High Protein & Oil-Free Basil Pesto

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on August 4, 2011


I’m a huge fan of anything that can be spread, drizzled, dipped, and of course, spoon fed from a bowl. Over the past couple years, I’ve found my favourite versions of the following:


I’ve had dinner guests beg for these recipes. I’ve had vegan skeptics go weak in the knees over this cheeze spread on a sandwich. I’ve had nephews eat 4 bowls of Mac n cheeze in a row!

I make these recipes again and again because they are quick, healthy, and I tend to have many of the ingredients on hand.

However, I would make pesto much more often (weekly? daily? Each waking hour?) if I didn’t think I would consume a full cup of oil in the span of…4 minutes. I seriously can’t control myself around that stuff. Until olive oil becomes its own food group, I tend to reserve classic pesto for those special occasions. Not to mention, organic cold-pressed olive oil is priced like liquid gold!


But, I’m impatient my friends. And let’s be real, special occasions don’t happen that often when you’re stuck in the country and your only nearby friend is your weirdo cat. Clearly, I need an everyday pesto.

And new friends.

And navy beans in pesto.


Before you think I’ve gone mad, hear me out. When navy beans are processed they add a lovely creamy and rich quality to recipes. I’ve used processed navy beans many times in recipes (like creamy soups!) and I’ve always been pleased with the result. I figured processed navy beans would provide this creamy quality to my pesto without missing the oil. Or so I hoped.


My week off must have been good to me because this pesto surpassed my expectations. Either that, or my standards have just dropped. I can’t be certain.

It called my name from the fridge, only this time, I didn’t have to fight it.



High Protein & Oil-Free Basil Pesto

This is far from a traditional tasting pesto, but it’s so delicious I couldn’t stop eating it! The navy beans replace the typical cup of oil in this pesto recipe, making it not only oil-free, but high in protein as well. Nutritional yeast adds a cheezy taste while packing protein and B12. Enjoy this pesto spread on sandwiches, pasta, or even use for a dip for vegetables or chips. Spoon feeding encouraged.

Yield: 1.5 cups (see below for nutritional info)


  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves (don’t be shy- really pack it in!)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 15-oz can navy/cannellini beans (1.5 cups)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon) I used 3 tbsp
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp kosher salt (I used 3/4 tsp)
  • You can add olive oil to taste if you prefer!


Directions: Add garlic clove to processor and process until finely chopped. Now add in the rest of the ingredients to taste and process until smooth, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

Nutritional Info: (per 2 tbsp): 41 kcals, 0 grams fat, 3 grams protein, 3 grams fibre, 0 grams sugar, 7 grams carbs.



I kid you not, this stuff is addicting. And HEALTHY!


I spread it on bread, along with my favourite cheeze sauce on the other piece.

Now we’re talking.


I grilled tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and spinach for layering.


You can use this pesto as a sandwich spread, mixed into pasta, or as a dip for vegetables and crackers. Really, everything else is simply a vehicle for this pesto to get into your belly. Spoons work great too.



While it’s not exactly like a traditional pesto, I just fell in love with it. Knowing that I was enjoying something naturally fat-free and high in protein made me eat eight times as much. Love that.


1. Green Monster Movement was mentioned in O Magazine in this September’s issue!! Whooo, rock on Green Monster fans!


2. I’m a little late to the party, but I finally figured out how to make an Oh She Glows Facebook Page. Click the image to be taken to the page. Basically, it’s me babbling on to myself…so in other words, totally lame fun. Stop over and say hi!


3. The winner of the Peas and Thank You Cookbook is Val! Congrats! I’ve contacted you this morning via email. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Let's get social! Follow Angela on Instagram @ohsheglows, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Google+

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

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anna September 27, 2017 at 9:24 am

I am making this today!!! How long do you think this would keep in the fridge if I have extra? Thank you for your amazing recipes — I am trying to be more and more plant based and your site is making it fun and delicious!


Angela (Oh She Glows) September 28, 2017 at 8:55 pm

Hey Anna, Thank you for the kind words about my blog! :) I think this pesto would be good in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days? It’s been a long time since I’ve made it so I’m not too sure (sorry about that!) I hope you enjoy it if you make it. :)


Ginger May 8, 2018 at 6:47 pm

A friend just recommended your blog (in particular, your bean burger recipe) a few days ago and I couldn’t remember the name of it by the time I got home. Then I googled “oil free pesto recipe” and up it popped! We just had this pesto on grilled veggie sandwiches and it was DELICIOUS!! We love pesto in this house, but don’t stray too far off the traditional pesto path because it has never gone over well. HOWEVER!!! This stuff is amazing! I thought the beans would make it taste “beany” but it didn’t at all! Just smooth and creamy. I did add double the nutritional yeast and onion salt instead of garlic and salt because it’s what I had on hand. Well done! I’ll be back for more!


Angela (Oh She Glows) May 9, 2018 at 6:11 am

Hey Ginger, Welcome! :) So glad you were referred to the blog. And thanks for trying out this recipe…I had forgotten about it, but I have it on my list to make again soon! I remember loving it too :)


Jillian Walmsley August 2, 2018 at 6:02 pm

Love it!! I didn’t have white beans, so I just used red kidney beans, instead. The colour was different, of course, but the flavor is amazing!!


Whitney August 19, 2018 at 11:44 pm

I’d love the recipe for the cheeze spread, but the link doesn’t lead anywhere. is that fixable? PS: I’m obsessed with this pesto. Thank you!


Angela (Oh She Glows) August 23, 2018 at 5:07 pm

Hey Whitney, So glad you love this pesto so much! :)
I’m so sorry about those links not working. It was linking to an old recipe database (recipage) that we no longer use. I’ll talk to Eric about where those recipes are now. It’s been a while!
In the meantime, I highly recommend my all-purpose cheese sauce: https://ohsheglows.com/2017/11/08/all-purpose-vegan-cheese-sauce/ It’s my fave!


Jaimee August 21, 2018 at 12:37 pm

So…. I didn’t drain the beans first. I’m guessing that was where I went wrong…. :(


Angela (Oh She Glows) August 21, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Oh no, that’s a bummer! I am sorry to hear that. I hope next time it goes better and you enjoy it :)


Andrea October 18, 2018 at 6:05 am

So it’s kind of like a mayo consistency? Other than the sandwhich (which looks delish!) how else do you use these spreads?


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