Yogi’s Pesto

Oh my gosh pesto is SO delicious!  The traditional recipe, which uses garlic and parmesan doesn’t quite fit with the yogic diet of my every day life, reflected in the recipes at Vedicook… but that doesn’t stop me. My mom made it for years without the cheese, because of my brother’s allergy, and that always turned out great.

Why no parmesan? 

While dairy is highly valued in Ayurveda (for those with no sensitivity to it) Parmesan is a hard, aged cheese… not recommended on a regular basis, because it is hard on the digestive tract and the liver, increases vata (because it’s dry & hard), pitta (because its salty and oily & the hardness means the liver goes crazy trying to break it down) and kapha (because it’s aged).  On occasion, and in moderation it’s okay… but why not learn to make a pesto without it?  Plus it’s great for vegans!  If you must have cheese, go for fresh, white cheeses when possible (mozzarella, ricotta, feta).

Why no garlic? 

Garlic is considered both rajasic (increases agitation, anger, division, aggressiveness, hyperactivity, competitiveness) and tamasic (increases laziness, darkness, stagnation, attachment).  While it has a healing purpose (beneficial for those needing to stop a cold in its tracks), it is not ideal for everyday use in a yogic diet, because of the rajasic & tamasic effects on the mind.

I vary the amounts in this recipe all the time… but the ingredients stay about the same.  Depending on season and availability, the ratio of basil to parsley will change quite a bit.  I used to use pine nuts, however the price has significantly increased! Still, they are ideal Ayurvedically, because they are lighter and easier to digest than other nuts.  If one has a very hot constitution, splurge on the pignolis! Just experimented with using 1/2 cashews and 1/2 walnuts – the cashews give a creamy effect to mimic cheese!

Pesto is such a striking almost neon green color, I love to serve it with something else bright – like the shredded beet salad (golden beet would be beautiful as well) …


  • 4 oz basil
  • 2 small (or one large) bunches Italian (flat leaf) parsley, washed.
  • 1/4 Cup plus 1 TB Olive Oil
  • 1/2 heaping cup walnuts (or pine nuts)… or COMBINE cashews & walnuts for a creamier effect!
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste – it’s best to under-salt the pesto and add more to taste when eating)

plus one of the following:

  • juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon plus 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/4  whole milk organic plain yogurt
  • 2 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup cheese of your choice (parmesan, ricotta, feta, etc.)


Blend all the ingredients in food processor.
Taste and adjust the recipe accordingly – if becomes too thin, add more nuts.

To Serve

Great with fresh ground black pepper when served.

Toss a generous amount with pasta – an aldente penne holds up to the heaviness of the pesto.

Spread over flat bread and bake with olives and veggies for a healthy flat bread pizza.

Serve over polenta

Great on rye toast, baked sweet potatoes, or whatever could use some intense green!

The color is even more striking aside something red or golden yellow in color…


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