Pesto has a strong herbal flavor that’s distinct and easy to recognize in any dish. Pesto has a number of uses and can be used in all sorts of dishes, from pasta to sandwiches, and even as a simple dip for crackers.
Most pesto isn’t the most vegan-friendly, though. If you’re a fan of pesto and you’re looking for a 100% plant-based alternative, then you’ve come to the right spot!
Below, I’ll give you a brief overview of what makes vegan pesto different from traditional pesto and show you some of the best vegan pesto brands that I’ve tried.
Is Pesto Vegan?
Pesto is a classic Italian sauce that’s traditionally made from fresh basil, olive oil, cheese, and herbs. Unfortunately, the “cheese” part renders most authentic pesto recipes non-vegan.
Thankfully, cheese is a relatively easy ingredient to swap out! By using vegan cheese alternatives, other plant-based ingredients, and the same old-fashioned seasoning, you can achieve a similar flavor profile that tastes every bit as good as the original.
What Is Vegan Pesto Made From?
At this point, you may be wondering, “What’s a good enough cheese substitute that I won’t notice it missing?”
Well, I’m glad you asked!
One of the most common vegan cheese substitutes is nutritional yeast. This seasoning is made from deactivated yeast and is known for its deeply savory, umami flavor profile. It’s often referred to as “vegan parmesan.” When mixed into pesto, it’s hard to tell the difference.
Here’s a quick table outlining some of the key ingredients used to make vegan pesto, so you know what to expect:
|Vegan Pesto Ingredients||Explanation|
|Basil||Basil is, of course, the star of the show. Basil is a deeply flavorful herb that serves as the backbone of all pesto.|
|Olive Oil||Olive oil is the product of Italy and is the main liquid used in pesto. Olive oil is healthy, vegan, and full of natural plant-based fats.|
|Pine Nuts||Pine nuts are flavorful seeds that are taken from pine cones. These seeds have a slightly chewy texture and a bright, piney flavor profile that blends wonderfully with fresh basil.|
|Nutritional Yeast||As I mentioned above, nutritional yeast is a potent vegan seasoning that consists of deactivated yeast. It’s known for its similarity to cheese.|
|Garlic||The strong, pungent aroma of garlic is present in many classic-style Italian pesto recipes. It’s also used in many vegan pestos as well.|
If you like to get creative in the kitchen, then you could also try making your own vegan basil pesto at home! Here’s a simple, homemade recipe that I’ve used on multiple occasions:
The Best Vegan Pesto Brands: An Explosion of Flavor
I love pesto. I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember. When I first went vegan and learned that I’d have to give up pesto, I almost had second thoughts! Thankfully, I found out about vegan pesto.
Years later, I’m still enjoying my favorite pesto dishes; they’re just all vegan-friendly now.
Below, I’ll show you some of my favorite vegan pesto brands and my personal experience with each, so you can try them yourself.
1) ROI Vegan Pesto Sauce (link)
- Flavor Rating: 10/10
ROI Vegan Pesto Sauce is easily my favorite vegan pesto recipe. ROI is a small family-owned company that makes a few really great authentic Italian products, such as olive oil, pesto, and artichoke spread.
Their classic Italian-style pesto is made with just a few simple ingredients: extra-virgin olive oil, fresh basil, pine nuts, and garlic. That’s it! There are absolutely no artificial preservatives, flavors, chemicals, or any other junk in this delicious spread.
Given the small-batch nature of this product, the only downside is that it’s one of the most expensive pesto spreads that I’ve ever tried. That being said, some things are worth the cost. Personally, I’ve given this as a gift on several occasions. Once in a while, I’ll even treat myself!
- 100% plant-based and all-natural
- Made from four simple ingredients
- Small-batch basil pesto
- Bursting with fresh flavor
- It’s quite expensive but makes for a great gift
2) Freak Flag Organics | Pesto Variety Pack (link)
- Flavor Rating: 9/10
Before I tried Freak Flag Organics Pesto, I had no idea how many different varieties of pesto there were. While these alternative pestos aren’t exactly “traditional,” they are incredibly delicious.
The available flavors are Kale Pesto, Bruschetta Pesto, and Carrot Pesto. I had no idea what to expect from any of them, but I was pleasantly surprised by all of them. Of the three, I’d say that the Bruschetta Pesto was my favorite.
It’s made with tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, basil, parsley, garlic, sea salt, and spices.
The other flavors are made with similarly wholesome ingredients. Almost all of them feature the same basic ingredients. However, each showcases a slightly different flavor.
