Vegan Broccoli Pesto

Sep 8, 2021 | 15 comments


First published in August 2013, revised and updated in September 2021.

Have you ever made pesto using fresh vegetables? It was quite a revelation when I discovered it. I’ve found that I can make something that I like to call pesto (Italians wouldn’t!) with more or less any hard vegetable.

broccoli pesto - in yellow dish

Use lots of basil and it will taste pesto like and can be used in all the usual ways with the advantage of getting a bit more vegetable down those you are feeding.

I’ve also found that I didn’t need to use wonderful, but expensive, pine nuts; or equally wonderful, but difficult to fit into a budget meal plan, parmesan. The latter has the advantage of making the pesto vegan, and so open for vegan readers to enjoy.

How to make Broccoli Pesto

Use a standard sized head of broccoli, not an enormous one, or a teeny tiny one. Trim off a tiny sliver from the stalk and discard, then chop all of the rest up into florets.

Toast the hazelnuts to bring out their flavour. You can do this in a dry frying pan, under the grill or in the oven. Which ever way you toast them, you need to keep a close eye on them. No walking out of the kitchen, they burn as soon as you turn your back!


broccoli pesto ingredients

The ingredients for broccoli pesto

Get the food processor out and bung all the broccoli pesto ingredients into it. Now whizz for a couple of minutes, you may need to scrape the sides down.

broccoli pesto - in food processor


The finished pesto. Gorgeous, fragrant and just waiting to show you how wonderful it is!


broccoli pesto - in dish

broccoli pesto in a jar

broccoli pesto in a jar

What is broccoli pesto like?

The taste is vibrant, bright and light from the lemon, deep from the garlic, with a faint taste of the hazelnuts coming through at the end.

What changes can I make to this broccoli pesto recipe?

One of the big advantages of cooking from scratch is the control it gives you. Got allergies, or dietary preferences? You can work around them. Haven’t got one of the ingredients? You can usually find a substitution.

The kids don’t like broccoli? Try it with cauliflower, carrots, peas, celery or mushrooms. I would use them raw rather than cooked, although do feel free to try them cooked if you want to. You can also try a mixture of any vegetables.

If you don’t have a fresh lemon, juice from a bottle can be substituted. Best with the lemon zest if you can get it, or try it with limes if that is what you have.

I’ve used both rapeseed oil and olive oil for this. Both good in their different ways. Any fairly neutral vegetable oil would also work.

I like pesto very garlicky, so tend to add a bit more. Use garlic from a jar for the cheapest option. The big jars from Asian shops are best value. Or use fresh, from a tube, whatever you have in.

I’ve found fresh packs of basil reduced to not very much, but usually, the cheapest way to get basil is to get a supermarket plant, put it into a much bigger pot and feed and water it like crazy. You’ll get lots and lots of basil this way. You could even grow some from seed for maximum economy, although, obviously, this will take a lot longer to get a usable amount.

Rosemary grows easily in the garden or a pot. Swap the basil for rosemary, (I would chop some up fine and add it a teaspoon at a time, it has a strong flavour) or try sage, dill or mint.

Adjust the lemon, garlic and basil to however much you like it.

Swap the hazelnuts for walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, almonds or anything else you have in.


How do I store broccoli pesto?

This time, I am taking half the batch when I go and visit my sister. She is a vegan and I like to take her tasty things.

Previously, I have put my remaining pesto in little pots that come with takeaways, and put them in the freezer for another day. These pictures are from a previous batch, which looks quite different!

broccoli pesto in small pots

This pesto features in meal plan 2, where it is used for pasta pesto, in a pitta and on toast for breakfast.

broccoli pesto pasta

Just stir the pesto through cooked pasta for an almost instant dinner

broccoli pesto on toast

Delicious on wholemeal toast for breakfast!

broccoli pesto in a pitta bread

broccoli pesto in a pitta bread

broccoli pesto in a pitta bread

broccoli pesto 3I tried some on a little piece of french stick and it was lovely, so would make a delicious (cheap!) sandwich, with or without soft cheese as used in Mackerel Pate



Want some more ideas for pesto? Try some of these

Things You May Never Need To Buy Again – Pesto

broccoli pesto - in dish

Broccoli Pesto

5 from 1 vote
This vegan broccoli pesto can be used to dress pasta, in a sandwich, on toast or jkt potato
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Gluten Free
Dairy Free
freeze by Hare Krishna from the Noun Project
Freezes Well
Servings: 10 servings
Cost per portion 18p
Calories: 154kcal
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  • 300 g broccoli a head of broccoli
  • 2 stems fresh basil I used some from the greenhouse, so free, if you have to buy it, get a £1 plant and use half of it, 50p
  • ½ lemon zest and juice
  • 50 g hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp garlic from jar or a crushed clove or two
  • 125 ml rape seed oil
  • 1 tsp salt, black pepper


  • Toast the hazelnuts to bring out their flavour
  • Chop the broccoli up a little, especially the hard stems (include everything, don’t throw any of it away, except perhaps a tiny slice off the very end of the stem). 
  • Pile everything into a food processor and give it all a good pulse until everything is chopped finely. Take the lid off the processor and breathe in the utterly delectable aroma, put the lid back on again
  • If it needs it, add a little water, or a bit more oil and mix well again. Taste, add more salt and pepper if it needs it. It needs to taste quite salty at this stage. This makes enough to dress 10 portions of pasta.


