Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto


I’m back at it with pesto again!

To be honest, I never make traditional pesto anymore. Like I’m talking your classic pine nut, parmesan cheese, garlic, basil pesto. It hasn’t happened in years. I stopped buying pine nuts back in college because, well, they’re freakin’ expensive, and I don’t like to use cheese because, frankly, I’ve never really liked it and my boyfriend is mostly dairy-free. So I’ve taken to making other kinds of pesto that I feel are even more delicious. I’m not biased or anything 😉


Sunflower Seed Pesto Pasta {pumpkin & peanut butter}


My first anti-traditional pesto love was this Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto that I experimented with wayyyyy back before my blogging days. I’m still convinced that this recipe was the one that got me to finally take the plunge into blogging because I wanted to share it that much! My next love was this Cilantro Cashew Pesto—- creamy, yet bright and fresh with my favorite herb in the spotlight, right where it belonged. Mmmm I still can’t decide between those two.

But it was time to experiment again. And why not go with the most out-of-the-box route and use sunflower seeds as the base for my luscious vegan sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I was very skeptical at first, but as soon as I poured it on my big bowl of brown rice fusilli, I was a believer.

What’s your favorite kind of pesto? Have you used any out-of-the-box ingredients in your pesto?


Sunflower Seed Pesto Pasta {pumpkin & peanut butter}

Sunflower Seed Pesto Pasta {pumpkin & peanut butter}

Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto

Serves 6-8
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian


  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper


Step 1
In a food processor or high speed blender, puree basil leaves and garlic cloves until finely chopped. Add in sunflower seeds, salt, pepper, and lemon juice and blend until seeds are broken down quite a bit.
Step 2
Drizzle in 1/2 cup of olive oil and blend pesto until all ingredients are combined and it has reached your desired consistency. I like my pesto a little chunkier, but if you want a thinner pesto, add some more olive oil to taste.
Step 3
Pour the pesto over 16 oz of cooked pasta (I used brown rice fusilli), stir, and enjoy!


Hi, I’m Liz and this is my food blog where I share my love of healthy foods and whole ingredients. You will find mostly vegetarian dishes, plenty of sweets, and lots of love from this little kitchen in Durham, North Carolina!


  1. I totally agree on pine nuts being waaaayyyy to expensive. Sunflower seeds on the other hand are crazy cheap. This pesto looks delicious. I love making them myself too. Great nut-free version 🙂

    • Thanks Vanessa! Definitely a lot cheaper and you don’t lose ANY of the flavor!

  2. I’ve used sunflower seeds too for my Wild Garlic Pesto! You’re so right on pine nuts being expensive. Sunflower seeds are such a great alternative. I’ll be trying out your version when my basil plant finally takes off 🙂
    By the way, I love your blog! The header is so pretty!

    • I’ll have to check out your wild garlic pesto— that sounds delicious! Definitely a much cheaper option. I’m so glad you like the blog 🙂 Thanks so much!

  3. Great recipe. I wanted to let you know of some alterations I made that came out great. I used sprouted pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower seeds (mostly because they were all I had) and added a quarter of an avocado to add a little creaminess. Thanks for the recipe!!!

    • Love those alterations! I’ve never even thought to try pumpkin seeds yet (but NEED to now) and I’m loving the fact that you added in a little avocado. Genius! Thanks so much for sharing… I love hearing feedback and new ideas 🙂

  4. I’ve just made this, and it looks great. How long does it keep for in the fridge?

    • I’ve kept it in my fridge for 3-4 days. I’ve also made a big batch and frozen it before, and that turned out great as well!

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