Zucchini Pesto (Courgette Pesto)

Charred zucchini and toasted seeds mixed with basil, garlic, nutritional yeast and lemon make for a delicious zucchini pesto. Cheap and easy, it’s a great light late summer dish, and the perfect way to use up an abundance of zucchinis!

Bowl of zucchini pesto with a spoon, seeds in the background and some lemon wedges

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Zucchini pesto- the best use for zucchini glut!

The zucchini plants in our garden are really going wild lately so I’ve had to get creative thinking of ways to use them up. I’ve used them in pasta salad, soup, muffins (of course), and even tagine. They seriously just keep on coming!

I’ve been obsessed with grilled and charred zucchini lately, as it just really allows the flavour of the vegetable to shine. It’s a great way to use up a glut, but even that can get a little boring after a while.

That’s when I came up with the idea for this creamy vegan zucchini pesto (or courgette pesto for UK readers!). Pesto is an Italian condiment, traditionally made with mainly basil. When chargrilled zucchini is added it turns it into a wonderfully creamy vegan pesto sauce. It can be made as a small batch, or multiplied to use up several zucchinis and stored in the fridge or freezer.

Why I love this recipe

  • It’s a super simple recipe, with minimal ingredients and preparation required.
  • Tastes like a traditional basil pesto but is super creamy.
  • Light and flavoursome, it makes a perfect summer dish for lunch or dinner.
  • It’s super healthy and a great way to squeeze in another one of your 5 a day!
  • Completely nut free, dairy free, and can easily be made oil free
  • It’s cheap to make, so is perfect for budget batch cooking.
A bowl of zucchini pesto pasta with zucchini pesto in a bowl behind, seeds, lemon, basil and dried pasta

Which ingredients should I use?

There are just 7 simple ingredients needed to make this zucchini pesto:

  • Zucchini- chargrilled to bring out its flavour, and adds a lovely creaminess to the pesto.
  • Seeds– I’ve opted for mixed seeds to keep this recipe nut free, and they’re lightly toasted before being added to the healthy pesto sauce.
  • Basil– this brings the classic pesto flavour and a green colour.
  • Garlic– we all know I love garlic! I’ve suggested 2 cloves in this zucchini pesto recipe, but you could add 3 or 4 if you like it really garlicky! Similarly, reduce this to one if you find garlic flavours too strong.
  • Nutritional yeast– a dairy free and vegetarian alternative to adding parmesan to pesto, nutritional yeast brings a cheesy, savoury flavour.
  • Lemon juice– a zesty acid to brighten the basil zucchini pesto up.
  • Salt- salt really enhances the flavour of the pesto (half the amount if you’re trying to watch your sodium intake).
  • (Optional) Olive oil- you can add some extra virgin olive oil towards the end if you feel that your pesto is a little too thick, but this may not be necessary due to the water content of the zucchini. The consistency of this pesto can be whatever you want it to be, so add (or don’t add) olive oil to your preference!
Ingredients for zucchini pesto

How to make zucchini pesto pasta

Making zucchini pesto requires just a little bit of prep, and then it’s as simple as putting it all together in a blender.

Start by heating a grill pan over a medium-high heat, and brush it with a little oil (you can skip the oil if you’re making this oil free). Cut the zucchini in half then cut each half into four slices lengthways.

Once the grill pan is hot, add the zucchini slices. Cook them for 3-4 minutes on the first side until lightly charred, then flip them and char on the second side. 

In a separate small pan, toast the seeds over medium heat until they are fragrant and golden, around 3 minutes.

Allow zucchini and seeds to cool for 5 minutes, then add them to a blender along with the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt. Blend the courgette pesto to the desired consistency (I like to leave a few bits in my pesto), streaming in some olive oil towards the end if you would like it slightly runnier.

I like to cook some pasta for 8-10 minutes and char a few more zucchinis for serving zucchini and pesto pasta. You can top it with a little bit of lemon zest, a grind of black pepper or a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for a lovely punch of flavour.

Best equipment to make zucchini pesto

Traditionally, pesto is made with pestle and mortar, with the ingredients being ground down to a thick paste. Luckily, we have blenders these days! I like to use my Ninja bullet blender for this recipe, as it’s high powered but small and easy to clean. 

You could use a full sized high speed blender for this healthy pesto recipe, or you could use a food processor. You may find that you need to scrape down the sides of the food processor a little more than if you use a blender.

Serving suggestions

The most obvious and universal use for this vegan pesto is obviously for zucchini pesto pasta! I like to serve this basil zucchini pesto with tagliatelle, but it would also work great with short pasta such as rigatoni, penne, or fusilli (make sure it’s egg free!). Add some extra grilled veggies or cherry tomatoes for even more goodness.

a bowl of courgette pesto pasta with another in the background

You can make a zucchini pesto bake by stirring the pesto through cooked pasta and chopped zucchini, then baking in the oven at 180c/350f for 20 minutes (top it with a bit of vegan cheese and breadcrumbs to make this even tastier!

If you’d like to keep your meal lower in carbs, you could use vegetable noodles. This is a great article on veggie noodles if you want to go down that route. Go for zucchini noodles with pesto and have double zucchini!

