Vegan Pesto with Asparagus, Peas, Onions and Quinoa

by amanda

Matt and I were home all day, working (him), and online-ordering Father’s Day and birthday gifts and trolling for new recipes (me), when I came across a recipe in one of my Google Alerts for “vegan recipes” (yes – that is a thing) for vegan pesto on Food52. Now I had never made pesto, but when I realized that I already had most everything I needed, and that it would go perfectly with the farmer’s market veggies I was planning on using for dinner, I decided it was meant to be.

Before coming across the pesto recipe, my dinner goal was to create a bowl of sorts with asparagus, onions, quinoa and some blue potatoes that I had on hand. There are few meals I love more than a mixed bowl with a grain, veggies and some sort of delicious sauce, so this was great.

My first go at the pesto was delicious…except for the chunks of plastic that got processed into it when I used Matt’s multi-purpose food mixer/processor contraption that had some sort of plastic safety guard around the blades that we didn’t realize had to be removed. I tried picking out all the plastic and thought maybe I could save it, but Matt convinced me that eating pesto with shards of plastic was probably not the best idea. So I threw it out, went back to the store for more basil, and started over.

Note: This pesto is delicious. I would caution you against using too much lemon, and I would go with the walnuts vs. the pine nuts. I used up all the walnuts I had for the first go, so I resorted to the pine nuts I had in stock for the second. I liked (amidst the bits of plastic) the heartiness of the walnuts more, and the slightly crunchy texture it provided. I reduced the oil to a quarter cup, rather than half, which I found to be plenty enough. Next time I’ll try adding cayenne, or even some curry powder to switch up the flavor.

Recipe: Sauteed Asparagus, Peas and Onions with Quinoa and Vegan Pesto

Servings: 1 hungry lady. I ate all this myself, except I only used half the pesto.

Prep time: 20 minutes, including quinoa

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Pesto, as adapted from Gena Hamshaw’s recipe on Food52

2 cups basil

1/2 cup walnuts (can use pine nuts, or even try another nut if you’re feeling adventurous! I almost tried almonds. If you’re nut-free, I bet pumpkin seeds would be delicious.)

1 to 2 cloves garlic – extra is never bad

1/4 cup olive oil

Sea salt or Herbamare and fresh ground pepper

1/2 lemon, juiced

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 pound (about 10-15 spears) of asparagus, chopped into quarters

1 small onion

1/4 cup frozen peas

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/4 cup dry quinoa

To make the pesto:

Follow the directions per Gena’s recipe on Food52. You can make it right before, or make it ahead of time and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it, like I did.


I make a big batch of quinoa every Sunday and replenish it as I use it throughout the week. It’s the basis for much of what I eat, so I find that keeping it on hand is really helpful.

Put 1/4 cup dry quinoa and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan.* Let it come to a boil, lower the heat to simmer and cover. Once all the water has disappeared, after about 20-25 minutes, and the quinoa is fluffy and sprouted, remove from heat and set aside.

*The ratio for cooking quinoa is 1 part quinoa, 2 parts water. So if you’d like some leftover, double it, or even make a full cup. It keeps well in the fridge for about 5 days.


Chop onions into big chunks (no teary dicing here) and saute with a tablespoon of coconut oil* and 1-2 cloves of garlic. Saute them at medium heat, and once the onions begin to carmelize add the asparagus and peas. Saute for 15 minutes, being sure to constantly stir and move around with a spatula. I checked the veggies throughout and added salt and pepper to taste – by which I mean I ate half of them while they were cooking and continued salting the rest. Once the veggies have reached a desired consistency (I love carmelized, slightly burnt veggies, although I recognize that’s not everyone’s taste) take them off the heat, mix into the quinoa and top with a heaping dollop (1/2 cup, in my case) of pesto. Mix together thoroughly and enjoy.



*Olive oil should actually not be cooked with in high heat. It has a low smoke point, and the benefits of olive oil actually degrade once it reaches a certain temperature. Take a look at this oil guide to help you figure out which oils are best for the type of cooking you’re doing. I stay clear of canola oil and vegetable oil because these are commonly made with GMO corn (genetically modified organisms) and can be quite toxic. Although I try to buy everything organic when possible, it’s very important to buy organic oil. Whole Foods doesn’t use any GMOs in their house line, and their house oils are quite reasonably priced.

Food fun: Here’s a new restaurant that just opened up in Union Square that I’m excited to try.