This bright, zesty omega 3-rich vegan pesto recipe comes together in 5-minutes or less and packs an anti-inflammatory punch thanks to a mix of cilantro, curly parsley and whole lemon. Homemade vegan pesto is a perfect sauce for pasta, pizza, soups and spreads! It’s also easy to make-ahead, and the recipe is freezer-friendly.
There are few simple pleasures as perfect as pesto. This vegan pesto recipe, studded with cilantro, parsley and whole lemon, is no exception. Pesto slathered on avocado toast. Or pesto lavished on pasta. Scrambled into tofu…or dressing a new potato salad. It’s something I always try to have on hand for easy meals.
Making Vegan Pesto is Easy!
Although most of us grew up on the basil-garlic-pine nut-parmesan version, I tend to think of pesto as a formula:
greens + nut/seed + garlic (always garlic!) + creamy/umami notes
I’m particular about pesto too…of course I am. You need olive oil, but I don’t like it too oily. Or too cheesy, because I don’t want to hide the greens. I like a lot of acid so it doesn’t taste flat. Ask my husband. He thinks I go a step too far on acid…but that’s a whole other story.
Why this vegan pesto is an anti-inflammatory all star
I think that we get really hung up on super foods when anti-inflammatory nutrition is all about the everyday food heroes like greens, nuts and seeds. I wanted to create a vegan pesto recipe that used inexpensive greens like parsley and cilantro (nutrient dense greens in their own right) and give it an anti-inflammatory twist. Omega 3-rich walnuts and hemp seeds boost your intake of these important anti-inflammatory fats.
All that talk about lemon water being healthy? Well, if you want the true benefit of lemons, you need to use the whole fruit. So I did. Whole lemon contains more antioxidant phytochemicals and the peel contains essential oils that give this pesto a zing. I also used A LOT of garlic. Garlic is a potent anti-inflammatory food, thanks to sulfur-containing phytochemicals that support immune function. Eating garlic raw delivers these phytochemicals in their most potent form. Depending on how raw garlic treats you, you can shrink it down…but I used two BIG cloves because hey, I’m not a fan of vampires.
This sauce is so easy to make and is delicious on everything. The nutritional yeast gives it that familiar umami note that traditionally comes from parmesan while boosting B vitamins that are important on a plant-based diet.
Ways to use this vegan pesto recipe
When you taste this pesto, it will taste strong – almost too strong – but the reason for that is that the flavour will dilute once it’s on pasta. You need a whole lot of flavour to stand up to those strands. But there are so many other ways you can use this recipe to liven up everyday dishes:
- Try adding a bit of mayo to make a sauce for grain bowls, potato salads or veggies.
- Spread it on sandwiches, wraps, pizza or anything else your heart desires.
- Swirl it into soups or toss it with a tofu scramble
- Add it to ready made dough and twist into pesto garlic knots
Omega 3-Rich Vegan Pesto Recipe
- 1 cup curly parsley, leaves and tender stems lightly packed
- 1 cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems lightly packed
- 1/4 cup walnut halves
- 1/4 large lemon skin on, seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons hemp hearts
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
- In a small food processor or large cup for blending, add the parsley, cilantro, walnuts, lemon, hemp hearts, nutritional yeast, garlic and salt. Pulse until finely chopped and uniform – or puree if using an immersion blender.
- Next, drizzle in olive oil while pulsing the mixture, to emulsify the pesto. If using an immersion blender, the mixture will have a creamier consistency when you blend.
- If adding pesto directly to pasta, toss pasta with a tiny drizzle of olive oil first to coat the strands so the pesto spreads a bit easier. Or store pesto in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to three days…if it lasts that long!