Zucchini Pesto is a delicious way to use up any zucchini you happen to have on hand. It’s the perfect summer sauce, loaded with fresh basil, garlic, and lemon juice. You don’t even need any oil!
This recipe is lower in calories and higher in nutrients, making it a healthy pesto sauce. All you have to do is add everything to a blender, and it’s ready to eat in just 5 minutes!
Why You’ll Love It
- It’s easy to make. Just add all of the ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth. You can adjust anything to taste from there.
- It’s dairy-free. Cheese is not necessary for this recipe, so it’s vegan & paleo friendly as written. See the variation ideas below, if you want to add more cheesy flavor.
- It’s lower in fat. Since there’s no added oil, the only fat in this recipe comes from walnuts. Walnuts are high in antioxidant activity and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- It may help to support gut health. Eating walnuts may promote a healthy gut microbiome, and paired with zucchini, garlic, and basil, this pesto sauce is a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, too.
You’ll also love the flavor. I like to use it as a dip for veggies, and a sauce for pesto pasta, or as a spread on a grilled cheese sandwich with sliced tomatoes.
How to Make It
- Prepare the ingredients. Cut the zucchini into small pieces, and measure out one tightly packed cup, or use a food scale to measure out 5 ounces by weight.
- Blend. Add the zucchini, walnuts, basil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt to a blender, and blend until smooth. Use just enough water to help it blend smoothly. In this case, you want a very smooth pesto for the best flavor. (It tastes a little watery if you don’t totally pulverize everything.)
- Enjoy! Adjust any seasonings to taste, then serve right away.
You can store the leftover zucchini pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Need to make a swap? Here are some ideas to help.
- Swap the zucchini. You can use another non-starchy veggie, like yellow squash, or gently steamed broccoli or cauliflower. Be sure to check out my Broccoli Pesto or Arugula Pesto recipes for other ideas.
- Swap the walnuts. Use pine nuts or cashews as another option. Or, if you need a nut-free recipe, you can omit the nuts entirely, for a less-thick pesto sauce. In that case, cut back on the salt, too.
- Swap the basil. You can use fresh parsley, spinach, or cilantro for a fresh, yet totally different flavor.
- Add oil. If you want to use olive oil instead of water, you can do that, too. Using oil will make the pesto more emulsified, so it may “stick” to your pasta a little better.
I’d love to hear what else you try! If you make a substitution, please tell me about it in the comments below.
- 1 cup diced zucchini (about 5 ounces)
- 1 cup fresh basil (tightly packed; about 1 ounce)
- 3 garlic cloves (10 grams)
- 1/2 cup walnuts (57 grams)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (31 grams)
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (3 grams)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons water , as needed to blend
- Dice the zucchini if you haven't yet (no need to peel it!) and measure out 1 heaping cup. Or, use a food scale to measure out 5 ounces.
- Add the zucchini, basil, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice, salt, and 3 tablespoons of water to a blender. Blend until very smooth, about 60 seconds in a high-speed blender. Make sure the ingredients are totally pulverized and smooth for the best flavor.
- Adjust any seasoning to taste, adding more lemon juice or salt, as needed. You can also add 1 more tablespoon of water, if you want a runnier texture. Serve right away, or store the pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Pro Tip: You can pour any leftover zucchini pesto into an ice cube tray, to freeze for future use. The size of the ice cubes makes it easy to thaw exactly what you need for a fast weeknight meal.
If you try this Zucchini Pesto recipe, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like it!