Superfood Pesto


Pesto gets a health boost with this seed-rich version of the Italian sauce.

Superfood Pesto
Photo: Caitlin Bensel
Hands On Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
15 mins
1 1/2 cups

This easy pesto recipe with a healthful twist combines ingredients from the famous pesto alla Genovese—basil, Parmesan, and garlic—with an abundance of seeds rather than the traditional pine nuts. Sunflower, hemp, and flax come together in a symphony of flavors ranging from nutty to spicy to buttery. Not only do the range of seeds blend right into the flavor of beloved pesto, but they're also more affordable than pricey pine nuts. Use your best olive oil for this recipe since it forms the base of the sauce. And no need to blanch the basil for super-green pesto, it stays bright thanks to the lemon, just give it a good stir and let it come up to room temperature for a few minutes before using and serving. Vegan tip: skip the Parmesan and use nutritional yeast instead.


  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves (from a 4-oz. bunch), torn

  • ¼ cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds

  • 3 tablespoons hemp seeds

  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 2 Tbsp. fresh juice (from 1 lemon)

  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

  • freshly ground black pepper

  • ¾ cup olive oil


  1. Place basil, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, cheese, flaxseed, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, and several grinds of pepper in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped, about 10 pulses. With machine running, gradually add oil, stopping to scrape sides and bottom of bowl as needed, until smooth, about 1 minute. Alternatively, process mixture in a large bowl using an immersion blender.

  2. Transfer pesto to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes; stir before using.

To Freeze

Transfer pesto to ice cube trays, cover, and freeze overnight. Remove frozen pesto cubes from trays and put in a reusable zip-top bag or storage container. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Stellar Sunflower Seeds

These cute kernels make a great snack, and they're also a smart swap for nuts in all sorts of recipes—even if no one in your house has a nut allergy. With a pleasant crunch and mild flavor, these babies boast outsize nutritional benefits: They're rich in antioxidants, which protect cells against free-radical damage, and high in vitamin E, which can help reduce the risk of inflammation. Sunny seeds indeed!

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