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Plant-based recipes for hungry people

Spinach Cashew Pesto

Spinach Cashew Pesto

There are two things that everyone can agree on regarding pesto:

1: It's delicious as heck on everything

2: It costs an arm and a leg to buy at the store.

To add insult to injury, store-bought pesto often contains non-vegetarian ingredients like parmesan cheese and, even if you can find vegetarian/vegan pesto, it costs more than the standard varieties. So what can you do? Make your own, of course!

By making the bulk of your pesto sauce with spinach, you still get that bright green color and herb-y flavor at a much more reasonable price point. There is some basil in this recipe, but only a handful. Instead of Parmesan cheese, this pesto uses raw protein-rich cashews. With lemon, garlic and a few spices, you have an affordable and simple plant-based pesto that you'll want to use on everything.

You will see that recipe calls for nutritional yeast. Yes, this is possibly the un-sexiest name in the world, but it's a rather delicious seasoning. If you've never had nutritional yeast before, sometimes referred to as "nooch" (perhaps an even worse name), it's full of B12 vitamins (a vitamin vegans need!) and tastes sort of like parmesan cheese. If you're well-versed in vegan cooking, you will likely have this on hand. If not, I highly recommend buying some. It's not too pricey and is easier to find at most grocery stores than you might think – even my (rather meager) local Safeway carries it in the spices aisle.

My favorite ways to use this pesto are poured over pasta (of course), spread on homemade pizza dough, drizzled over tofu scrambles and on whole wheat toast. I make this in huge batches and then freeze it in bags or tupperware for my on-demand pesto needs (of which there are many)

Prep Time: 5 minutes (plus time to soak cashews)
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4-6


  • 8 oz. fresh spinach
  • 1 bunch basil (30g)*
  • 1 cup cashews, soaked
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • ¼ cup water


  1. Soak the raw cashews overnight. Drain and rinse.*

  2. In a blender, combine soaked cashews with all ingredients, except water. Blend until smooth. If using a food processor, it may take slightly longer to combine. If you're find that the mixture it too think to combine well, slowly add a tablespoon of water at a time (only if necessary). Add additional salt and pepper if desired. Makes approx. 2 cups.

Tips and Tricks:

*For a faster version, bring a pot of water to a boil and toss in raw cashews. Cover and let sit for an hour.

**If you have dried basil on hand, feel free to throw a dash in for an extra basil-y punch. If you don't, no worries – it's still plenty tasty without it!

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