You could also stir the creamy zucchini pesto through simmered or crispy gnocchi for a nice change from pasta. Just make sure that your pasta or gnocchi doesn’t contain egg!

Other ways I love to use this pesto are:

  • Over roasted or grilled veggies with some toasted ciabatta on the side.
  • As a spread on sandwiches and wraps.
  • Brushed over tofu before grilling.
  • As an alternative to tomato sauce on pizza.
  • As a dip or condiment on the side of a BBQ or picnic.
  • Stirred through cold orzo to make a quick pasta salad.
A hand taking a bowl of courgette pesto pasta

Top tips for making perfect pesto

For the best basil zucchini pesto, make sure to chargrill the zucchinis until they are soft through. This will help them to blend easier, make your pesto creamier, and reduce the need for adding olive oil.

The key to delicious tasting pesto is making sure that you use fresh basil. Basil picked straight off a plant will always be tastiest! I like to leave my pesto with some small chunks, rather than going completely smooth. I like the texture that this gives, but it also reduces the risk of over-processing the basil, which can cause it to brown.

Ingredient substitutes

There are a few substitutions you can make to this zucchini basil pesto recipe if you don’t have all of the ingredients to hand:

  • You can swap out the seeds for the more traditional pine nuts. You could also use cashew nuts for an even creamier pesto.
  • Perhaps not traditional, but you could make this into a mint or parsley pesto. Simply swap out the basil for the same amount of your favourite herb.
  • If you don’t have nutritional yeast, or aren’t fond of the flavour, you could use a vegan parmesan cheese instead. This is quite readily available in stores these days.
  • Lemon juice adds a lovely zestiness to courgette pesto, but if you’re out of lemons, you can add white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.

If you would rather, you could instead make this a roasted zucchini pesto, by roasting the zucchini slices in a moderate oven for 15 minutes.

Zucchini pesto in a bowl with ingredients around it

How long does this vegan pesto last?

This pesto can last up to 1 week in the fridge, if stored in an airtight container. Add a thin layer of olive oil to the top of the pesto to stop it from oxidising and turning brown.

Can I freeze zucchini pesto pasta sauce?

You can freeze pesto really easily in small airtight containers or an ice cube tray. Freezing it in an ice cube tray makes it really easy to get the exact amount of pesto that you need for a meal. Once the cubes are frozen you can transfer them to a reusable container or bag. 

Defrost basil zucchini pesto in the refrigerator overnight before use.

More vegan pasta recipes

Pasta is one of my favourite foods, as there are so many ways to cook it, and it can be as easy or as complex as you want it to be! Here are some more pasta ideas for you to enjoy…

Pin it!

zucchini pesto pin image
Bowl of zucchini pesto with a spoon, seeds in the background and some lemon wedges

Zucchini Pesto (Courgette Pesto)

Chloe from Forkful of Plants
Prep Time 15 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Condiment, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2
Charred zucchini and toasted seeds mixed with basil, garlic, nutritional yeast and lemon make for a delicious zucchini pesto. Cheap and easy, it’s a great light late summer dish, and the perfect way to use up an abundance of zucchinis!
5 from 1 vote

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium zucchini (about 350g)
  • 2 tbsp mixed seeds
  • 30 g basil (1 lightly packed cup) leaves removed
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt

Instructions
 

  • Slice the zucchini in half, then cut each half into 4 slices lengthways.
  • Preheat a griddle pan over a medium-high heat, and brush it with a little oil*. Once hot, add the zucchini slices. Cook them for 3-4 minutes on the first side until lightly charred, then flip them and char on the second side.
  • In a separate small pan, toast the seeds over medium heat until they are fragrant and golden, around 3 minutes.
  • Allow zucchini and seeds to cool for 5 minutes, then add them to a blender along with the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt.
  • Blend the courgette pesto to the desired consistency (I like to leave a few bits). You can stream in some olive oil towards the end if you would like it to be slightly runnier.

To serve

  • I like to cook some pasta for 8-10 minutes and char a few more zucchinis for serving. You can top it with a little bit of lemon zest, a grind of black pepper or a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for a lovely punch of flavour.

Notes

*If you need to keep this recipe oil free, skip the oil here (just make sure you’re using a good non-stick pan!).
For the best basil zucchini pesto, make sure to chargrill the zucchinis until they are soft through. This will help them to blend easier, make your pesto creamier, and reduce the need for adding olive oil.
BATCH COOKING: This can be made as a small batch, or multiplied to use up several zucchinis and stored in the fridge or freezer. Simply multiply the ingredients exactly.
STORAGE: This pesto can last up to 1 week in the fridge, if stored in an airtight container. Add a thin layer of olive oil to the top of the pesto to stop it from oxidising and turning brown.
You can freeze pesto really easily in small airtight containers or an ice cube tray. Freezing it in an ice cube tray makes it really easy to get the exact amount of pesto that you need for a meal. Once the cubes are frozen you can transfer them to a reusable container or bag. 
Defrost basil zucchini pesto in the refrigerator overnight before use.

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2 thoughts on “Zucchini Pesto (Courgette Pesto)”

  • 5 stars
    I loved this recipe. It was a perfect test to get rid of some zucchini from my garden!

    • Thanks for the comment Jaelen, I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂

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