Vegan Pesto with Avocado & Kale

Vegan Winter PestoPesto isn’t just for summer! Using avocado as the base, substituting greens for basil and nutritional yeast for parmesan cheese, this vegan recipe is flavorful, rich and can be enjoyed year-round. You won’t miss the cheese. Your body will love this heart-healthy, low-glycemic and fiber-rich ways to dress pasta. 

I’ve been making this creamy avocado pesto at least every other week. It is the reason for the new house rule: A minimum of two avocados shall be in a state of ripeness at all times. This recipe is not only very quick to make, but is also endlessly customizable with ingredients on hand. I highly recommend adding a dash of cayenne. But, the recipe will work without it. Swap out the walnuts with cashews, pine nuts or pecans, if desired.

This pesto freezes beautifully, making it the perfect emergency response to having more ripe avocados than you can eat at one time. This embarrassment of riches doesn’t seem possible, but it does happen.

Vegan Pesto Ingredients

Vegan Pesto Prep

Vegan Pesto in Blender


Vegan Avocado & Kale Pesto

Chopped Baby Kale


Yield: 2 cups pesto, enough for 4-6 servings of pasta.


  • 1 cup raw walnut pieces plus 1/2 cup chopped walnuts for topping
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8th teaspoon ground black pepper
  • dash cayenne (optional)
  • 4-6 cups roughly chopped baby kale (spinach, arugula or a combination), divided
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved, skinned and pitted
  • 4 cups dried gluten-free pasta (or regular pasta)
  • 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water, or more as needed
  • Additional chopped greens or herbs for garnish


  1. In a food processor or blender, add 1 cup of the nuts, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, black pepper and cayenne and process until the garlic is minced.
  2. Add at least half of the greens, reserving at least a couple of cups for tossing into the cooked pasta. Process again until uniformly blended.
  3. Add the two halved and pitted avocados and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary.
  4. Taste and add more lemon, salt or pepper if necessary.


  1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to boil.
  2. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Reserve one cup cooking liquid before draining the pasta.
  3. With the pasta in the cooking pot, add in a few cups of the pesto, stirring to combine. The pesto sauce will be very thick. So, add 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water to the pasta, adding more, as needed, a few tablespoons at a time.
  4. While the pasta is still hot, toss in the remaining greens, chopping first, if desired, stirring into the pasta to wilt them.
  5. Adjust lemon, salt, pepper and cayenne, as needed.
  6. Serve hot, topping each serving with the chopped nuts
  7. Garnish with additional herbs or chopped greens.