Vegan Spinach Pesto

Vegan Spinach Pesto, a quick and easy pesto sauce recipe that uses spinach instead of basil! This delicious recipe requires just a handful of ingredients and 5 minutes to make, and features nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese as a vegan alternative.

fresh vegan spinach pesto in a bowl with a gold spoon

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Craving pesto, but out of basil? No problem! Pesto can be made with just about any type of herbs and greens, and one of our favorite alternative pesto recipes uses fresh spinach.

👉 Here are FOUR reasons why you should be making pesto with spinach:

  • It’s delicious! Pesto is so tasty no matter what, but the spinach in this recipe adds a note of freshness that you’ll want to add to everything!
  • It’s vegan-friendly. Making spinach pesto vegan is so simple. Instead of parmesan, this recipe uses nutritional yeast which is a plant-based substitute for cheese. Its nutty, cheesy flavor is a great savory addition to spinach pesto.
  • It’s easy to make. Simply add the ingredients to a food processor and pulse with some olive oil. Make a big batch so you can use it over and over again in dishes like pasta, pizza, soups, or as a dip for vegetables.
  • It’s versatile. The possibilities really are endless for what you can do with pesto! Although this recipe uses spinach, you can try mixing in other types of greens and add seasonings of your choice.

Ready to learn how to make plant-based pesto with spinach? Let’s do it!

🌱 Spinach pesto ingredients

  • Spinach: You can’t make pesto without greens! Spinach is the primary leafy green ingredient in this recipe, providing important vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C.
  • Nuts or seeds: Pesto is typically made with pine nuts, but you can make it with other varieties of nuts and seeds. Try pumpkin seeds, cashews, or walnuts!
  • Nutritional Yeast: A dried, flaky ingredient with a savory flavor that resembles parmesan cheese. Nutritional yeast is a common vegan staple and provides vitamin B12, which plant-based diets often lack.
  • Olive oil: Boosts the flavor of pesto and contributes to its texture, preventing it from becoming too thick.
  • Garlic, salt, and pepper. These are common pesto seasonings that you can adjust to your liking.
  • Optional Ingredients: Add a little lemon juice to balance out the pesto with acid and brighten the flavor.
  • Recommended tools: A food processor or blender, knife set, cutting board, and salad spinner are the main tools you will need to make spinach pesto (affiliate links).
bowls of spinach leaves, seeds, nutritional yeast, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper
Ingredients: spinach, pine nuts (or seeds if nut-free), nutritional yeast, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

🥣 How to make (step-by-step photos)

1️⃣ Step One: Wash + prep spinach

Start with cleaning the spinach by submerging it in a large bowl of water and swishing to remove dirt. Use a salad spinner to dry it, or lay it flat on a plate or kitchen towel.

washed and dried spinach leaves on a countertop
Clean and dry spinach leaves

2️⃣ Step Two: Blend greens, nuts, garlic, + oil

Toss the cleaned and dried spinach in a food processor. Add nuts or seeds and garlic cloves, then pulse until finely chopped.

Slowly drizzle in olive oil while pulsing the ingredients. Pulse until the chopped ingredients are well coated in oil, but still chunky.

spinach leaves, pine nuts, garlic and seasonings in a food processor
Pulse spinach, nuts (or seeds), and garlic cloves in the food processor, then slowly drizzle in oil

3️⃣ Step Three: Add nutritional yeast, spices + lemon juice

Finish it off by slowly adding nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. Give the pesto a taste and add more seasonings until you reach your perfect pesto.

close up of processed pesto ingredients in a food processor
Slowly add nutritional yeast and spices

❓ Recipe questions + quick tips

What do you use pesto sauce for?

You can use pesto sauce to add flavor to many types of dishes. It’s commonly added to pasta, pizza, soup, and sandwiches. Pesto can also be used as a dip for vegetables, cooked into bread, or mixed with salad dressings.

What is in vegan pesto?

Traditional pesto is made with parmesan cheese, which vegans can’t eat. Vegan pesto contains an alternate for parmesan, such as nutritional yeast. You can also make pesto without cheese or cheese alternates, and keep the flavor up with ingredients like lemon juice instead.

What can I use instead of parmesan cheese in pesto?

If you follow a plant-based or vegan diet, the best substitute for parmesan cheese in pesto is nutritional yeast. You can also use other types of cheese in place of pesto, such as asiago or pecorino romano.

What is a substitute for pine nuts in pesto?

While pine nuts are used in traditional pesto, there are many kinds of nuts and seeds that you can make it with. We suggest using pumpkin seeds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, or hemp seeds if you’re looking for a replacement.

