Vegan Basil Pesto with Lemon Zest

by Ben Gramkowski and Jillian MacLeod

One drawback to a rooftop garden is the extreme conditions—there’s no shelter from the wind, and the black rubber roofing amplifies the summer heat. By early July, our herbs were already anxious to bolt. To keep our basil plants going strong, we constantly had to trim them back when we saw those delicate flowers forming. Basil pesto is a staple in our house.


  • 2-2½ packed cups of fresh basil leaves and flowers
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • Zest and juice from half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Pulse whole almonds in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

Gradually add basil and garlic (depending on the size and gusto of your food processor, you may want to chop these up a little first). Add lemon zest, process until fine.

While processor is running, slowly add the lemon juice and olive oil, and process until smooth.

Gradually add the nutritional yeast between pulses of the food processor.

Taste, add salt and pepper, and adjust ingredients to your liking.

Finally, add the herbs and enjoy.

Recipe yields 4 to 6 servings.