Quick and easy vegan parsley pesto that's so good, you'll want to put it on everything! Just a few simple ingredients and less than 10 minutes until this delicious, homemade pesto is on your pizza, pasta, crostini or just straight into your mouth.
Why I Made This Recipe
Parsley is probably the most commonly used fresh herbs but I think using it in something as flavorful as pesto really elevates it to star status. Parsley is also inexpensive and easy to grow so it's fun to incorporate this work-a-day green in to something a little more special than usual. A favorite herb of mine, this aromatic and flavorful recipe highlights this often underrated green herb!
Using nutritional yeast in place of parmesan cheese makes this the best vegan parsley pesto around. You might even like this plant based pesto more than the original!
If you want to check out more delicious pesto recipes, check out my Mint Basil Vegan Pesto recipe with Pistachios, Sorrel Pesto or Almond Pesto. All three of these use fabulous fresh green herbs easily found in the garden or green grocer and have as much flavor as traditional basil pesto.
And if you find yourself with lots of hazelnuts, you've gotta try super delicious and easy Homemade Hazelnut Butter!
- Parsley - My twist on the classic, parsley is herbal and still has a sweet taste of spring. It is important that you use fresh parsley. Flat leaf is my favorite but you can use curly parsley or flat leaf parsley.
- Hazelnuts - Nuts or seeds add a thicker and more robust texture. I love to use a soft nut so it blends up well and creates and silky feel once mixed with the olive oil.
- Nutritional Yeast - The classic vegan parmesan substitute, this adds a salty, umami quality to the pesto. You can skip it but it's excellent in this and I recommend trying it.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - This recipe uses a lot of oil so make sure you are using fresh and tasty oil, not the old stuff from last year.
Step By Step Instructions
Place the hazelnuts and garlic in the bowl of the food processor and top with the lid.
Process until nuts and garlic are finely ground. (Approx. 1 minute depending how powerful your processor is.)
Add parsley, replace lid and process again until finely ground. Scrape down sides midway through if needed. ( Approx. 30-60 seconds)
Pour in olive oil and pulse until mixed.
Add nutritional yeast and salt, pulse until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing.
Season with extra salt and pepper to taste if you like.
Helpful Hint: You can add more than the recipe states (or less oil in the beginning) for a looser (or thicker) consistency. More oil = runnier, less oil = thicker.
- Nutritional Yeast - If you don't have nutritional yeast, add an extra ½ teaspoon salt or to taste.
- Hazelnuts - Any soft nut will work well in this. Lightly toasted pinenuts, cashews or macadamia nuts give a wonderful, fairly neutral creaminess. Walnuts blend up well and add their distinct flavor. I do not recommend peanuts as the flavor tends to dominate the pesto.
- Olive Oil - If you are out of the traditional olive oil, any high quality, fresh vegetable oil such as avocado or even canola can be swapped in for decent results. Smell or taste your oil to make sure it tastes fresh and mild before using.
- Parsley Basil - Use half and half fresh parsley and fresh basil for a flavor closer to traditional pesto.
- Parmesan - Not vegan? Love Parm? Go ahead and omit the nutritional yeast and add a ½ cup of fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
- Parsley Mint - It might seem surprising to add mint into a garlicky pesto but trust me, it is DELICIOUS! Using half mint and half parsley makes the pesto taste fresher without being overtly minty. (Only use fresh mint leaves, if you try to use mint essential oil, it will be horribly overpowering.)
- Lemon Parsley Pesto - Add 1 tablespoon of lemon zest to the pesto at the same time as adding the parsley. Lemon brings a bright note and is a great addition if you are pairing this with lighter dishes like halibut, salmon or chicken.
Top 10 Ways To Use Pesto
A fresh and tasty, vitamin rich, sauce that's good for gut health too? Bring it on!
Here are my top 10 ways to use vegan parsley pesto.
- Pesto Aioli - Just mix it in with your favorite mayo to taste and slather it on your next sandwich.
- Creamy Pesto Pasta - Pour heavy cream (dairy, coconut or other plant based cream) over hot pasta. Add a few scoops of vegan parsley pesto, stir to combine and serve while hot.
- Pesto Crostini/Bruschetta - Toast up some little bites of crostini and spread with a smear of pesto. Top with cherry tomatoes or other tasty garnishes.
- Pasta But Extra - Of course you can stir this through fresh hot pasta but you can also make an amazing layered green lasagna. Swap out the classic tomato sauce for this parsley pesto and transform this Italian favorite.
- Pesto Salad Dressing - Mix lemon juice, pesto and olive oil and top a fresh spring salad of shelled peas, sliced radishes and greens.
- Panini Or Sandwich - Parsley pesto pairs so well with some many ingredients. Spread it liberally over country bread and layer in some cooked cooled yam, sundried tomatoes and spinach or fill your sandwich with pesto and Italian sub ingredients and grill.
- In Homemade Bread - Knead this plant based pesto gently through bread dough right before last proofing, then bake as directed. It will come out warm and so fragrant!
