Pesto-Making 101: The Formula for Greatness

I’ve been putting off sharing a pesto recipe forever, thinking that I’d do it in the form of a video as part of my “Why Make Your Own” video series (of which there are exactly two videos so far! Videos take a long time to put together!) It’s been too long, and I don’t see a video happening any time soon, so I’m just gonna go ahead and share this pesto recipe. Well, it’s more of a formula for many recipes. Pesto is less of an exact science and more of a follow your taste buds type of endeavor. And if I get around to making that video, you’ll be the first to know. 

vegan pesto recipe

The Basics

Traditional pesto is made with basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. You can find it prepared at most grocery stores refrigerated alongside specialty cheeses and other imported items, and it can range in price from $4 to $10 a container. It’s a great addition to pasta dishes, as a substitute for tomato sauce on pizza, and even as a quick sauce for chicken or fish. Unfortunately, some of the versions you’ll find in your grocer’s refrigerator will substitute cheaper commercial oils for the olive oil, use low-quality cheese, or add cream to disguise less-than-fresh ingredients. 

Make Your Own Pesto

Quality is the number one reason to make any food or condiment yourself. In the same way making your own salad dressing reduces your chances of consuming hidden sugars and highly processed commercial oils, making your own pesto ensures that you have total control over the quality of ingredients in the food you eat. 

Another exciting reason to make your own pesto is the creativity it allows with the ingredients you use. You don’t often see arugula pistachio or kale walnut pesto in the grocery stores. The possibilities are endless when you’re making your own, and with a few simple guidelines, you can easily create your very own personalized version of pesto based on what you have in your refrigerator at any given time. It’s also fun to play with the consistency — if you have a great blender like the NutriBullet Rx (affiliate link), you can add a bit more oil, possibly a few tablespoons of water too, and make a saucier pesto that would go great on veggie spaghetti.

vegan pesto recipe

Homemade Pesto Recipe Guidelines:

  • Use high-quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or avocado oil (or a combination of both) (affiliate links)
  • Use raw, unsalted nuts or seeds — if you can find sprouted or sprout them yourself, even better
  • Use fresh organic herbs or greens (or a combination of both)
  • Never forget the lemon juice and garlic!
  • Use high-quality salt like REAL salt, Himalayan salt, or Celtic sea salt

Recipe Combination Suggestions — the possibilities are ENDLESS!

I like to make my pesto vegan at home so that I can decide with each meal whether or not I want to have dairy. This way if I’m avoiding it or serving someone who’s avoiding it, the pesto is still an option. These are some of my favorite combinations. You might be surprised at what you come up with yourself!

  • Arugula pistachio pesto

  • Carrot top, basil and sunflower seed pesto

  • Kale, basil and walnut pesto

  • Parsley and macadamia nut pesto

  • Cilantro and walnut pesto – try using lime for this one to add a more Mexican “zing” to it — might even toss in a tiny bit of jalapeno, depending on how spicy you like it

Fresh pesto like this will keep in the refrigerator for a decent amount of time — about a week — before you need to freeze it. Acid from the lemon or lime along with the antimicrobial properties of garlic will keep it fresh, but it will stay the nice pretty green color if you top it off with a bit more oil to prevent the herbs from oxidizing. 

vegan pesto recipe


One of the mistakes I repeatedly made in my first few runs of making pesto long ago was to use WAY too much garlic. Sure, it tasted great but it had everyone who ate it breathing fire for days. For about a cup of pesto, you want ONE clove of garlic. Start there. You can always add, but you can’t take away. The following proportions should yield about a cup, give or take.

  • 1 1/2 cups greens/herbs
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup nuts or seeds
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • juice from 1 large lemon or 1 limes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • OPTIONAL: black pepper or cracked red pepper

So that’s it! Give it a try, and let me know how it goes for you! Making your own condiments — especially pesto — can really be rewarding and fun. Enjoy it! Have fun with the combinations, and just go for it. 

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Fig and Prosciutto Pizza with Goat Cheese and Pesto [Recipe]

Ahhh, fresh figs. We bought a baby fig tree this year — it’s a dwarf for our dwarfy front yard. I think it’s called a Black Jack, and it’s yielded exactly 3 figs so far. This, after my parents got over 700 figs in the first year of their tree’s life down in Texas. Wow, what a difference the climate makes! Our little tree might be slow-growing, but the three figs we’ve eaten have all been divine, and I’m looking forward to next year, when I’m hoping our little dwarf will get fat with figs. Yum!

In the meantime, my husband is a fantastic forager. Loren found a black mission fig tree on public land a few weeks back, and he came home with a grocery bag full of the little goodies. We ate them for dessert with honey goat cheese and maple syrup. We ate them with pancakes. We ate them on their own. We cooked them down with peaches and cinnamon, and we still had lots left for fun fig recipes! fig recipes

Cookin’ the Market

I mentioned a few posts back that I ran into a friend of mine at the Jack London Farmers’ Market, where she was doing a cooking demonstration for creamy cucumber gazpacho. On that same visit, she offered me a few recipe cards from previous market demos, and one of them happened to be a fig pizza! I didn’t follow the recipe per se, but it was inspiring nonetheless! Unfortunately their fig pizza gem isn’t listed on their website yet, but if you’d like to check out some cool Cookin’ the Market culinary creations, here’s their fall menu.

Gluten-free Pizza Crust

fig recipes

Admittedly, this is a recipe that includes a store-bought gluten-free pizza crust. I love making things from scratch, but you can’t do everything all the time, and if there’s a tasty, decently healthy pre-made option for those nights when you just need to get dinner on the table, then why not? I’m looking forward to trying Kelly’s grain-free crust recipe over at Primally Inspired, but I don’t tend to use tapioca flour that often, so I’ll need to stock up before I try it. I won’t say that the Udis crust (affiliate link) I used for this recipe is a FANTASTIC option if you’re watching your carbs, but honestly tapioca flour isn’t either, so I suppose you have to pick your battles. And the Udi’s crust is so thin while still remaining sturdy that you can just pile on the protein and veggies for a night of guilt-free delicious dining.  

For the Pesto

I did make my own pesto for this recipe — stay tuned for a video on how to do that yourself! I think it’s important to control your ingredients where possible, especially when it comes to foods that contain fats and oils. You want to know that your ingredients are organic and high quality. Often the makers of store-bought sauces, dressings, pesto, marinades, etc. cut corners by replacing olive oil with canola oil or soybean oil, by using conventional ingredients, or by adding undesirable flavorings and preservatives. Check out my salad dressing post and video for more details on this topic.

That being said, it’s not impossible to find a good, high quality pesto at your local grocer or a natural foods store like Whole Foods. You want a pesto that has ingredients you can pronounce and no commercial vegetable oils. My recipe isn’t the traditional basil and pine nuts combo (another fun reason for homemade — variety!), but the classic combination will work beautifully on this pizza if you don’t want to make your own.fig recipes

My pesto recipe is simple

In a food processor, combine the following ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup arugula
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • the juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • pinch of salt

fig recipes


Fig and Prosciutto Pizza with Goat Cheese and Pesto
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  1. 1 Udi's gluten-free pizza crust
  2. 1/2 cup fresh pesto
  3. fresh organic goat cheese
  4. 5 to 7 black figs, sliced
  5. 4oz package of sliced prosciutto
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F
  2. Spread pesto evenly across pizza crust
  3. Evenly distribute the figs and dollops of goat cheese across pizza crust
  4. Drape prosciutto over the surface
  5. Bake at 375 for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how crispy you prefer your crust
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