The taste is vibrant, bright and light from the lemon, deep from the garlic, with a faint taste of the hazelnuts coming through at the end
I have put my remaining pesto in little pots that come with takeaways, and will put them in the freezer for another day.
I tried some on a little piece of french stick and it was lovely, so would make a delicious (cheap!) sandwich, with or without soft cheese as used in Mackerel Pate
This features in Meal Plan 2, a complete 7 day plan for 2 adults. Contains 3 meals a day, plus snacks , all recipes and a shopping list


Nutrition Facts
Broccoli Pesto
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @ThriftyLesley or tag #ThriftyLesley !



  1. Lesley

    mmmm, that sounds good

  2. Eliza

    This evening I used some of the leftover broccoli pesto spread on pita, as a pizza, baked with a small amount of cheese, onion, mushroom and spinach. It turned out yummy — this is a very versatile pesto. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  3. Addy

    Is that the calories for the whole batch?

  4. Lesley

    No, the salted peanuts would work very well. The original recipe here uses salted cashews, which are similar in salt terms. If you wanted to control the amount of salt, you could always give them a little rinse under the tap first.
    Nutrition, 483 cals, 58g carbs, 23g fat, 11g protein

    The salted cashews and salted peanuts are the same number of calories

    Apologies Addy, that answer made no sense whatever. For some reason I was thinking you were talking about the Salted Cashew Couscous!

    For the whole batch of pesto, it is 1685 cals, 57g carbs, 158 fat, 26g protein, 25g fibre

    1/10th of the pesto with 80g pasta is 280 cals, 28g carbs, 15g fat, 8g protein, 4g fibre (using white pasta)

    Hope that makes sense now

    re the salted peanuts, the pesto needs to taste fairly salty, or the finished dish won’t be salty enough. So I would add salted peanuts just as they are, then adjust the salt level when you taste it for seasoning. If that makes you nervous of over salting, rinse them under the tap before adding them, add adjust at the tasting stage

  5. Addy

    Would salted peanuts work? Or would adding salt ruin it?
    Do u have the calories or this dish?

  6. Lesley

    I have found with the Pesto that it is almost the more basil I put in, the better the flavour. So hack away and bung it in!

    39p! bargain, that will make it REALLY cheap. I have seen broccoli on offer now and then, and you can often get BOGOF ones, but I don’t like to price the recipes using that as it may be difficult to reproduce, and it sort of feels like cheating

  7. Rita

    JUST what I need. I’ve a some basil in the herb bed trying to flower so it needs a good hacking-at and a head of broccoli going over (39p, Aldi super 6. Got the biggest one, 400g, total bargain) and OH doesn’t eat anything he considers ‘exotic’ – broccoli, exotic, really?!? So it sounds as though I can disguise it beautifully. Love the idea of stirring it through rice.
    In fact the perfect recipe – economical, versatile, freezable.

  8. Lesley

    Great! I’ll add that to my list of meals with the Pesto. Forgot to say before, your description of it being a light, fresh… something, was just how I thought of it when I first made it and tasted it. It’s difficult to describe isn’t it

  9. Megan

    last comment so I don’t keep spamming – the rice was lovely. I did add a handful of shredded cheddar for my 2 growing boys but it worked fine without as well.

  10. Lesley

    Ooh, now there’s an option I hadn’t thought of. It was delicious with pasta, so don’t see why it wouldn’t be with rice.
    Oh and P.S. glad it worked with the frozen broccoli too, would be probably be a different texture to the fresh. Once you start on one of these thought trails, it’s amazing how many different options there are isn’t it.

  11. Lesley

    Oh, I’m so glad you liked it. I really love it and have it in a sandwich for lunch all the time now.

  12. Megan

    actually I’m trying to figure out dinner tonight and wondering how it would be stirred through hot rice for a risotto-type dish, yummmmmmmmmm.

  13. Megan

    mmmmmm yummy!! I did a large batch with both frozen broccoli and cauliflower and almonds for the nuts. It doesn’t really taste like the veggies at all – more like a fresh, nutty light /something/ which I can imagine is gorgeous stirred through hot pasta or spread on toast. Hopefully DH will be persuaded to fill his sandwiches with it instead of insisting on expensive ham!!

  14. Lesley

    I’ll be interested to hear what it comes out like using frozen broccoli. I’ve only ever done it with fresh, and frozen is usually half cooked I think?
    I’d been thinking about using frozen as its cheaper than the fresh but hadn’t got round to it yet
    Ps – I used almonds in the cauliflower pesto, and they tasted lovely. It doesn’t seem to make a huge amount of difference which nuts are used

  15. Megan

    I’ve got almonds in at the moment, not hazelnuts, so I think may give this a bash with the abundance of frozen broccoli always knocking about in my freezer. Sick of DH moaning about sandwiches and going through a packet of value ham a week!


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