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I’m a huge fan of pesto and will take that taste any day. Though pesto sold at grocery stores and served in restaurants usually contains cheese, it’s super easy to make this basil spread without any animal products. The traditional ingredients for vegan pesto are fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil, pinenuts, garlic, and salt. This stuff tastes great on Italian dishes especially, making pasta of all kinds soar in flavor. Regular pesto is delicious, but it doesn’t hurt to step outside the box and try some variations. Here are five variations on pesto:

1. Slightly Sweet Spinach Pesto

For this variation, swap the basil for spinach and include some agave syrup, maple syrup or dates for sweetness. Try the pesto from this Raw Vegan Pizza with Spinach, Pesto and Marinated Vegetables recipe:

  • 4-5 cups organic spinach
  • 1/2 cup raw pine nuts
  • 1 peeled garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed
  • 1 teaspoon agave/maple syrup or a couple dates

2. Raw Pumpkin Seed Pesto

This Raw Pumpkin Seed Pesto is a nut-free, thick, and fragrant spread made with garlic, raw apple cider vinegar and liquid stevia. Try it on sandwiches, over pasta or served with raw veggies.

  • 1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds – soaked for 2 hours (rinse and drain well)
  • 1/2 cup (or more) extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves – peeled and chopped small
  • 1 TB. raw apple cider vinegar
  • Several drops of NuNaturals liquid stevia
  • 1 cup PACKED fresh basil leaves (green or purple variety)
  • 1 tsp. pink himalayan salt

3. Kale Pesto

For this variation, you do use dry basil, but only one tablespoons’ worth. The main ingredient here is kale, and you also get a bit of a different taste from one teaspoon of dried oregano. This pesto comes from this Red Lentil Burgers with Kale Pesto recipe:

  • 3-4 cups of washed, chopped kale
  • 4 tbsp of agave nectar
  • 1 tbsp dry basil (that’s all I had, but to make it extra delicious use 1/4 cup of fresh basil)
  • 1 tsp of dry oregano
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup of water

4. Creamy Hemp Pesto

If you’re trying to get more protein in your diet, try eating hemp seeds. This Creamy Hemp Pesto Sauce calls for 1/3 cup of hemp seeds as well as some lemon.

  • 2 cups fresh basil, packed
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup cashew cream

5. Sun-Dried Tomato and Broccoli Pesto

For an even more tangy and flavorful pesto, use broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes. Try it for this Raw Vegan Lasagna with Cashew Cheese and Broccoli Sun-dried Tomato Pesto recipe.

  • 1/2 head of broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (only if your sun-dried tomatoes aren’t already stored in oil)
  • Salt, pepper and dried herbs, to taste
  • Water, as needed

Image source: Red Lentil Burgers with Kale Pesto

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