Vegan Pesto

My daughter MKat started us on the zero-waste path in 2011 at age 16 and soon afterward launched her blog The Plastic-Free Chef. She says my constant complaining about the sea of plastic in grocery stores (and my accompanying lack of action for the most part) inspired her to figure out how to change our routine. When she returned to the olde country (Canada) for university in 2013, she found the plastic-free routine and blog difficult to keep up and stopped writing. This is one of her recipes, reposted with permission. (You can find the original here.)

This pesto gets its cheesy flavor from nutritional yeast, a deactivated yeast that you will likely stumble upon sooner or later if you set out upon the zero-waste path. Look for this yellow crumbly powder in health food stores and bulk bins. I also sprinkle it on popcorn and roll my sourdough cracker dough in it before cutting to add some extra tang. Nutritional yeast really deserves a post of its own…

Vegan Pesto


  • 1 bunch basil leaves (about 120 grams or 2 cups packed)
  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup olive oil


1. Put basil, walnuts, garlic, nutritional yeast and salt in the food processor. Pulse until well combined.

2. With the food processor running, slowly pour in olive oil. Process until smooth. Store in a glass container in the fridge.


1. Pine nuts are classic for pesto but at $30 a pound, we usually use walnuts and sometimes almonds, depending on what we have on hand. Readers have told me they have had great success with pistachios, cashews and macadamia nuts also.

2. If you have a bit of spinach or parsley that you need to use up, toss it in.

3. This pesto freezes well. We use wide-mouth glass jars for freezing food without plastic.

4. Yes, our food processor has a plastic bowl. It works and I don’t want to simply toss it in the trash.

vegan pesto

4 Replies to “Vegan Pesto”

  1. Can you tell me what variety your giant basil leaves are?! 😍

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Brit. I’m sorry but I’m not sure. I am guessing it is Mediterranean basil. I’ll try to remember to ask the vendor at the farmers’ market next week. Now I want to know! ~ Anne Marie

  2. Angelica Hurtado Delgado says: Reply

    Hi! where do you find the zero waste nutritional yeast?

  3. Anastasia Harvey says: Reply

    I can’t wait to make this! And I love the part about the plastic bowl. I think this every time I’m using my salad spinner that I got years ago- yes, the bowl is plastic but it works and I don’t want to simply throw it in the trash.

Leave a Reply