- In Soup - Use this as a flavor base as you sauté your veggies or garnish the top of your tomato soup with a scoop of this parsley pesto.
- On Beans - A traditional Italian application, top Vegan Italian White Beans with this vegan parsley pesto for a crazy delicious and easy dinner that looks impressive.
- Pizza - Last but not least, dollop vegan pesto over pizza before baking or on flatbread right after baking for the best rustic pizza ever.
Parsley pesto keeps really good fresh for a few days or frozen for months. The key is to reduce or eliminate the amount of air that gets to the pesto.
Fresh: Pack into small containers, top with a thin layer of olive oil over top of the pesto (eliminates air touching the herb paste), cover and refrigerate up to 5 days. The color will darken a bit but it will still be delicious and safe to eat.
Freeze: A great way to freeze pesto is in ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen, empty the trays and store the frozen parsley pesto in sealed containers or zip top bags, squeezing out as much air as possible. These will keep well for 3 months and even longer depending on freezer temperature and how often the bag is opened.
Parsley pesto cubes can be popped right into soups and stir fries as is. To use over pasta, thaw in the fridge overnight or on the counter for about 3-6 hours.
Almost any pasta will go with pesto but your choice will depend if pesto is the star or a side dish. Rotini or fusilli are tops if pesto is the star of the dish. Substantial penne and potato based gnocchi are also excellent choices.
If you are adding other ingredients to your pasta dish, a simpler style like fettuccini or even spaghetti work better as the pesto clings well to cooked veggies and proteins.
If you are making pasta as the only dish, a mild flavored stuffed pasta such as tortellini or ravioli work wonderfully. Pesto's bold flavor stands up well to a squash or mushroom stuffed pasta. Avoid strong flavored fillings that will overshadow your silky green sauce.
You can use Italian flat-leaf parsley or standard curly parsley for this pesto. It really depends on your preference (or what you have growing in your garden). I find both parsleys have a good texture and make a good pesto with true parsley flavor.
Yes you can. Nuts (pine nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, etc) add a rich creaminess but you can swap seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds instead. You can also omit nuts entirely.
Some places in Italy make their traditional pesto without nuts and in France this herb based sauce is often made without nuts and is called pistou.
If nuts aren't your jam, or you have an allergy, go ahead and make this fragrant parsley pesto without, it will still taste delicious.
Fresh pesto will last well for 3 days in the fridge. It will last a few more days with some slight deterioration of the texture and flavor. I recommend freezing it (see below for instructions) if you won't be eating it within a day or two.
Yes, pesto freezes well. For optimal results, pack it tightly in an airtight container, top with a teaspoon of olive oil (to prevent air from touching the herbs) and top with the lid before freezing.
To thaw pesto, simply take it out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge or at room temperature with the lid on to prevent condensation build up.
Some people prefer to freeze pesto in an ice cube tray and transfer to ziptop bags in the freezer for storage. This works fine but there is more air surrounding the pesto so it won't keep quite as well for as long as the pesto sealed in an airtight container. Pesto ice cubes are very handy however, if you often like to add small amounts of pesto to your cooking.
Choose a bright, dry and unoaked white wine to highlight the bold, vegetal flavor of pesto. Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Chablis and Albariño are excellent choices with grassy and almost savory qualities that play well with the fresh garlic and herbs.
Yes. Pesto is always vegetarian and becomes vegan with the parmesan cheese is omitted. This vegan parsley pesto recipe uses nutritional yeast to mimic the "creamy" feel and flavor of parmesan.
The dominant flavor is whichever fresh herb (basil, parsley, mint etc) you are using. It is followed by a gently spicy bite of fresh garlic tempered with the richness of nuts. It finishes with a silky mouthfeel created from the extra virgin olive oil that binds and melds all the flavors together.
Pesto is a bold and sometimes piquant sauce that makes simpler ingredients (like pasta or crostini) really pop
Basil and other soft herbs start to go brown once chopped and cut. Air is the enemy so keeping it covered with a skim of olive oil or pressing a piece of plastic wrap right onto the surface will help it stay green the longest.
Additionally, if you plan to keep your pesto for longer than a day, follow the directions above for freezing with a top layer of olive oil which will keep the color best for the longest.
I hope you love this easy vegan parsley pesto as much as me and my family do.
Cheers and happy dining!
Easy Vegan Parsley Pesto With Hazelnuts
- ⅓ c Hazelnuts
- 1 clove Garlic
- 1.5 c Parsley
- ½ c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
- ½ teaspoon Salt and Pepper to taste
- Put hazelnuts and garlic in bowl of food processor. Process until nuts and garlic are finely ground. (Approx. 1 minute depending how powerful your processor is.)
- Add parsley and process again until finely ground. Scrape down sides midway through if needed. ( Approx. 30-60 seconds)
- Pour in olive oil and pulse until mixed.
- Add nutritional yeast and salt, pulse until combined and season with extra salt and pepper if needed, to taste.