Pesto is a classic preparation that combines nuts, herbs, garlic and olive oil to create a sauce that is vibrant in flavor and color. Classic pesto is made of fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts, fresh garlic and an aged cheese such as Parmesan. As delicious as that version is, there are many other kinds of pesto that deserve our attention, not only because of their superb flavor, but also due to their outstanding nutritional value.
One of my personal favorites is this Vegan Cilantro Pesto. It is so delicious that I can eat it on rice, beans, gluten free pasta or even drizzled over roasted vegetables. In my home, there is no other sauce as versatile as this one. It satisfies with a bit of kick from the garlic and the smooth feel of the olive oil. It is salty and bright. It does not feel heavy because it lacks the dairy element (no cheese) but I have yet to hear anybody say that they miss it at all. In short, everyone craves it.
This pesto feels like a real indulgence over tacos or quesadillas and yet, it is a wonderful source of healthy fat. Walnuts, after all, provide phytonutrients with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and are protective against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular problems, and even type 2 diabetes.
Vegan Cilantro Pesto
2 cups of fresh cilantro
2 large cloves of garlic
1 cup raw walnuts
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbs water
Wash and dry the cilantro leaves. I use my salad spinner to get every bit of water out. Put the cilantro, the cloves of garlic and the walnuts in the blender. Add the water and start pulsing to mix the ingredients well. Slowly drizzle the olive oil over the mix while the blender is on. The ingredients should be coming together and forming a paste. The olive oil will help create a smooth, emulsified puree. Sprinkle the nutritional yeast over the pesto and blend together once more. If you prefer a thinner consistency, add a little bit of extra water to the mix. Salt and pepper to taste.