Vegan Parsley Pesto
Vegan Parsley Pesto, a plant-based twist on traditional pesto made with parsley instead of basil and nutritional yeast instead of cheese. Ready in only 5 minutes!
Love pesto but only have parsley? Never fear! Pesto sauce doesn't have to be made with just basil, in fact you can make it with whatever herbs or leafy greens you have on hand.
👉 Here are four reasons why you should be making pesto with parsley:
- It's tasty! Parsley's bright and slightly bitter flavor brings out the garlic and pine nuts in pesto, resulting in a delicious combination.
- It's an alternative pesto, without the pricy basil. Purchasing enough basil to make a flavorful pesto can cost a fortune. Unless you're growing your own, fresh basil tends to be expensive and making pesto takes A LOT of basil. We cut costs by swapping it for parsley which is affordable and accessible year round.
- It's vegan. This recipe uses nutritional yeast in place of parmesan cheese. Nutritional yeast has a cheesy, nutty flavor and contains vitamin B12, an important nutrient for vegans.
- It's incredibly easy and versatile. No prep required, just toss the ingredients in a food processor and drizzle in some oil. Make a big batch and freeze it to use as a sauce on pizza, vegetables, pasta, or in soups.
Want to learn how to make this 5-minute plant-based pesto with parsley? Let us show you how!
🌿 Parsley pesto ingredients
- Parsley: Pesto is made from a base of herbs, and in this recipe we're using fresh parsley. Parsley provides beneficial vitamins such as A, K, C, and folate along with necessary minerals including calcium, iron, and potassium. We used flat leaf parsley, but you could also use curled leaf.
- Pine nuts: Pine nuts are traditional to pesto and give it the texture and crunch you know and love. We stick with pine nuts to mimic customary flavors, but if you are looking for a nut-free version, try substituting pine nuts with pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or sunflower seeds.
- Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast (aka nooch) has a savory flavor profile and can be used as a vegan alternative for parmesan cheese. Nutritional yeast has less sodium than cheese, which is great if you're limiting your sodium intake, but may require you to add a bit more salt to please your palate. Always salt with a light hand and add more as needed.
- Oil: Oil adds flavor but also brings pesto together and creates a suspension of the greens, nuts, and nutritional yeast. This allows the pesto to hold its texture instead of being a thick puree.
- Garlic, salt, and pepper: Every good pesto is properly seasoned. Load up on garlic and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Optional ingredients: A dash of lemon at the end brightens the flavors and adds a bit of acid to enhance the parsley in this pesto.
🥣 How to make (step-by-step photos)
1️⃣ Step One: Wash and prep the parsley
First, wash the parsley by either running under cold water or submerging in a large bowl of water and swishing to remove dirt. Then dry the parsley in a salad spinner or lay it flat on a plate or kitchen towel.
2️⃣ Step Two: Blend the greens, nuts, garlic, and oil
Next add the cleaned and dried parsley to a food processor. Add pine nuts and garlic cloves and pulse until finely chopped. As you're pulsing the ingredients, drizzle in olive oil and continue to pulse until the chopped ingredients are well coated in oil, but still chunky.
3️⃣ Step Three: Add nutritional yeast, spices, and lemon juice
Finally, slowly add in nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper, tasting and adding more until you reach your desired taste.
❓ Questions + quick tips
Parsley can be used in place of fresh basil in pesto sauce. In fact, most herbs like cilantro or parsley, and even leafy greens like arugula or kale, can be used as a substitute for basil in pesto.
Traditional pesto is made with parmesan or other cheeses like asiago, so it is not suitable for vegans or those following a plant-based diet.
Nutritional yeast flakes, nuts, or even chickpeas can be used in place of parmesan cheese in pesto sauce.
While traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, it is possible to substitute other nuts like almonds or walnuts or use seeds like pumpkins seeds or sunflower seeds for nut-free pesto options.
♻️ Storage + freezing
We recommend making a big batch of pesto to keep on hand and use when pulling together quick meals. It's best to always pour a thin layer of olive oil over top of your pesto before storing to minimize browning.
Recommended pesto storing times:
- Refrigerator: 1 week in a airtight container.
- Freezer: 6-12 months in a sealed freezer-safe container.
🌱 Pesto herb + greens variations
The pesto possibilities are endless! Below are a few ideas to make this recipe your own.
- Switch up the nuts: Use macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds for a different crunchy base.
- Play with the greens: Consider arugula, carrot tops, beet leaves, or radish greens instead of traditional herbs.
- Do a combo: Switch it up (or cut costs) by combining more than one green or nut in your pesto. Consider macadamia and almond parsley pesto or try parsley and kale pesto.
💚 More alternative pesto recipes
We hope you enjoy making pesto – we love how quick, easy, and versatile it is! Check out our other non-traditional pestos:
- Carrot Top Pesto
- Radish Greens Pesto
- Vegan Arugula Pesto
- Nut-Free Chickpea Basil Pesto
- Nut-Free Pesto with Sunflower Seeds
- Nut-Free Pesto with Hemp Seeds
Vegan Parsley Pesto Recipe
- 2 cups parsley
- ⅓ cup pine nuts, or seeds if nut-free
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- ½ cup 120 ml extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- Optional: squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- Wash and prep the parsley: First, wash the parsley by either running under cold water or submerging in a large bowl of water and swishing to remove dirt. Then dry the parsley in a salad spinner or lay it flat on a plate or kitchen towel.
- Blend the greens, nuts, garlic, and oil: Next add the cleaned and dried parsley to a food processor. Add pine nuts and garlic cloves and pulse until finely chopped. As you're pulsing the ingredients, drizzle in olive oil and continue to pulse until the chopped ingredients are well coated in oil, but still chunky.
- Add nutritional yeast, spices, and lemon juice: Finally, slowly add in nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper, tasting and adding more until you reach your desired taste.
- Nuts or seeds? Traditional pesto sauce uses pine nuts, but any nut or seeds will be delicious in this pesto. We used pumpkin seeds in this recipe (as shown in the accompanying photos) to make this pesto nut-free.
- Tools Needed: food processor or blender, knife set, cutting board, salad spinner
- Prep Ahead: Make this simple pesto up to 2-3 days before serving, or freeze until ready to use.
- Leftovers and Storage: Leftover pesto should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days, and in the freezer for up to 2 months (possibly longer).
- Nutrition notes: This recipe made as written (with vegan cheese and seeds) is plant-based, gluten-free, and nut-free. It is a good source of vitamin C, plant-based protein, and fiber.