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Spinach Basil Pesto Sauce

This spinach basil pesto recipe is super easy to make and uses nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese. It’s dairy free, vegan and gluten free. Use it on pasta, pizza, or your favorite protein for an easy flavorful meal. Makes about 2 cups.

basil spinach pesto

Why I love this spinach pesto recipe

You guys know that I like pesto right? Are you sure? Ok. Because if you don’t already know, I’ll be glad to tell you again. I love it.

I mentioned last week, when I posted my recipe for pesto pasta salad, that I would share my recipe for my favorite pesto sauce, spinach basil pesto, and now I am. It really is my favorite.

It’s my favorite because it’s the best. It’s the best because it’s adding the spinach makes the basil go a lot farther, and basil can be expensive. Even when I grow my own, there’s never enough.

Next up for my pesto crazy self? Pesto fries inspired by the ones I just had at a local restaurant.

More dairy free pesto recipes: red pepper pesto / pistachio pesto / cilantro pesto / sun dried tomato pesto

vegan spinach pesto

Here’s what you’ll need to make it

Other than the usual pesto ingredients, this recipe calls for nutritional yeast. If you’ve never used it before, it’s a dried, flakey ingredient that you can find in the organic or natural section of your grocery store. You can also find it online, but keep in mind that it will most likely be a bit pricier.

spinach basil pesto ingredients in a food processor before being blended

What is a substitute for pine nuts in pesto?

This recipe makes it easy for you to enjoy any of your favorite pesto-based meals for a lot cheaper. It’s a 2:1 ratio of spinach to basil, so whatever you make will be extra green.

I also opted to skip the traditional pine nuts – although you’re more than welcome to use them yourself if you want – and I went for walnut pieces this time. In the past, I’ve used sliced almonds and even shelled pistachios in a pinch.

You really can’t go wrong, but I would steer clear of straight up peanuts since the flavor is so overwhelming.

spinach basil pesto recipe blended in a food processor

How to make pesto with spinach

Measure and prep your ingredients. Trim any large stems from your basil and spinach, and peel or press your garlic if you need to (although I usually just pop in the whole clove or use pre-minced).

Blend your pesto ingredients. Combine all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Scrape the sides with a spatula once or twice to make sure everything is blended smoothly.

Adjust your seasonings with salt & pepper. You can also add extra olive oil to thin the pesto sauce if you need to, or if you prefer your pesto to be a bit thinner.

Store in an airtight container. If you aren’t serving the pesto immediately, transfer it to container and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. It should stay good for up to a week (as long as you used fresh ingredients).

spinach basil pesto (dairy free recipe)

FAQs about spinach basil pesto

What is pesto sauce made of? Traditionally pesto is made from basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil. I swapped the cheese for nutritional yeast and the pine nuts for walnuts. I also added spinach to give it a little extra green.

Does pesto need to be cooked? No. You shouldn’t normally cook your pesto because it changes the flavor of the fresh basil, but I have used it as an ingredient in marinades and to season proteins before grilling them. Usually when I do this, I add more pesto after the cooking process to give it even more flavor.

What can I use instead of basil in pesto? Obviously, I’ve added spinach to this recipe to give us more bang for our buck when it comes to the basil, but if you don’t want to use basil at all, you can easily substitute it for another herb (like cilantro or parsley) or use more spinach.

Do vegans eat pesto? Since traditional pesto is made with cheese, vegans shouldn’t eat it, but since this recipe uses nutritional yeast instead of cheese, this is safe for vegans, or anyone avoiding dairy, to eat.

spinach basil pesto recipe

Tips for making the best pesto sauce

  • Use a good quality olive oil. I recommend trying extra virgin olive oil because it has the most flavor.
  • If you’re using whole nuts, chop them a bit before adding them to the food processor. This helps prevent the pesto from turning into a nut-buttery paste.
  • To keep the pesto from browning, keep the air out. Use the smallest container you can, or use a layer of plastic wrap to keep the air out.
spinach basil pesto sauce

More dairy free pasta sauces:

This recipe would go great with:

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basil spinach pesto

Spinach Basil Pesto Sauce

  • Author: Melissa Belanger
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: about 2 cups 1x


This vegan pesto recipe is super easy and uses nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese. It’s great on pasta, zucchini noodles and even spaghetti squash! #dairyfree #pesto


  • 1 packed cup basil leaves
  • 2 packed cup spinach leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves (about 1 teaspoons minced)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping sides as needed.
  2. If needed, adjust seasoning with salt & pepper
  • Category: Condiments
  • Method: Blending
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
  • Calories: 76
  • Sugar: 0.1 g
  • Sodium: 132.7 mg
  • Fat: 8.1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 1 g
  • Fiber: 0.4 g
  • Protein: 0.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Keywords: dairy free, vegan, gluten free, dairy free pesto, spinach basil pesto sauce, spinach pesto

Last Updated on March 19, 2022 by Melissa Belanger

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  1. Oh, I am so with you–pesto for life! I love that you bulk things up with spinach, especially since basil runs out so quickly in our house 🙂 We made pesto over the weekend and it was gone in pretty much a split second.

  2. Hey –

    Quick question regarding the basil and spinach. Do you pack it in, and that’s 1 cup….or is it just lightly measured by not shoving it in?


    1. You don’t have to pack it in. Just fill the measuring cup so that there isn’t a ton of space for air. 🙂