Vegan avocado pesto pasta is a filling and creamy twist on classic pesto. Made in less than 15 minutes, this quick recipe is packed with flavor and healthy ingredients.
Avocado pesto pasta is creamy, flavorful, and packed with nutrients from spinach and avocado. It's made just like regular pesto pasta, but with the addition of avocado, which adds healthy fats and makes the pesto more filling.
The avocado pesto is actually vegan as-is because it is made without Parmesan. This recipe is great for meal prep and lunch and works with any kind of pasta shape.
Why this recipe works
- Quick & easy: Avocado pesto pasta is ready in 15 minutes using less than 10 ingredients.
- Dairy-free and vegan: Unlike many pesto recipes which include Parmesan, this pesto is vegan! It uses nutritional yeast for a savory, cheesy flavor.
- Nutritious: Avocado is packed with healthy fats. This recipe also features spinach, which adds iron and fiber.
- Versatile meal starter: While the avocado pesto pasta is great as a meal on its own, I like to add a serving of protein like chickpeas and extra vegetables like roasted broccoli to make it even more satisfying. Avocado pesto works with any kind of pasta!
- Avocados: Choose one large or two small avocados. Avocados are a nutritious option because they are loaded with fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and healthy fats. These fats help absorb the vitamins and promote satiety (feeling full).
- Spinach adds a boost of plant-based iron and color. You can use thawed frozen spinach or fresh spinach.
- Olive oil: I use light extra virgin olive oil but any kind will work. Rich olive oils have a stronger flavor which may be noticeable in the avocado pesto.
- Cashews: I use raw, unsalted cashews for a blank slate but roasted/salted will work as well, just adjust salt to taste. Pine nuts can be used for a more traditional option.
- Basil: Choose fresh basil. You can use the uppermost stems where the basil leaves are attached but I don't recommend using the main thick stem.
- Garlic: Adjust to taste. 3 cloves adds a noticeable garlic flavor.
- Pasta: Any kind works! Avocado pesto is also good on its own as an appetizer/dip, so feel free to skip the pasta and see serving suggestions below.
The main difference between regular pesto and vegan pesto is that vegan pesto has no cheese.
This avocado pesto pasta still has all of the basic ingredients like basil, fresh garlic, nuts (we'll use cashews instead of the traditional pine nuts), and a bit of olive oil.
Making avocado pesto requires a blender or food processor.
- Add all ingredients to a food processor (this is my fav affordable brand) or high-powered blender (this is my blender): avocado, olive oils, cashews, fresh lemon juice, thawed frozen or fresh spinach, and fresh basil (plus salt and pepper!)
- Blend until smooth. You can add 2 tablespoons at a time pasta water as needed to smooth, or add extra olive oil.
- Add to cooked pasta of choice. Serve warm or chilled.
- Make it a complete meal by using protein pasta or by adding a can of chickpeas or white beans.
- Blender: If blending instead of using a food processor, I recommend using a strong blender. Because there isn't a lot of liquid in the pesto you may need to scrape down the sides with a spatula while blending.
- For a smoother/thinner avocado pesto add 2 tablespoons at a time of pasta water from the cooked pasta. Pasta water is ultra starchy and helps sauce (or in this case pesto) bind to pasta.
- Serving ideas: This pesto is good on more than just pasta! You can enjoy this vegan avocado pesto on toast, crackers, or even in this vegan pesto lasagna.
- Eat hot or cold: I usually add the cold pesto straight to the just-cooked warm pasta. But it's also good chilled or heated up.
- To make nut-free: Simply omit the cashews to make this nut-free, or replace them with an equal amount of pumpkin seeds.
How to freeze: Avocado pesto freezes well for up to three months. Place in the fridge to thaw at least 24 hours before you plan to use. My favorite freezer-safe containers are these glass containers, but a simple Ball jar also works.
Leftover pesto pasta is best enjoyed within 2-3 days. Keep refrigerated in a closed container. The pesto thickens up a lot in the fridge. You can thin it with extra pasta water or just enjoy it as-is.
How to keep avocado pesto from turning brown: Just like apples, avocado oxidizes (turns brown) when exposed to air. The avocado is perfectly safe to eat but the color is a little offputting. Using an acid like lemon juice slows the oxidation but by day 2-3 in the fridge, it will be more noticeable. Another option is to place plastic wrap directly on top of the pesto, which slows oxidation.
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Vegan Avocado Pesto Pasta
- 8 ounces dry pasta of choice
- 1 large ripe avocado skin and seed removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 and ½ cups basil loosely packed
- 1 cup frozen spinach thawed; or use 2 cups fresh spinach
- 3 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- ¼ cup raw unsalted cashews
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice from ½ large lemon
- ½ teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- cherry tomatoes for serving
- Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- Meanwhile, make the pesto. Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and spreadable. Scrape down the sides of the blender/food processor as needed.
- Taste for salt and pepper. Toss pesto and pasta together. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with sliced cherry tomatoes. Enjoy hot or cold.
- Consistency: If the pesto is too thick you can add additional olive oil or 2 tablespoons at a time of water from the cooked pasta.
- Leftovers are best enjoyed within 2-3 days. Keep refrigerated in a closed container.
- Freezing instructions: You can freeze avocado pesto for up to three months. Place in the fridge to thaw at least 24 hours before you plan to use. My favorite freezer-safe containers are these glass containers, but a simple Ball jar also works.