💡How to serve

Have fun with pesto! Pesto is such a versatile ingredient and can be used to flavor up just about any dish. Here are our favorite ways to serve vegan spinach pesto:

  • Use as a sauce or spread. You can’t go wrong with using pesto as sauce for pasta or pizza. It also makes for a delicious spread on sandwiches or bruschetta.
  • Use for dipping. Need something to dip your veggies in? Use pesto! You can use pesto as a dip on its own (it’s that good!) but it can also easily be mixed with hummus for a creamy vegetable pairing.
  • Mix into salad dressing. Pesto makes a delicious addition for salad dressing. Simply combine it with more olive oil and lemon juice so it can be drizzled over your favorite salad.
  • Soup garnish. We love using spinach pesto as a topping for soup! Try it with our Roasted Tomato Leek Soup.
fresh spinach pesto in a bowl

🧊 How to store

You can make a smaller amount of pesto to use all at once, or make a big batch to store and use to make quick meals. Here’s how we suggest storing any extra pesto:

  1. Refrigerator storage: 1 week in an airtight container
  2. Freezer storage: 6 months in a sealed freezer-safe container

Pro tip: To prevent browning, it’s best to drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on the surface of pesto before putting it in the refrigerator or freezer. You can add pesto to ice cube trays, freeze, and transfer to a freezer-safe storage bag. Having small quantities on hand are perfect for when you need a quick flavor enhancer!

♻️ Sustainable kitchen tips

Making homemade pesto is eco-friendly in itself, but here are some ways to make it even better for the planet.

Take advantage of spinach season! Prioritizing in season produce on your grocery list is key to a sustainable kitchen. Spinach is in season year-round in California, but find out where spinach is in season near you here.

Add any leftover greens or herbs that you have on hand. Don’t let your greens or herbs go bad! Instead, mix them in with spinach pesto or use as a substitute for spinach in this recipe.

Make spinach pesto in bulk. You can buy lots of spinach while it’s in season, and then make big batches of pesto that you can freeze and use for months to come. This will prevent you from needing to buy pre-made pesto or buying ingredients out of season.

bowl of vegan spinach pesto on a countertop with a gold spoon

💚 More pesto recipes

Can’t get enough pesto? Look no further! Here are more vegan pesto recipes:

a screenshot of Fork in the Road's 4-day plant-based meal plan

Get my 4-Day Plant-Based Meal Plan to start your journey on the plant path.

fresh spinach pesto in a bowl

Vegan Spinach Pesto Recipe

Kristina Todini, RDN
A quick and easy pesto sauce recipe that uses spinach instead of basil! This delicious recipes takes just 5 minutes to make and a handful of ingredients, and features nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese as a vegan alternative.
4.84 stars (12 ratings)
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Sauces, Dressings + Dips
Cuisine Italian-Inspired
Servings 8 servings
Calories 166 kcal


  • 2 cups spinach
  • cup pine nuts or pumpkin seeds if nut-free
  • 2 whole garlic cloves
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • cup nutritional yeast
  • teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • Optional: squeeze of fresh lemon juice


  • Wash and prep the spinach: Start by submerging spinach in a bowl of water and cleaning it off, making sure to remove any dirt. Use a salad spinner to dry it or lay the spinach flat on a plate or kitchen towel.
  • Blend the greens, nuts, garlic, and oil: Toss the cleaned and dried spinach in a food processor. Next, add nuts/seeds and garlic cloves. Pulse until finely chopped, slowly drizzling in olive oil until the chopped ingredients are well coated in oil but still chunky.
  • Add nutritional yeast, spices, and lemon juice: Finish by adding in nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. Give the pesto a taste and add more seasonings until it's flavored to your liking.


  • Nuts or seeds? Traditional pesto sauce uses pine nuts, but any nuts or seeds are perfect for pesto.
  • 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 pine nuts) is plant-based and gluten-free. It is a good source of vitamin C, plant-based protein, and fiber.


Serving: 1gCalories: 166kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 2gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gSodium: 43mgPotassium: 114mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 705IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 9mgIron: 1mg
Keyword vegan spinach pesto
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


  1. Very grateful to find this vegan spinach pesto, but noticed there were no comments and as I rely heavily on those I decided to be brave and offer one myself. I am a hopeless and rather reluctant cook who has done her best to feed her family healthy meals these past 25 years or so, but I can’t pretend to enjoy it much. So when a quick healthy option presents itself I go for it. I had some freshly frozen baby spinach leaves, fresh garlic cloves and rehydrated walnuts and just threw all that along with the oil (forgot to read the part about adding slowly after mixing the nuts and leaves) into the Vitamix and it seemed to sort itself out somehow! I admit to not really measuring, approximated nutritional yeast , sea salt, pepper and dash of lemon juice and kept tasting until it worked. Got some gluten-free pasta in the pantry and now dinner is prepared! Phew! And thank you so much Kristina for a great base to play with for future pestos!

    1. That’s great, Lucy! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and I’m happy the recipe worked out for you. These days people don’t leave as many recipe comments as they used to, so it’s always nice to get good feedback. Enjoy!

  2. It came out really well. I went a bit heavy on the lemon and it gave it a nice boom. Thank you for the recipie!

  3. When finished, could only taste the oil. Had to add a lot more of the other ingredients to balance it out. In the end turned out ok.

    1. Hi Caroline, thanks for your question. Yes, you can make this with frozen spinach but I would thaw it first to release its water or else the pesto will be very watery and not thick. Let me know how it turns out!

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