Here is an easy vegan pesto recipe using white beans which add volume, eliminates the need for oil and puts a new spin on a classic dish that is super quick to make. It’s also a good way to stretch your basil without losing its inherent flavor.
White beans are the cream of beans not just because of their color. They are fairly neutral in flavor compared to other beans, naturally sweet, and have a creamy rich and buttery texture that sticks easily to noodles.
White beans are a class of beans that include several different types. The smallest variety found in cans are Navy beans and baby lima beans, but you can also use medium-sized Great Northern beans or even the largest Cannellini (aka white kidney beans). The larger beans tend to have a meatier texture, so the smaller varieties for this vegan pesto recipe would be best.
Soaking the beans from scratch works fine if you have the time, but canned ones will work in a pinch if dinner prep is last minute. Another benefit of using canned beans is their aquafaba (the thick water inside canned beans) that is useful for other recipes. The aquafaba from soaking dry beans is never quite the same.
This white bean vegan pesto recipe makes just more than 2 cups of sauce so you may not need it all. It depends how heavy you like to coat the noodles. Feel free to cut this recipe in half if you wish.
Salt and lemon are the key to bringing out the simple flavors in this dish, so be sure to taste and adjust just before using.
Other nuts, such as walnuts, may be substituted for the pine nuts.
The “vegan Parmesan” used in this recipe can also be found on this site (Brazilian Parmesan).
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 1 14-ounce can white beans, drained but not rinsed
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Black pepper to taste
- Water to thin as needed
- 1 pound spaghetti noodles
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Roast the pine nuts in a pan over medium heat until lightly browned and aromatic, about 3-5 minutes.
Combine the pine nuts, white beans, basil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and black pepper in a blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth or to a texture you like, adding a little water as needed to aid processing. Taste for salt and add more as desired.
Boil the spaghetti noodles until done and then rinse briefly with hot water and drain.
Transfer the noodles while still hot into a large bowl and scrap most or all of the pesto sauce into the bowl. Toss to combine and serve immediately, passing some vegan Parmesan at the table.