Tahini Pesto Tofu Salad

This tahini pesto tofu salad uses an untraditional pesto sauce rich in basil and tahini. The perfect pairing for a lite summery tofu salad.

Pesto coated tofu salad with rice.

I adore pesto. It’s my go to for a lot of meals and so easy to blend together. Traditional pesto sauces typically use a combo of basil, garlic, lemon, pine nuts, Parmesean cheese and olive oil. Inspiration from these ingredients led me to experimenting with a new combo that is a little more budget friendly, dairy free, and uses tahini in place of the olive oil. The combo is still robust in garlicky basil flavor and still gets a nice umami kick even though there is no cheese involved. Perfect base sauce to add to pasta, salads or even as a way to flavor your favorite proteins.

Pesto mixing up in food processor.

The idea for this pesto combo actually started when I was visiting my mother in law over the weekend. She had pan fried some tofu and tossed it with some fresh tomatoes, garlic, red onion, lemon and basil. Honestly, couldn’t stop eating! The combined flavors of the garlic, basil and lemon made me think heavily about pesto. Luckily, since she’s been growing so much basil, she sent us home with it, and that’s how this recipe came to be!

Jar of tahini pesto with spoon ready to serve.

Is pesto healthy? 

Pesto traditionally is made using a fair amount of extra virgin olive oil. The oil itself is high in antioxidants and since it is a fat, it aids in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (think vitamins like A, D, E, etc). While I see no issue using extra virgin olive oil, I really love using tahini in this sauce for a number of reasons. I love the flavor of tahini and it pairs really nicely with the acid from the lemon juice and garlic in this dish. It also happens to include more fiber and additional minerals like calcium. Alternatively, you could also sub out the tahini with a ripe avocado. Any of these three sources of fat can help improve overall nutrition and have their own unique benefits.

Mixing bowl with pesto tofu.

Ingredients for making tahini pesto

  • Basil: Abundant in antioxidants and the main profile flavor that makes pesto delicious.
  • Tahini: This is our replacement for oil. Make sure you grab a good quality tahini that is nice smooth, creamy and is not bitter. I love tahini from Soom Foods in particular.
  • Nutritional Yeast: This is our replacement for cheese in this dish. It offers a nice umami flavor and has a slight nutty, cheese like flavor.
  • Lemon: Helps to freshen up the sauce while also lending a nice tang.
  • Garlic: Provides a nice sharp and savory taste to the sauce. Garlic just makes everything taste really good.
  • Pepitas: A great replacement for pine nuts that is more affordable and adds another healthy fat to our list. You can also opt for other neutral tasting nuts and seeds like walnuts or sunflower seeds.

Up close mixing bowl with pesto tofu salad.

How to make Tahini Pesto Tofu Salad

  1. Add tahini pesto ingredients into a food processor and blend until mostly smooth. Add additional water depending on your preferred consistency of your pesto sauce.
  2. Drain and press tofu. Either lightly bake or pan fry tofu if desired or feel free to leave unbaked. Set aside and allow to completely cool.
  3. Dice up tomatoes and onions then add these ingredients to a bowl along with your tofu.
  4. Squeeze with lemon juice and lemon zest then toss to combine.
  5. Add your desired amount of pesto and toss until salad is fully coated. Then serve.

Plate with tofu salad with pesto and rice from the side.

Tips for making Tahini Pesto Tofu Salad

  • Because of the tahini in the pesto sauce, when you refrigerate your sauce, it will get a little thicker. If you wish to thin it out for future use, just add a small amount of water and mix together or allow sauce to come to room temperature.
  • If you want to save time making your salad, use super firm tofu, which will save you time from having to drain and press your tofu. Just remove from packaging, cut, and use as desired.
  • You can serve your tofu salad as is, or feel free to pair with things like extra greens, chickpeas, lentils or rice.

Pesto coated tofu salad with rice.

More Sauces to make

Tofu salad from side view.

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Up close mixing bowl with pesto tofu salad.

Tahini Pesto Tofu Salad

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: American


This tahini pesto tofu salad uses an untraditional pesto sauce rich in basil and tahini. The perfect pairing for a lite summery tofu salad.



Tahini Pesto

  • 2 cups fresh basil (loosely packed)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 5 cloves garlic (crushed and peeled)
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/41/2 cup cold water
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Tahini Pesto Tofu Salad

  • 1 block extra firm or super firm tofu (press and drain extra firm tofu to remove excess water)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved )
  • 1/4 small red onion (finely diced)
  • 1/4 cup pesto sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon


Tahini Pesto Sauce

  1. In a food processor, add all ingredients except water in and process until basil is chunky.
  2. Add in 1/4 cup water and blend on high to smooth out the sauce. If too thick, add remaining water and process until mostly smooth.
  3. Store sauce in a jar in a fridge for up to 4-5 days.

Preparing Baked Tofu (Optional)**

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. If using extra firm tofu, make sure to drain and press some of the water out before handling.
  2. Cut your block of tofu as desired. Season as desired, I just went with a little salt.
  3. Place tofu on a lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for at least 20 minutes. Remove tofu from oven and allow to completely cool.

Assembling Salad

  1. In a mixing bowl add in tofu, sliced cherry tomatoes, and red onions.
  2. Toss to mix and then squeeze lemon juice over top.
  3. Add lemon zest and then give mixture a nice toss to combine.
  4. Add recommended amount of pesto sauce and mix together carefully with a spatula.
  5. Adjust amount of sauce, adding more if desired until salad is coated to your liking.
  6. Serve salad as is or chill in fridge until ready to serve.


  • You can leave your tofu plain and unbaked to save time. The sauce should add enough flavor to make the tofu tasty.
  • If you don’t like the taste of tahini, you can replace with 1/2 to 1 full avocado avocado. 

Did You Try This Recipe?
Then let me know what you thought! Share your creations by tagging me on Instagram with the hashtag #plantbasedrdeats


This tahini pesto tofu salad uses an untraditional pesto sauce rich in basil and tahini. The perfect pairing for a lite summery tofu salad.
This tahini pesto tofu salad uses an untraditional pesto sauce rich in basil and tahini. The perfect pairing for a lite summery tofu salad.


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