It was 90 degrees here in sunny Arizona yesterday, and although it's November, I'm still trying to adjust to the fact that fall in the desert will never truly feel like fall. So, while my brain is telling me I should enjoy a bowl of hot soup, I wanted pesto instead. A light, pesto chicken salad, to be exact. This vegan pesto recipe is super simple, so simple in fact that it feels a bit underwhelming for a First Blog Post (btw, I'm so excited!), but that's kind of what I love about it. A handful of ingredients, five minutes and a food processor is all you need to create this yummy, flavorful, fat-dense pesto you can use in endless ways.
If you're not aware, my low-carb food journey began right after my husband Ian was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of terminal brain cancer, at the age of 30. Since then, he's maintained a ketogenic diet with different variations over time, including vegan keto and, currently, a more modified keto diet that includes eggs and some meat, but very limited dairy. Enter this vegan pesto recipe, a classic pesto recipe with one minor change- no parmesan cheese! Instead, we use nutritional yeast, a magical ingredient that is packed full of nutrients (you guessed it) and also adds a salty, cheesy flavor.
what is nutritional yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a powdered, vegan-friendly ingredient you can find at almost any grocery store (look in the baking aisle or the spice aisle, sometimes in the bulk foods section). It's a light and flaky, mustard yellow powder, which contains high doses of B vitamins, protein (about 8 grams per serving!), potassiam, thiamin and folic acid. It's also perfect to add to keto diet recipes because it's low in carbohydrates and packed with fiber (about 2 grams of net carbs per serving). It is different than yeast that is used in breads due to the fact that it's an inactivated form of yeast, and isn't able to grow in baked goods. You can use it to add extra flavor to meals, a flavor that is similar to cheese (surprise!).
how to make this simple vegan pestoJump to Recipe
Here's what you'll need, it's a short list!
- fresh basil leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- nutritional yeast (Bragg brand is pretty common), you can also find it in the bulk foods section at some stores
- raw walnuts (or pine nuts)
- salt and pepper
- fresh garlic cloves
Start by pulsing the fresh basil, raw walnuts and garlic cloves in a food processor or high-speed blender. (Side note- I like using walnuts because they are nutrient and fat-dense, with a slightly lower carb count than pine nuts. Plus, they're more affordable than pine nuts and we use them frequently so we almost always have them on hand.) Once the mixture resembles a paste, slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the blender going until it reaches a thick sauce consistency (you can add or subtract the amount of olive oil depending on your preference). Add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt/pepper to taste, blending for a few minutes to throughly combine.
This vegan pesto recipe makes a little over a cup of pesto, which will keep in the fridge for a few days (or you can easily freeze any extras.) Serve it as a salad dressing, bake it with chicken, dish it on top of zucchini noodles, etc.! We'll be eating pesto all week and that's perfectly okay with me.
simple vegan pestoCourse: sauce, dressingCuisine: keto, gluten-free, veganDifficulty: easy
A delicious and easy vegan pesto recipe that is keto-friendly and dairy-free!
2 cups fresh basil, tightly packed
¾ cup raw walnuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast
salt and pepper (to taste
4 small garlic cloves
- Pulse the fresh basil, whole garlic cloves, and raw walnuts* in a food processor or high-speed blender until it resembles a thick paste. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and pulse a few more times.
- While the blender is going, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture, until it reaches the desired consistency. Continue to stop and scrape down the sides as needed.
- Add the nutritional yeast and lemon juice. Blend for 1-2 minutes until it's thoroughly combined and the consistency of a thick sauce. Add salt and pepper* and more nutritional yeast to taste, or more olive oil for a thinner consistency.
- You can also use pine nuts for a more traditional pesto recipe. I prefer walnuts because they are slightly lower carb, very keto-friendly, and more affordable.
- I like to add the salt and pepper last because while nutritional yeast doesn't contain sodium, it sometimes serves as a salt replacement and might affect the saltiness of a dish.