They’re made without any artificial chemicals or preservatives, either, which is another great reason to give them a try.
- The variety pack includes three unique pesto varieties
- Made with wholesome, all-natural ingredients
- Traditionalists may not appreciate the “twist” on classic pesto
3) Gotham Greens Vegan Pesto (link)
- Flavor Rating: 9/10
Gotham Greens Vegan Pesto is another great pesto spread that I’ve tried recently. Based on the packaging, I didn’t think it was going to be all that good. However, I ended up really liking it.
It’s made with a classic Italian-style pesto recipe that includes extra-virgin olive oil, basil, lemon juice, garlic, sea salt, and pine nuts. Flavor-wise, I found it to be very similar to the ROI pesto sauce that I mentioned above. However, this one is a lot more affordable!
Whenever I’m looking for a super-simple, fresh, and affordable vegan pesto sauce, I’ll usually order a couple of containers of this.
The only drawback I’d say is that it lacks any cheese flavor and doesn’t have any vegan cheese substitutes. This is easily remedied by adding your own nutritional yeast or vegan cheese substitute, though!
- Made with fresh, simple ingredients
- 100% vegan and dairy-free
- It doesn’t contain any vegan cheese substitute
4) Zest Pesto, Suitable for Vegans (link)
- Flavor Rating: 8/10
Zest Pesto is a rather interesting take on the classic Italian sauce that I just recently got to try.
Unlike most pesto sauces, Zest Pesto is made using rapeseed oil, basil, white wine vinegar, cashews, hazelnuts, garlic puree, apple juice, black pepper, salt, toasted sesame oil, and chili powder.
Basil and garlic are the only things that are “traditional” about this spread.
I have to say, though, that I really liked this spread. Rapeseed oil (which is basically just high-quality canola oil) has a very similar texture to olive oil but has a richer flavor that really brings out some more of the herbal notes.
The white wine vinegar adds a wonderful brightness to the pesto, and I love the combination of apple juice, toasted sesame, and chili.
My favorite way to eat Zest Pesto is as a dip with some toasted vegan bread.
- Has a rich, complex flavor
- Made with fresh, all-natural ingredients
- Great with crackers or as a sandwich spread
- It doesn’t taste like most pesto (I love it, though)
5) Mantova Vegan Basil Pesto (link)
- Flavor Rating: 9/10
If you’re looking for a “cheesier” vegan pesto alternative, then I encourage you to try Mantova Vegan Basil Pesto. Although it’s not made with any real cheese, it does include tofu.
The added tofu has a very similar consistency to real cheese. This makes for a super-thick and creamy pesto sauce.
Other ingredients include basil, extra-virgin olive oil, potatoes, sunflower seed oil, cane sugar, salt, garlic, lactic acid, and ascorbic acid.
As you can see, the only real downside of this product is that it contains two naturally-derived acids. These act as flavor preservatives and are only used in small amounts, so don’t expect them to impact the flavor too much.
Some people may not like the sweet aftertaste that comes from the cane sugar (or the added carbs). However, I find that it gives the pesto a smoother taste that pairs really well with pasta or vegan ravioli.
- Added tofu gives it a creamy consistency
- Made with mostly-natural ingredients
- Added sugar gives the pesto a smoother, less herbal taste
- Contains added acids
6) Sacla’ Gluten & Dairy Free Basil Pesto (link)
- Flavor Rating: 9/10
Sacla’ Gluten and Dairy-Free Basil Pesto is very similar to the Mantova Vegan Pesto that I just mentioned above. It’s made with sunflower seed oil and an Italian basil base. It also contains added tofu, cashews, pine nuts, glucose, potato flakes, sea salt, spices, and lactic acid.
The added tofu and nuts give it a chunky consistency that goes great with pasta and other dishes, while the potato flakes help to thicken everything.
The only thing that I don’t particularly like is the added glucose, which is a super-processed form of sugar that’s not at all good for your health.
- Made with fresh basil and nuts
- Added tofu and potato flakes for a thicker spread
- Contains glucose, a processed sugar additive
Conclusion – What’s The Best Vegan Pesto Brand?
If I had to choose the best vegan pesto brand, I’d go with Freak Flak Organics Vegan Pesto. I love the variety of different options and the thoughtful twist on classic Italian pesto. Plus, they’re made with all-natural ingredients and don’t contain any added sugars or preservatives.
Vegan pesto also tastes delicious on burgers! Keep on reading to see my favorite vegan burger patties.