Okay guys, here’s another super quick & easy, healthy, go-to recipe. Easy Vegan Oil-free Pesto is: fast (just 5 minutes), easy (your blender/food processor does the work for you), oil-free, nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free—and it won’t crush your budget. (Don’t you hate leaving the grocery store with that ‘what the heck did I just buy’ feeling?! ?)
I LOVE pesto and it really sucks that it’s pretty much always made with parmesan cheese, which I don’t eat as a vegan, and with tons of oil, which I don’t eat (much) because it’s unhealthy. So to get my rich and creamy pesto fix, I make my own at home. I have a few different ways of making pesto, but I wanted to share this easy vegan oil-free pesto recipe with you because it’s the fastest, healthiest and cheapest one in my arsenal!
In summer, here in Wisconsin, it’s easy to find loads of inexpensive basil at the farmer’s markets. But the rest of the year, this common herb can get pretty pricey. Ditto for pine nuts, all the time.
To keep the healthfulness and flavor high—but the cost low—I use a blend of basil plus another light leafy green like baby spinach, arugula or baby kale. And as a sub for those delicious but spendy pine nuts, I use healthier and cheaper pepita seeds—a definite plus if you’re dealing with nut allergies. And you can buy organic raw pepita seeds for less than the cost of most nuts.
Finally, to keep this easy, vegan oil-free pesto recipe whole-foods-plant-based healthy, there’s absolutely zero oil. Through trial and error, I discovered that if you simply remove the oil from a pesto recipe, you end up with a thick and chunky basil spread. Not a terrible thing, but not pesto either!
So, you have to replace this moisture. If you just add water—okay, this is probably obvious to you, but never to be deterred by common sense, I tried it anyway!)—it ends up tasting watered down. Yet, I didn’t want to add more fat since there’s just enough of that going on with the pepitas, thank you.
My solution? I added a couple tablespoons of lemon juice and threw in a whole tomato. I figured, recipes that call for pesto also tend to call for tomatoes (pasta, pizza, sandwiches, etc), so why not?! I think it works great, but I’d really love to know what YOU think!
Easy Vegan Oil-Free Pesto
- 2 cups basil leaves
- 2 cups baby spinach (or other 'light' leafy green like arugula or baby kale)
- 1 medium tomato quartered
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 lemon juiced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 cup organic raw pepita pumpkin seeds see notes
- Sea salt and freshly ground back pepper to taste
- In a blender (or large food processor), add the basil leaves, baby spinach (or other greens), tomato, garlic and lemon juice. Process until just blended, about 10 seconds.
- Add the pepitas and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Season with sea salt freshly ground black pepper to taste.