Toss this cilantro basil pesto with hot pasta, gnocchi, or rice. It has loads of fresh flavor that screams summer.
Embarrassing confession: After our first winter back in Iowa, basil brought me to tears.
I was in the grocery store when I saw its bright green leaves, grabbed a container, and breathed in its fragrance that is the scent of summer. The smell made my eyes misty with relief.
After months of shoveling and cold, this beacon seemed to say the worst was over (until next year).
Since then, a local grower with a greenhouse has started making basil available all winter long, which is like some kind of miracle. Every time I pick up a packet on an icy day, it feels like a flower has sprouted up from underneath piles of snow.
Even though I have year ’round access to basil, in the summer it’s especially savored. It’s the time when we’re swimming in it, and bags of it at the farmers market come cheap. It’s when basil explodes in gardens, aching to be picked.
And of course, the best way to use all of that basil is with big batches of pesto.
What I love about pesto is how much room there is for play.
- Basil can be replaced in part with cilantro or spinach.
- Garlic can be swapped with garlic scapes.
- Pine nuts are the standard, but pistachios or pumpkin seeds are my favorite. (And they’re cheaper too!)
- Other tasty nut options include walnuts, almonds, cashews, or hemp seeds.
- Depending on your salt proclivities, olives, jarred artichoke hearts, and/or sun-dried tomatoes are all tasty add-ins.
- Some people go heavy on olive oil, and some go light or oil-free.
There’s one non-traditional ingredient that is never missing from my cilantro basil pesto – white miso paste.
Miso paste is a fermented paste made from soybeans. It’s typically thought of as the main ingredient in miso soup.
Miso paste balances the floral quality of basil, and gives some saltiness, richness, and umami. (If you’d like even more cheesiness, add a tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast flakes.)
Vegan cilantro basil pesto
This is the recipe for my favorite vegan cilantro basil pesto.
Toss it with hot pasta, roasted gnocchi, or make pesto rice. Spread it on sandwiches or spoon it onto pizza. (I like to put tomato sauce on my pizza, and then add generous dollops of pesto all around the pie.)
It’s also wonderful tossed with roasted, steamed, or grilled vegetables like broccoli or green beans.
For this post, I topped pesto pasta with red wine mushrooms, fresh tomato, and basil for garnish.
Vegan cilantro basil pesto
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves lightly packed
- 1 cup fresh cilantro rough stems removed, lightly packed*
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup shelled pistachios roasted and salted
- 2 teaspoons white miso paste
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt to taste
- In a food processor, combine basil, cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, pistachios, and miso paste.
- Once fully combined, drizzle extra virgin olive oil through chute while the food processor is spinning, until it has become a smooth sauce. You may need to stop once or twice to scrape down the sides.
- Taste and add more salt, if needed. (Remember, both the miso paste and pistachios are salty.)