There's something about wild garlic pesto – a.k.a. ramson pesto – that I reckon makes it even better than its traditional basil and garlic counterpart. This vegan recipe uses walnuts and nutritional yeast for a dairy-free twist that delivers a nice cheesy flavour while putting your foraged finds front and centre.
If you can pick leaves that are fresh and at their peak around early spring in the UK, you'll be onto a winner. Use this stuff with pasta, in soup, on pizza, or to add an extra depth to hummus or butter bean dip.
Reading this when wild garlic isn't in season? Worry not – I also have a recipe for vegan pesto with basil and garlic.
What is wild garlic pesto?
Wild garlic pesto is a twist on the traditional Italian sauce that uses wild garlic leaves (also known as ramsons) in place of basil and garlic. It's a great way to make the most of a seasonal wild food found in the UK and other parts of Europe.
Why I love it
When my partner and I got into foraging a few years ago, we quickly realised how easy it was to find wild garlic in the woodlands near our home in Sheffield. I just love the idea of heading out on a walk and coming back with wild food that could be put to use in various recipes.
There are lots of things you can do with wild garlic, but it's the speed and simplicity of pesto sauce that makes it a perennial favourite among foragers.
What does it taste like?
This pesto has all the garlicky flavour you'd expect, albeit slightly milder and with a subtle earthiness and sweetness. As a dairy-free recipe, this version uses nutritional yeast to add a cheesy umami flavour you'd usually get from Parmesan.
Is wild garlic pesto healthy?
With just a few tablespoons of oil, this pesto is a relatively low-fat way of adding loads of flavour to a dish. The walnuts are also a great source of nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium (learn more about the health benefits of walnuts).
What you'll need
To make this delicious pesto sauce, you'll need:
- Wild garlic leaves (I also include some of the stems)
- Walnuts or pine nuts (or a mix of both)
- Nutritional yeast to replace the cheesiness of Parmesan
- Lemon juice for a little zing
- Olive oil to add a silky texture
How to make wild garlic pesto
See recipe notes for tips on responsible foraging and how to prepare wild garlic.
To a food processor, add the wild garlic leaves, walnuts, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Blend into a paste, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides with a spatula or spoon.
Season with salt and pepper, add a few tablespoons of water, and blend to loosen up the paste. Continue adding small amounts of water and blending until you have the desired consistency.
Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Transfer to a clean jar and top with a thin layer of oil.
The pesto should keep well in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Ways to use wild garlic pesto
- Pasta: The pesto is perfect mixed through freshly cooked pasta. I like it with pan-fried tofu (or tofu pancetta), mushrooms, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes. It would also be nice when combined with vegan cashew alfredo.
- Soup: Add a few teaspoons to soup when serving. It would be good with mushroom and tarragon soup or tomato and basil soup, but you'll find plenty of other ideas in my library of vegan soup recipes.
- Pizza: Add a few small dollops to pizza for an extra garlicky flavour.
- Dips: Try stirring it through hummus or lemony butter bean dip.
- Risotto: Add extra flavour to risotto when serving (see this smoked tofu risotto).
- Sandwiches, salads, dressings – the list goes on...
You certainly can! I tend to include some stems in the pesto, then save flowers for salads or as a garnish.
This should keep well in the fridge for up to two weeks. It helps to add a thin layer of oil on top of the pesto inside the jar.
You can store wild garlic pesto in the freezer for up to six months. Divide into the portion sizes you'll want, or freeze in ice cube trays before transferring to a resealable bag or container. Defrost thoroughly before using.
Variations and tips for wild garlic pesto
- Other nuts or seeds: You could replace the walnuts with anything like pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds. The texture and taste will vary slightly depending on what you use.
- Chilli: For a touch of heat, try adding chilli along with the other ingredients.
- Oil-free: This recipe uses a few tablespoons of oil to keep that classic pesto texture, but you could replace all of this with water if you like.
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Vegan Wild Garlic Pesto
- 3½ oz (100 g) wild garlic leaves, washed (see notes on safe foraging and preparation)
- 2 oz (60 g) walnuts (or pine nuts, or a mix)
- 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4-6 tablespoons water (plus more if needed)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- To a food processor, add the wild garlic leaves, walnuts, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and olive oil. Blend into a paste, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides with a spatula or spoon.
- Season with salt and pepper, add a few tablespoons of water, and blend to loosen up the paste. Continue adding small amounts of water and blending until you have the desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
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