Pesto Fried Rice with Vegetables (Vegan)

GFGluten Free

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This Pesto Fried Rice is loaded with colorful summer veggies and coated in a herby basil pesto. A tasty, fuss-free dish that’s ready in less than 30 mins! Vegan & Gluten-Free.

Say hello to my new favorite summer dish—Pesto Fried Rice! It’s fragrant, herby, and packed with color from all of the bright summer vegetables. The final flavors are all that of a delicious veggie fried rice with a slight reminiscence of pesto risotto, but dry and crispy, rather than creamy in texture. I promise you’ll savor every grain of this toasty, pesto-coated rice.

Close up photo of pesto fried rice with colorful cooked tomatoes in a small white bowl topped with pine nuts and a gold fork

INGREDIENTS + INSPIRATION

Fried Rice is a staple in many Asian cultures, but its origins are rooted in China (for more historical info, go check out this post!). This exciting variation is more of an Asian-Italian fusion recipe— combining crispy, fragrant rice with buttery basil pesto and all the colorful veggies of summer!

Ingredients for pesto fried rice in small white bowls on a marble countertop. Clockwise ingredient labels read garlic, zucchini, pesto, peas, basil, oil, tomatoes, brown or white rice, spinach, and kalamata olives

We’ll be using my Nut-Free Vegan Pesto recipe for this dish, but if you’d like to use store-bought pesto you can as well. I chose to use short-grain brown rice when making this because I like the hearty, “beady” texture it brings 🙂 But long-grain brown rice, short or long-grain white rice, or even quinoa would be delicious for this recipe! Each of them brings a slightly different texture and heartiness, so you can choose based on your preference.

You can also customize the mix of veggies in this recipe to your liking, so feel free to get creative here! One more tip for fried rice perfection: I like to cook the grains the night before and leave them in the fridge to achieve that dry & crispy restaurant-level fried rice.

HOW TO MAKE PESTO FRIED RICE WITH VEGETABLES

two side-by-side photos of pan toasted brown rice and completed pesto fried rice

In traditional fried rice, the rice is kept in the pan while the other vegetables cook. But because summer veggies (especially tomatoes and zucchini) are very water-heavy, we’ll give the rice a quick rest on the side while we cook up our veggies to make sure we don’t end up with soggy grains. It may sound like a lot of work, but don’t worry, this fuss-free recipe is ready in just 4 easy steps:

  1. Heat some oil in a pan, then add the rice and toast, stirring every few minutes to ensure the rice gets brown. Season with salt, then remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Sauté the garlic and pesto,  then, add the cherry tomatoes and sauté. Add the zucchini, olives, and ½ tsp of salt, and sauté until the extra liquid has cooked off. 
  3. Return the rice to the pan, along with the peas and remaining pesto and stir well. Fold in the spinach and cook until it is wilted.
  4. Transfer to serving plates, top with fresh basil, pine nuts, and/or red chili flakes, and enjoy

Close up photo of cooked pesto fried rice in large sauté pan with a gray spatula.

This Pesto Fried Rice with Vegetables is the whole package—perfect on its own for lunch or dinner, or alongside something “meaty” like Crispy Tofu or Tempeh, or keep it simple with some white beans! And because fried rice makes the ultimate leftover food, you can feel free to keep any leftovers in the fridge to enjoy for up to 4 days. You could even make a large batch to have prepped and ready to go for yummy meals throughout the week 🙂

Close up photo of pesto fried rice with colorful cooked tomatoes in a small white bowl topped with pine nuts and a gold fork

If you’re looking for more Asian-inspired recipes, you’ll also love this Kimchi Fried Rice, this Garlic Ramen Noodle Stir Fry, and this Vegan “Beef” & Broccoli (Better Than Takeout)!

Finally, if you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook or Instagram, don’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I love seeing your delicious recreations 🙂

Print

Pesto Fried Rice with Vegetables

Pesto Fried Rice with Tomatoes, olives, spinach and pine nuts in large sauté pan on marble background

This Pesto Fried Rice is loaded with colorful summer veggies and coated in a herby basil pesto. A tasty, fuss-free dish that’s ready in less than 30 mins! Vegan & Gluten-Free.

  • Author: Caitlin Shoemaker
  • Prep Time: 5 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 Minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon high-heat cooking oil, divided
  • 4 cups (500 g) cooked day-old white or brown rice*
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) Vegan Nut-Free Pesto, divided; or use store-bought
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 ounces (280 g) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1012 kalamata olives, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 small zucchini, quartered and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup (145 g) thawed frozen peas
  • 2 ounces (55 g) baby spinach
  • Optional Toppings: pine nuts, fresh basil, and/or red chili flakes

Instructions

  1. Toast the Rice: Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Cook for 8 to 9 minutes, stirring only every 2 to 3 minutes to make sure the rice gets nicely browned and toasty. Season with a pinch of salt, then remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Cook the Veggies: Reduce the heat to medium-high, then warm the remaining teaspoon of oil in the pan. Add 2 tablespoons of pesto along with the garlic and sauté for 45 to 60 seconds, until the pesto turns bright green. Then, add the cherry tomatoes and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the zucchini, olives, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, then sauté for an additional 5 to 6 minutes, until most of the extra liquid cooks off.
  3. Add the Rice: return the rice to the pan, along with the peas and pesto. Stir well, then reduce the heat to low. Fold in the spinach and cook until the spinach has wilted and the rice is warm. Season with additional salt, if necessary.
  4. Serve: Transfer the rice to serving plates and top with fresh basil, pine nuts, and/or red chili flakes. Serve warm; leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Notes

  • Rice: I chose to use short-grain brown rice for this recipe, but long grain brown rice, white rice, or even quinoa will work as well! It’s best to cook the grains the night before and leave them in the fridge overnight; this helps them to dry out some, and results in a crispier end product.
  • Oil-Free: omit toasting the rice (the end product will be less crispy) and make this Avocado Pesto (or the Kale Pesto from my cookbook!) instead.
  • Veggies: feel free to add in (or take away) the veggies listed, based on what you have in your kitchen!

Keywords: pesto fried rice, pesto recipes, pesto rice recipes, vegan pesto recipes

About the Author

Hey there, I’m Caitlin! I make easy-to-follow, wholesome, and budget-friendly vegan recipes that are mostly gluten-free and refined sugar-free. I’m also an avid yogi, love the great outdoors, am chocolate-obsessed, and enjoy eating almond butter straight off of the spoon.

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Comments

  1. Just made this tonight and wow… so great!! I swapped out the olives for mushrooms, and they worked wonderfully. Super easy, and my non-vegan family members loved it too. Definitely will add this to the monthly rotation 🙂

  2. Made this tonight and loved it! I used Trader Joe’s vegan pesto and added vegan sausage as well. My non-vegan boyfriend kept sneaking bites so that’s how you know it’s good!!😍

  3. Tried this one tonight! Has great flavour and very easy to make! Another hit! Swapped chopped roma tomatoes for the cherry tomatoes, and topped with some vegan parm and chili flakes! Delish!