Pesto-Making 101: The Formula for Greatness

I’ve been putting off sharing a pesto recipe forever, thinking that I’d do it in the form of a video as part of my “Why Make Your Own” video series (of which there are exactly two videos so far! Videos take a long time to put together!) It’s been too long, and I don’t see a video happening any time soon, so I’m just gonna go ahead and share this pesto recipe. Well, it’s more of a formula for many recipes. Pesto is less of an exact science and more of a follow your taste buds type of endeavor. And if I get around to making that video, you’ll be the first to know. 

vegan pesto recipe

The Basics

Traditional pesto is made with basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. You can find it prepared at most grocery stores refrigerated alongside specialty cheeses and other imported items, and it can range in price from $4 to $10 a container. It’s a great addition to pasta dishes, as a substitute for tomato sauce on pizza, and even as a quick sauce for chicken or fish. Unfortunately, some of the versions you’ll find in your grocer’s refrigerator will substitute cheaper commercial oils for the olive oil, use low-quality cheese, or add cream to disguise less-than-fresh ingredients. 

Make Your Own Pesto

Quality is the number one reason to make any food or condiment yourself. In the same way making your own salad dressing reduces your chances of consuming hidden sugars and highly processed commercial oils, making your own pesto ensures that you have total control over the quality of ingredients in the food you eat. 

Another exciting reason to make your own pesto is the creativity it allows with the ingredients you use. You don’t often see arugula pistachio or kale walnut pesto in the grocery stores. The possibilities are endless when you’re making your own, and with a few simple guidelines, you can easily create your very own personalized version of pesto based on what you have in your refrigerator at any given time. It’s also fun to play with the consistency — if you have a great blender like the NutriBullet Rx (affiliate link), you can add a bit more oil, possibly a few tablespoons of water too, and make a saucier pesto that would go great on veggie spaghetti.

vegan pesto recipe

Homemade Pesto Recipe Guidelines:

  • Use high-quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or avocado oil (or a combination of both) (affiliate links)
  • Use raw, unsalted nuts or seeds — if you can find sprouted or sprout them yourself, even better
  • Use fresh organic herbs or greens (or a combination of both)
  • Never forget the lemon juice and garlic!
  • Use high-quality salt like REAL salt, Himalayan salt, or Celtic sea salt

Recipe Combination Suggestions — the possibilities are ENDLESS!

I like to make my pesto vegan at home so that I can decide with each meal whether or not I want to have dairy. This way if I’m avoiding it or serving someone who’s avoiding it, the pesto is still an option. These are some of my favorite combinations. You might be surprised at what you come up with yourself!

  • Arugula pistachio pesto

  • Carrot top, basil and sunflower seed pesto

  • Kale, basil and walnut pesto

  • Parsley and macadamia nut pesto

  • Cilantro and walnut pesto – try using lime for this one to add a more Mexican “zing” to it — might even toss in a tiny bit of jalapeno, depending on how spicy you like it

Fresh pesto like this will keep in the refrigerator for a decent amount of time — about a week — before you need to freeze it. Acid from the lemon or lime along with the antimicrobial properties of garlic will keep it fresh, but it will stay the nice pretty green color if you top it off with a bit more oil to prevent the herbs from oxidizing. 

vegan pesto recipe


One of the mistakes I repeatedly made in my first few runs of making pesto long ago was to use WAY too much garlic. Sure, it tasted great but it had everyone who ate it breathing fire for days. For about a cup of pesto, you want ONE clove of garlic. Start there. You can always add, but you can’t take away. The following proportions should yield about a cup, give or take.

  • 1 1/2 cups greens/herbs
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup nuts or seeds
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • juice from 1 large lemon or 1 limes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • OPTIONAL: black pepper or cracked red pepper

So that’s it! Give it a try, and let me know how it goes for you! Making your own condiments — especially pesto — can really be rewarding and fun. Enjoy it! Have fun with the combinations, and just go for it. 

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.


I'm a wellness professional with a Master's in Integrative Health, passionate about spreading health, happiness and personal fulfillment to as many people as possible. I have a professional background in health and wellness, dietary supplements, and nutrition, and embark every day to live a well, balanced, happy life. In being true to myself and what I seek in life, I hope to inspire others to do the same, to cultivate wellbeing in their own lives.

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