If you’re looking for an alternative to basil pesto, then look no further than this vegan wild garlic pesto! Wild garlic leaves have a garlic flavour, but it’s a lot more subtle than regular garlic and has a delicate, grassy edge. A perfect accompaniment to pasta of all kinds, and even great when served with vegan garlic bread.
🌟 Why this recipe works
Simple – this vegan wild garlic pesto recipe only requires a handful of ingredients, with very little preparation and no cooking! That’s not bad for making a delicious sauce, so you can spend more time on whatever you’re going to serve it with – we love it stirred through pasta, which is probably the simplest but most delicious way of serving it. And it's great in this pesto orzo salad.
Based on classic pesto – while this recipe uses alternative ingredients, the core of it is based on a classic basil pesto. We’ve switched out the basil for wild garlic, olive oil for rapeseed oil and pine nuts for sunflower seeds – but it’s the same ratios and type of ingredients. Also, if you’re in England, these are all grown and harvested here. That means this pest has low air miles too.
Flexible – we’ve tried to use seasonal British ingredients, but you can make lots of easy switches! Use a classic pine nut instead of sunflower seeds, or try out another type of oily seed or nut, like walnuts. Rapeseed oil is abundant where we live right now, but you can just as easily use olive oil and still end up with a delicious vegan pesto.
Wild garlic – when we talk about wild garlic in this recipe, we’re referring to the leaves. Although the whole plant is actually edible! It’s related to garlic, but the flavour of the leaves is a lot more subtle and even slightly grassy. It has a very distinctive, garlic smell and can be found growing in moist woodland all over Europe. It’s a popular spring foraging ingredient here in the UK because it’s so abundant. It’s best picked around March in the UK, before it flowers. When we picked it, we made sure to head further in from the path and we selected smaller leaves. While we did pick our wild garlic to make this vegan wild garlic pesto, we’re not foraging experts, so check out Countryfile’s guide.
Sunflower seeds – sunflowers grow in the UK, so we thought we’d switch out pine nuts for sunflower seeds and we loved the results!
Rapeseed oil – known as canola oil in the US. We live in an area where it’s grown in abundance, so as with the sunflower seeds, we thought it would be nice to incorporate another local ingredient. It has a more earthy, nutty flavour compared to the fruitiness of olive oil.
Nutritional yeast – a favourite cupboard staple ingredient for many vegans! It adds a savoury, cheesy, nutty flavour to dishes and is often fortified with vitamin B12 as a bonus. More vegan parmesan could be added as an alternative (or as well!).
Vegan parmesan – we love how substitutes make it easier to make plant-based versions of classic recipes. While you definitely don’t need to use vegan parmesan to make a great pesto, we love the creamy, cheesy flavour that it adds! You could switch this out for more nutritional yeast though.
Check out the recipe card at the bottom of this article for exact measurements to make vegan wild garlic pesto.
🔪 Step-by-step Instructions
This is a step-by-step overview with photos for this recipe. The full recipe, along with measurements and detailed instructions on making vegan wild garlic pesto can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
1. Pick the wild garlic leaves. Head away from public paths if you can, so you can try to avoid any leaves that are near to the path. That just means fewer animals and humans may have stepped on the wild garlic!
2. Once you have retrieved the wild garlic, rinse and clean the leaves.
3. Add all of the ingredients to a blender and pulse until the desired consistency is reached.
4. Fully smooth or a little bit chunky are both great options for wild garlic pesto!
5. Once blended, store away any leftover pesto in a glass jar with a lid. It keeps for five days in the fridge or can be frozen in ice cube trays, ready for a later date.
👩🍳 Expert Tips
Vegan parmesan – a great replacement for the Italian hard cheese that is often used in classic pesto recipes. We love and recommend Parveggio by Greenvie – it comes grated and the flavour is great. We’d recommend using a couple of tablespoons of a plant-based parmesan for making vegan wild garlic pesto, but if you don’t like cheese alternatives, try adding a couple more tablespoons of nutritional yeast instead.
Texture – how do you like your pesto? Only blend it enough to reach the consistency and texture that you like! Sometimes pestos are blended until smooth, other times they’re left a bit chunky – we like both. A chunky wild garlic pesto is great stirred through some pasta, but we like it smooth for spreading or dipping.
Flexible – vegan wild garlic pesto is a flexible dish. Try pine nuts, pumpkin seeds or cashews in place of sunflower seeds, try olive oil instead of rapeseed oil and mix and match vegan cheese and nutritional yeast.
Storage – keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge, but it can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months.
It will last up to 5 days in a sealed container in the fridge. If you don’t mind extra oil, you can add a layer of oil to the top of the tub to prevent the air getting to it to extend the life further.
Try using more vegan parmesan alternative, nutritional yeast or switching some of the oil for water.
Yes, it will last well in the freezer for up to 6 months in a sealed container. Another top tip is freezing it in ice cube trays and once frozen, transferring the cubes to a bag or container – you can then grab just the right amount of pesto for your next recipe instead of having to defrost it all.
It’s best to pick the leaves in spring before they flower, and heading away from the edge of public paths. We’d recommend checking out Countryfile’s guide for more information.
🌱 More wild garlic recipe ideas
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Vegan Wild Garlic Pesto
For the pesto:
- 150 g wild garlic leaves
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- 150 ml rapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoon vegan parmesan – optional
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt + more to taste
- Pick the wild garlic leaves. Head away from public paths if you can, so you can try to avoid any leaves that are near to the path. That just means fewer animals and humans may have stepped on the wild garlic!
- Once you have retrieved the wild garlic, rinse and clean the leaves.
- Add all of the ingredients to a blender and pulse until the desired consistency is reached – fully smooth or a little bit chunky are both great!150 g wild garlic leaves, ½ cup sunflower seeds, 150 ml rapeseed oil, 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoon vegan parmesan, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt
- Season to taste. Serve with pasta, on pizzas or even baked into pinwheels.
- Make sure to thoroughly rinse and clean the wild garlic leaves, especially if you have foraged them yourself.
- Sunflower seeds can be switched for pine nuts, walnuts or practically any other type of nut or seed.
- Rapeseed oil can be switched for olive oil for a more classic pesto flavour.
- Nutritional yeast and vegan parmesan are used to add a cheesy flavour to the pesto, as traditional recipes use Italian hard cheeses. If you don’t like either of them, try doubling up the other i.e. double the nutritional yeast if not using vegan parmesan, and vice versa.