Basil, cashews, miso, lemon juice, and EVOO are all you need to make the best vegan pesto in under 10 minutes.
- 3 packed cups basil leaves (about 1 large bunch)
- 1/3 cup raw cashews
- 1 medium garlic clove, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons white miso
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- In a food processor (see below for blender instrux), combine the basil with 1/3 cup cashews and 1 garlic clove. Pulse until everything is broken down.
- Then add 2 teaspoons miso, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. With the motor running, gradually stream in 1/3 cup olive oil and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- Scrape the pesto into a small container and close with an airtight lid. Keep in the fridge for 2 to 3 days – or freeze for up to 3 months.
Although a food processor is best, you can make pesto in a blender: combine all the ingredients in the blender at once and puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides often. This method may require a bit more oil.
- Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
- Calories: 107
- Fat: 11 g
- Carbohydrates: 2.1 g
- Protein: 1.2 g
Keywords: vegan, pesto, basil, cashews, italian