Kale & Basil Pesto

This incredible dairy-free oil-free vegan pesto is a game changer. If you’re looking for the perfect dip, something to add to your salads, drizzle over soup, stir through pasta, or dollop on pizza – this is your guy!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
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top down of kale and basil pesto with crackers on sides and basil leaves

Are you a pesto lover? If not, this Kale & Basil Pesto recipe is going to be a total game changer. I used to make pesto with oil, but recently tried it with aquafaba or chickpea brine, and can I just say – wow. It’s even better than the original.

If you’re looking for the perfect dip, something to add to your salads, drizzle over soup, stir through pasta, or dollop on pizza – this is your guy. So delicious, we had to make vid to show you how! Think…

Dairy free
5 minutes
Packed with greens
Zero oil
& Seriously delicious

How to make vegan pesto

What is pesto normally made from?

Pesto, or pesto alla genovese, is a sauce traditionally made from garlic, basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and salt. It originated in the 16th century in Genoa, the capital of Liguria in northern Italy.

You can keep it thick, or thin it down with a little extra water (or oil as is often done) to dress over pasta. Using pesto as a dip for crackers and veggies like I do, will probably make my Italian friends’ hair stand on end. But it’s so deliziosa, I think we can get it past them.


basil leaves floating into vitamix blender
1. Add the kale and basil to a blender.
cashew pieces measuring into  vitamix blender with steel cup
2. Add the rest of the ingredients.
vitamix blender blending ingredients for kales and basil pesto
3. Blend together until creamy but still with some texture.
kale and basil pesto poured into white bowl on wooden board
4. Pour and serve.
gif of Buffy Ellen taking and holding kale basil pesto in white bowl

How to make a healthier pesto

Pesto is typically pretty high in calories and fat, thanks to the wallop of oil and cheese within. 2 tablespoons of a store-bought basil pesto might set you back 460 kJ and 11 grams of fat. For comparison, that’s the energy equivalent of 1 ½ apples, or 1 ½ punnets of strawberries.

There’s also some evidence that we may want to reduce our vegetable oil consumption (even the good olive oil type). I talk about this more in my Cooking School, but for now know that there a few reasons why. It’s very energy dense, it’s an extracted rather than a whole food, it contains no fibre, and it’s high in omega 6 essential fatty acids therefore can disrupt our omega 6 to 3 ratio. The evidence that a Mediterranean diet is correlated with good health outcomes is very true, but much of this is now thought to be attributed to the high vegetable, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes portion of the diet. I.e, not so much the olive oil and red wine… (my Croatian father in law will no doubt disagree with me here).

front on of kale and basil pesto with crackers on sides and basil leaves

So this recipe I’ve made without oil, using the brine from cooked chickpeas instead. You can either cook your own and use the cooking water, or use the brine from a can (ideally BPA free and organic). Or just use water, but the aquafaba does give it a thicker density. I’ve also subbed the cheese out for nutritional yeast – packed with B vitamins, and sometimes B12 if you use a fortified brand.

You’ll also notice I’ve used cashews instead of pine nuts. Not because I don’t love pine nuts, but rather that they’re super expensive here in NZ. Cashews bring the cost down a little, and give a sweet mellow creaminess. If you want to go one step further with the cost savings, try making this with hemp or sunflower seeds.

Buffy Ellen dipping into kale and basil pesto with cracker

How to use this dairy free pesto

This vegan basil pesto is seriously versatile. Here are a few suggestions:

  • As a dip for crackers and fresh veggies – carrots, cucumber, celery, capsicum
  • Thin down with a little water, lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar and use as a dressing
  • Thin down with a little water or aquafaba and drizzle over steamed, grilled or roast veggies
  • Spread on toast, topped with sliced tomato and rocket
  • Swirl through a bowl of soup for extra flavour and to make it look pretty
  • Spread on a wholemeal tortilla or pizza base, top with mushrooms, capsicum, red onion, and grill for 10 minutes – or make this Cauliflower Pizza
  • Drizzle over these Smashed Potatoes instead of aioli
  • Use in this Pesto Potato Salad
  • Stir through these Creamy Pesto Zoodles

I guarantee this batch won’t last you long. But if you get to day 4 and really don’t think you’re going to finish it off, scoop tablespoons into an ice cube tray, freeze, then pop into a sealed container in the freezer. Next time a recipe calls for a tablespoon of pesto, you’re set.

Delicious. Dairy Free. Oil Free. Pesto. Made with just 1 bowl, 5 minutes, and 7 ingredients. Keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen in cubes for 2 months. I hope you LOVE it!

top down close up of kale and basil pesto with crackers on sides and basil leaves, gold leaved knife

Looking for more dairy-free spreads? Try these

If you try this easy dairy-free oil-free pesto, let me know! Leave a comment with a rating below, and tag a photo @begoodorganics on Instagram so I can see what you come up with.

Kale and Basil Pesto

Learn how to make this easy oil-free vegan pesto at home! In a blender or food processor, combine handfuls of fresh kale and basil, cashew nuts and aquafaba (chickpea brine). Ready within 5 minutes, this versatile dairy-free pesto is great with pasta, drizzled over soups and salads, or enjoyed as a plant-based dip.
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Servings 25 or 1 ½ c
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes


  • 1 handful spinach sliced & frozen
  • 2 bunch kale sliced & frozen
  • ½ c cashews
  • ¼ c chickpea brine
  • ½ lemon (zest and juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast


  • Add all ingredients to a blender, then blend on low moving up to high for 1 minute until thick and creamy.
  • Top with granola, shredded coconut, berries, and sliced banana, or your favourite toppings.


  • food processer

Recipe Notes

  • Nut free: Use hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds instead of cashews.