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Vegan Pesto with Macadamia Nuts

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Macadamia nut pesto is perfect for a cheesy vegan pesto! This pesto is vegan, nutty, and lower in oil than some, but with all of the pesto flavor you’d expect! Perfect for pasta or dips. You will love the flavor and texture the macadamia nuts lend to this dairy-free pesto!

(I couldn’t resist garnishing with a sprig of purple basil. It’s so lovely against the bright green!)

When I first started eating plant-based, I bought a jar of my favorite pesto sauce to snack on with crackers when I needed a little something special.

Imagine my shock when I discovered that most pesto contains parmesan cheese! Not vegan…or even vegetarian as it turns out.

Yes, I should have known. Who wouldn’t? I didn’t. I wasn’t really much of a cook back then and had never thought to make my own pesto. Or to check the ingredients of anything! (Good grief!)

For more tasty savory vegan dips and toppings try:

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Macadamia nut pesto with sliced bread and pinterest text overlay

Ingredients needed to made vegan pesto with macadamia nuts

ingredients needed for macadamia nut pesto including olive oil, basil leaves, macadamia nuts, garlic clove, nutritional yeast and lemon juice

Some special ingredients to make vegan pesto and why I use macadamia nuts:

Once I discovered how to make pesto I kicked myself for ever bothering to buy it at the grocery store. It’s so easy! Plus, you can control the ingredients and get just the pesto you want.

Less oil

You might notice that this pesto calls for a little less oil than many pesto recipes use. I did make an effort to find just the right balance for using a little less oil. If you toss this vegan pesto with thin spaghetti, you will want to toss in a little extra olive oil with your pasta to evenly coat.

Why use macadamia nuts – isn’t pesto usually made with pine nuts?

Let’s just say that I had a bad experience once with pine nuts that had turned a little rancid – as pine nuts can do rather quickly. So when I was experimenting with making my own vegan pesto, I tried several other kinds of nuts, including pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds, and macadamia nuts. Each turned out a little unique and delicious in its own way.

Macadamia nuts are soft and lend a mild tasting nutty and *almost* cheesy flavor so I thought they’d be perfect to try for my first dairy-free pesto experiment.

Plus the light color of the macadamia nuts really brings out a beautiful brightly colored green pesto!

macadamia nut pesto in bowl with sliced bread

Lemon juice and nutritional yeast

The lemon juice keeps the flavor and color bright. You can use lemon juice squeezed from a lemon; or, (if your are like me and never remember that small detail when you are at the grocery store), bottled lemon juice is fine. Using bottled lemon juice for this recipe will not offend your taste buds. I promise!

Nutritional yeast lends a hint of cheesy flavor. Remember that pesto usually contains parmesan cheese? If you are not yet familiar with nutritional yeast, you should be. Just keep it in your cupboard for times like this.

Make macadamia pesto in a few easy steps:

It really couldn’t be easier! Simply add the ingredients to a food processor or high-speed blender. I like working with a food processor better because I can better control the processing and leave some nice nutty chunks!

Olive oil being poured into food processor with ingredients for macadamia nut pesto
(You can just pop the garlic clove in whole because your food processor will do the job!)

I really like using a mini-prep food processor that I can leave on the counter top. I do enjoy my larger Cuisinart food processor for larger jobs, but it’s a pain to bring out and assemble when a smaller processor will do the job!

Give it a few whirls, salt to taste, and you’ve got homemade vegan pesto!

macadamia nut pesto finished in mini food processor

How to serve macadamia nut pesto

I love vegan pesto spread on slices of crusty chewy bread. This bright green pesto would be lovely on a plant-based charcuterie board!

Of course pesto is perfect to toss with pasta! This dairy-free pesto recipe will coat about eight ounces of pasta. Add a little extra olive oil if necessary to better coat the pasta.

corkscrew pasta tossed with macadamia nut pesto
(This amount of pesto will coat 8 ounces of pasta.)

With a larger pasta shape like corkscrew or rigatoni, I like to leave the nuts a little chunky.

If I am going to use a narrow pasta like spaghetti, I process a little longer till the nuts are finer and less chunky. I also toss a little extra olive oil to best coat the pasta.

This vegan pesto should keep in your refrigerator for a few days as long as the basil leaves you used were quite fresh.

The printable recipe card for Vegan Pesto with Macadamia Nuts

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macadamia nut pesto in bowl with sliced bread

Vegan pesto with Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nut pesto is perfect for a cheesy vegan pesto! This pesto is vegan, nutty, and lower oil than some but with all of the pesto flavor you'd expect! Perfect for pasta or dips. You will love the flavor and texture the macadamia nuts lend to this pesto!
from 1 reader review
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Sauce
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pistachio pesto, vegan pesto
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 251kcal
Author: Cindy Rainey


  • food processor or high-speed blender


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves heaping
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts salted, see notes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil


  • To a small food processor add the two (heaping) cups fresh basil leaves, macadamia nuts, garlic clove, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast.
    Drizzle olive oil on top.
  • Following the directions on your food processor, process until the desired consistency is acheived. I like it a little chunkier for dips and for coating large pasta and more liquidy for coating thin pasta. See notes.


If your macadamia nuts are unsalted, then you will want to add in some salt to taste.
I like the ground macadamia nuts to be a little chunkier for dips and for coating large pasta like corkscrew. If I am tossing with small pasta like thin spaghetti, add up to a Tablespoon more oil and process a little longer to make your pesto smoother and the nuts finer.


Calories: 251kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 140mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 633IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg

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By on January 28th, 2021

About Cindy Rainey

Veggie Fun Kitchen by Cindy Rainey
Welcome to Veggie Fun Kitchen where you will learn to recreate family favorites the plant-based/vegan way! Let me know if I can help. I'm here for you.

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