Is Pesto Vegan?

Is Pesto Vegan

Pesto sauce is loved by pasta lovers across the globe. But if you are eating a plant-based diet you may be wondering, “is pesto vegan?”

In this guide, we answer that question.

What’s Inside?

Pesto is an Italian sauce that is believed to have its roots from the Liguria region of northwestern Italy. Some believe it evolved from a garlic-based sauce that was common in the 13th Century known as aggiadda.

Ingredients used in making pesto include:

  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Pine nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano

The sauce is achieved by mixing and blending all the ingredients together. This results in a thick puree that can then be heated up in a saucepan.

Depending on the region, the sauce may sometimes vary. Some chefs may add fennel, lemon juice, pistachios, or even ricotta in their own pesto version.

Is Pesto Sauce Vegan?

vegan pesto sauce

No, pesto is not vegan.

While vegans can make their own vegan pesto, most of the pesto sauce found in most supermarket shelves are not vegan. While all other ingredients are plant-based, the Parmigiano-Reggiano isn’t.

The Parmigiano-Reggiano is a dry and hard cheese that is made from skimmed or partially skimmed cow’s milk. It has a sharp and a rich flavor. The Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are aged for at least two years before they can be used.

Vegan products cannot have any animal-derived products. For that reason, pesto isn’t vegan. And while there are some vegan pesto, it’s important to check the ingredient list before buying.

Most shop-bought jars and traditional pesto recipes aren’t suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. Sometimes, as a vegan, it might just be easier to whip up your own pesto sauce.

To achieve this, you just need to replace the cheese with a vegan ingredient. There are a variety of recipes that you can use to make your own vegan pesto. In addition, depending on the recipe you choose, you can also substitute the basil if you find it too boring with other greens.

Homemade Vegan Pesto Recipe

is pesto sauce vegan

Below is a five-minute vegan pesto recipe you can try at home:


  • 2 cups of fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons of walnuts or pine nuts (you can substitute nuts with sunflower seeds)
  • 3 large peeled garlic cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 3-6 tablespoons of water
  • 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast


  • Add the nuts, basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and sea salt in a small blender or food processor and blend together till loose paste forms.
  • Add a little olive oil at a time while scrapping the down the sides as needed. Next, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you achieve the consistency you desire – a thick sauce that is pourable.
  • Taste as you go and keep adjusting the flavor as you need adding more salt for overall flavor, garlic for zing, nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor, and lemon juice for acidity.
  • Your pesto is now ready, and you can serve it with pasta or add it to other sauces, breads, dressings, or as you deem fit.
  • Nicely cover and store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to one week.


Marion is a Kenya-based freelance writer who covers a wide range of topics from politics and business to health and nutrition.

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