Hello, my wonderful chickpeas! Today’s recipe has been a long time coming, and I’m so excited to finally share it with you. Today we are making The ULTIMATE Vegan Pesto Grilled Cheese! That’s right, I’m bringing you the vegan grilled cheese of your dreams, complete with vegan pesto, vegan cheese sauce, and even some delicious avocado and other veggies thrown in. I’m even including an option to make it oil free if you desire!
I cannot WAIT for you to make this vegan grilled cheese and discover your new obsession. Let’s get into it.
Inspiration for The Ultimate Vegan Pesto Grilled Cheese
Back in my pre-vegan days in college, my college campus had a sandwich shop that made AMAZING pesto grilled cheese. I would order it and add avocado, tomato, and spinach. It was one of my go-to meals and I was completely obsessed. One of my best friends also happened to work at the shop, so when she was working she would pile on extra pesto and toppings for me. Heaven.
When I created my Vegan Cheddar Cheese Sauce earlier this year, I knew exactly what I wanted to do next. I wanted to use it to recreate this nostalgic pesto grilled cheese, but of course make it vegan. I started experimenting and was SO happy with how it came out. It’s cheesy, it’s flavorful, it feels decadent but also has a lot of nutrients packed in. It’s perfect. My husband and I honestly can’t get enough of it, and I hope you love it as much as we do!
This recipe includes a few ingredients that you can choose to either make yourself or buy at the store, so I’ll briefly mention your options here and also talk more about them in the Tips & Tricks section. But once those things are decided and ready to go, the recipe is pretty straight forward! Here’s what we are working with today.
- Sourdough: this is the bread of choice for this recipe because it holds together well for grilled cheese without getting soggy from the pesto, the flavor pairs well with our ingredients, and it’s relatively easy to find vegan-friendly sourdough compared to other breads!
- Vegan butter OR Joyful Balance Easy Vegan Mayo: go with store-bought vegan butter if you want less prep work, or go with the homemade Easy Vegan Mayo if you want to be a bit fancier and/or want an oil free option! I personally like the flavor of the mayo a bit more, but they both work great.
- Joyful Balance Vegan Cheddar Cheese Sauce: This sauce is absolutely perfect for vegan grilled cheese because it’s got those cheddar cheese vibes, but is spreadable and easy to work with.
- Vegan pesto: any pesto should work in this recipe, so choose your favorite! I love using the Basil Lemon Pesto in my free ebook, and it’s also a great option if you are oil free.
- Avocado, tomato, and spinach: these are our vegetable additions! The textures and flavors of these make our sandwich a little more interesting. I especially love the addition of the avocado!
How to Make The Ultimate Vegan Pesto Grilled Cheese
As mentioned above, you will have to prep your cheddar cheese sauce ahead of time, and you may have a couple other things to prep ahead of time depending on the options you take. But the process of putting together your vegan grilled cheese is pretty simple! As always, full recipe at the bottom of the post!
- Add vegan butter or Easy Vegan Mayo to your sourdough slices. Add your bread to a skillet over medium heat and toast until all sides are slightly golden brown.
- Spread Vegan Cheddar Cheese Sauce on each slice of bread. Add vegan pesto to one of these slices, and the veggies to the other. Sandwich the two slices together to make a grilled cheese.
- Add back to your skillet and cook until cheese is slightly melty and the bread darkens just a bit more.
- Remove from the skillet, allow to slightly cool, slice and enjoy!
Tips & Tricks
This one is pretty customizable, so let’s talk about some fun things you could try to make the vegan grilled cheese of your dreams!
- This tip is already built into the recipe itself, but I want to reiterate it here as well. You may notice that some of the ingredients in this recipe give you options – so make those decisions based on what is important to you! If you want this as quick and easy as possible, choose a store-bought vegan butter and a store-bought vegan pesto. If you want to be a little fancier and/or you want an oil free option, try the homemade Easy Vegan Mayo and a homemade vegan pesto instead!
- Not a fan of these particular veggies? No worries, use what you love! I also think caramelized onions would be great on this, or replacing the spinach with arugula could add a whole new fun flavor.
- Looking for more pesto options? As mentioned in the recipe, I typically use the Basil Lemon Pesto from my free ebook. However, my Creamy Vegan Avocado Pesto would also be fun (if you do this you could leave off the additional avocado slices since it’s already incorporated), or you could bring in some slight fall vibes with my Maple Walnut Pesto!
- Looking for something fun to pair this with? You can’t go wrong with grilled cheese & tomato soup, so check out my Coziest Tomato Basil Soup next!
The Ultimate Vegan Pesto Grilled Cheese
This Ultimate Vegan Pesto Grilled Cheese is a vegan dream. It’s the perfect comfort meal but is completely dairy free, and even has some great nutrients thrown in from the pesto and veggies! For an oil free option when making this recipe, I suggest sticking with the Joyful Balance Easy Vegan Mayo in place of vegan butter, and checking out the Basil Lemon Pesto in my free ebook (“Joyful Creations: Your Plant Based Guide to a Better Buddha Bowl”) for the pesto.
*Note that From Start to Finish is an estimate that includes 30 minutes to make your Vegan Cheddar Cheese Sauce, followed by 20 minutes to actually make your grilled cheese. This time assumes that you will be using store-bought vegan butter and store-bought pesto. If you are using homemade options for either of these, you will need to add that to your total time.
2 slices of sourdough (or other bread of choice)
2 tsp Vegan butter OR homemade Joyful Balance Easy Vegan Mayo
1/2 Tbsp vegan pesto of choice (I use the Basil Lemon Pesto in my free ebook)
1/4 medium avocado, sliced
2-3 tomato slices
small handful of spinach
- Bring a nonstick skillet to medium heat
- Toast your bread on the stovetop:
-Add your vegan butter or Easy Vegan Mayo to each side of both slices of bread, using about 1/2 tsp on each side.
-Add both slices of bread to the preheated skillet and toast each side for 2-4 minutes, or until both sides of both slices are slightly golden brown.
-Remove the bread from the skillet.
- Assemble your grilled cheese:
-Add 2-3 Tbsp of the Vegan Cheddar Cheese Sauce to one side of EACH slice of bread (doing this on both slices allows the sandwich to stick together better)
-To one slice of bread: spread your vegan pesto over the Vegan Cheddar Cheese Sauce
-To the OTHER slice of bread: add your avocado slices, tomato slices, and spinach on top of the Vegan Cheddar Cheese Sauce.
-Sandwich your two slices of bread together to assemble your grilled cheese.
- Cook your grilled cheese:
-Add your grilled cheese back to the skillet, still on medium heat.
-Flip as needed, getting the outside of the bread just a bit more golden brown and allowing the cheese sauce to warm up and get slightly melty (for me it usually takes 1-2 minutes per side).
-Remove from the skillet.
- Allow your grilled cheese to cool for just a couple of minutes (this makes the slicing process a bit less messy), and then slice in half and serve!
Stay joyfully balanced!