This vegan avocado and basil pesto recipe is super flavorful, creamy, quick and easy to make. It's loaded with nutrient-rich fresh herbs, healthy fats and ready in 15 minutes! Like a traditional pesto recipe, enjoy on your favorite pasta, zucchini noodles or alongside any healthy recipes.
Why this vegan pesto recipe works
- Healthy avocado pesto recipe - I love the addition of avocados and incorporating their buttery texture into a dish and this avocado pesto sauce is no exception. Avocados are super nutrient-dense with high levels of dietary fiber, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C and potassium. They also thicken the creamy pesto, making the creamy ribbons easier to spread on dishes like pizza, pasta, kelp noodles or baked vegetables. Or, add a dollop of avocado and basil pesto in your soup!
- Homemade basil pesto - fresh basil is also the star of the show here. Its fragrant aroma and bright herby flavor adds zest to any dish. Basil boasts a hefty dose of healthy nutrients like vitamin A and magnesium, as well as potent antioxidants and anti-bacterial effects.
- More healthy ingredients - simple pesto ingredients found in any healthy kitchen turns a classic pesto into a healthy fresh pesto that is nut-free, dairy-free and vegan. Perfect for special diets and as a side dish with other vegan recipes or any easy recipes you're making.
Try this creamy vegan avocado and basil pesto on vegan pasta recipes, like my vegan avocado pesto pasta, chickpea pasta, spiralized noodles or regular pasta. Or add a dollop in my White Bean and Vegetable Soup with Kale or my Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew with Spinach.
Key ingredients and substitutions
- Avocado - adds a rich creaminess to the pesto along with an array of healthy nutrients and antioxidants.
- Fresh basil: has a bright, herby fragrant aroma that bumps up the taste of the pesto. Substitute with your favorite herbs like fresh cilantro or fresh mint.
- Baby kale: are the delicate leaves from a young kale plant that add a mild, slightly peppery taste. Feel free to replace will more herbs, spinach or fresh arugula if you have a hard time finding baby kale. You can also use mature kale but know that it does have a stronger, more bitter flavor.
- Hemp seeds: are mild and nutty and add a great boost of plant-based protein. Swap for cashews as they also have a mild flavor but you’ll be missing out on the high protein profile of hemp seeds.
- Lemon: adds a bright and tangy flavour.
- Nutritional yeast: has a unique savory flavor, much like Parmesan cheese. It's also a complete protein and has high levels of B vitamins and trace minerals. Swap it for vegan Parmesan cheese, or you can leave it out, but it does offer a nice 'cheesy' flavor to the pesto.
- Garlic: adds a warm, earthy depth to the vinaigrette. This little gem is also packed with antioxidants that support immune function.
How to pick the perfect avocado
- Skin hue - depending on the level of ripeness, the skin will take on a different hue. A forest green color is what you want. If the avocado is vibrant green it was picked too early and needs time to ripen. If it's completely brown it may be overripe with brown patches on the interior flesh.
- The (gentle) squeeze test - gently squeeze the avocado. If it is slightly soft, it's ripe. An underripe avocado will be hard, and an overripe avocado will be mushy.
Step-by-step how to make avocado and basil pesto
- food processor or high speed blender
- Add avocados, fresh basil, kale, hemp seeds nutritional yeast, lemon zest and juice, garlic and olive oil to food processor or high powered blender.
- Blend until pesto forms a smooth creamy consistency. Add a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin if necessary.
Expert tips and variations
Enjoy immediately - it's best to eat fresh homemade pesto the day you make it, since avocados have a tendency to brown from contact with air (oxidation).
Creamy avocado arugula pesto - swap the kale for fresh arugula and replace the basil with fresh mint. The bright flavor of mint combines well with the peppery spice of arugula.
Storage - if you need to make pesto ahead or store leftovers, make sure to tightly pack it into an airtight container with little space to slow the oxidation process.
You could also pour a little olive oil, avocado oil or water (pour water off before serving) to create a seal.
Common Questions About Avocados
Speed up the ripening of your avocado by placing it into a brown paper bag with a banana or apple and leaving it on the counter at room temperature.
If you have too many ripe avocados and you're going to eat them in the next day or so, just place in the fridge, which will slow down ripening.
It's best to eat pesto right after making it since avocados have a tendency to brown from contact with air (oxidation). If you need to make it ahead or store leftovers, make sure to tightly pack in an airtight container with little space to slow the oxidation process. You could also pour a little oil (like avocado oil or olive oil) on top of the pesto, or a layer of water (pour it off before serving) to create a seal.
Slice the avocado in half lengthwise around the pit. Twist both halves and pull apart. Use a spoon to scoop out the pit. You can also remove the pit by carefully whacking it with the blade of a knife and lifting it out. Pop off the pit by scraping it on the sink or into the green bin.
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Vegan Avocado and Basil Pesto
- 1 small food processor
- 2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and flesh scooped out
- 1 cup (tightly packed) fresh basil (or large handful)
- 1 cup (tightly packed) fresh baby kale
- ½ cup (42 grams) hemp seeds
- 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 lemon (3-4 tablespoons)
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or neutral oil)
- 2-3 tablespoons water to thin (optional)
- Add avocado, basil, kale, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, lemon zest and juice, garlic clove and olive oil to high speed blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
- Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin if needed.
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