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 (and it's dairy-free!).
- Ready in 15 minutes using less than 10 ingredients
- Dairy-free and vegan
- Perfect for packed lunches
- Filled with nutritious, whole-food ingredients
Choose your favorite pasta, mix up the avocado pesto, and enjoy an easy lunch. Or enjoy avocado pesto as a dip with crackers and veggies!
What you'll need
- 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.
Step by step instructions
The main difference between regular pesto and vegan pesto is that vegan pesto has no cheese.
This recipe 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.
Expert tips and FAQ
- 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.
Leftovers are 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.
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.
Yes, 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.
I usually add the cold pesto straight to the just-cooked warm pasta. But it's also good chilled or heated up.
Yes, simply omit the cashews to make the pesto nut-free.
Looking for more pasta recipes?
You might like this vegetarian tempeh bolognese or roasted butternut squash pasta.
Did you try this recipe? You can leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ in the recipe card or a review down in the comments section. I always appreciate your feedback! You can also follow along on my YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest or sign up for my newsletter!
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.
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Author's note: This recipe was originally published in 2019. The instructions and blog post were updated in January 2022 for improved clarity and consistency. The recipe remains the same, except a large avocado is now recommended instead of a medium avocado.
This was absolutely delicious. I used Banza noodles to give the dish extra protein.
So delicious! Bright and flavorful.
I will make again and again. So simple.
If I wanted to use store bought pesto, do you know about how much I would need to use? And would I add the avocado into it by blending it?
I would just use a jar of pesto (usually 6-8 ounces) and blend in one avocado with a blender, then adjust for seasonings.
Do the cashews need to be soaked before hand?
They do not.
This was by far my favorite pasta dish I have ever made. So easy and nearly impossible to get wrong (for me, that's saying something). So so good. Thank you!
So glad you liked it! Thanks for the review 🙂
Delicious and healthy. Thank you for the recipe!
Sooooooo good!! I also added some nutritional yeast for cheesiness & a splash of oat milk! Thank you for this gorgeous recipe!
Thanks so much, I'm so glad you liked it! 🙂
Made this last night, everyone loved it. 5 people, 2 pretty picky eaters. I used the nutritional yeast as another commented suggested and it was great! We added garbanzos. I thought it needed more salt, and I'm not a big salt adder.
Can I swap out the cashews for another nut?
Cassidy Reeser, RDN, LD
You could use pine nuts which are traditionally used in pesto. And I think walnuts could work since they have a similar texture.
Do you use raw cashews? Or like the salted ones?
Cassidy Reeser, RDN, LD
I use raw cashews but any kind will work!
Family loved the flavor but not the consistency, Can out very thick and dry. Was this how it was supposed to be?
How can I tweak to loosen it up a bit?
Cassidy Reeser, RDN, LD
Thanks for asking, it is not supported to be dry or thick. My first thought is that maybe the avocados weren’t ripe enough which could make the sauce drier. If this happens again, you could use a splash of water to loosen it or add an additional tablespoon of olive oil.
How much fresh spinach would equal 1 cup frozen spinach?
Cassidy Reeser, RDN, LD
Since the frozen spinach is cooked, you can can saute 16 ounces of fresh spinach to equal about 1-1.5 cups of frozen spinach.