This pesto recipe without pine nuts uses sunflower seeds for a delicious and inexpensive substitution. It tastes great and you won’t miss the pine nuts.
Sunflower Seed Pesto Sauce
This sunflower seed pesto sauce recipe offers a simple, cost-effect pesto recipe. You can use this pesto sauce recipe as a typical pesto and serve it with pasta. Make it in advance to serve with our other summer garden recipe, Grilled Eggplant with Pesto.
Pesto Recipe without Pine Nuts
Got basil? I know I have fresh basil growing everywhere in my garden. I’ve dried it, frozen it, made jelly with it and enjoyed it fresh, but at some point you either use it, give it away, or do something creative with it.
Hence, this sunflower seed pesto sauce recipe.
Why did I use sunflower seeds instead of the traditional pine nuts? Simple. Cost. I try to be frugal and spending $4 for a small package of pine nuts just to make pesto sauce gave me pause. If you’re looking for a pesto recipe without pine nuts, this one is perfect.
Sunflower Seeds Replace Pine Nuts
Sunflower seeds were available at the dollar store, a large bag for $1. I’ve seen recipes in which other nuts or seeds substitute for sunflower seeds. I really enjoy sunflower seeds and snack on them frequently, so I knew that any leftover seeds would not go to waste. You can use whatever nuts or seeds strike your fancy but sunflower seeds gave this pesto sauce recipe a rich flavor that blended well with other foods.
Blending it until it was smooth was a challenge. I think that with mosts pesto sauce recipes, the pine nuts are actually easier to blend. Sunflower seeds are so small that I had to pass the recipe several times through my blender first on low then on high speed.
Finally, I had a pesto I liked – a little chunky and bursting with flavor. And it’s a pesto recipe without pine nuts – inexpensive, highly nutritious, and tasty.
If you’d like to make this sunflower seed pesto sauce recipe, cover it tightly and place it in the refrigerator ahead of time before making my special Grilled Eggplant with Pesto Sauce recipe. Talk about a recipe just bursting with the flavors of summer!
This article was written in September 2018 and updated for better readability, and with improved links and images, in September 2021.
Sunflower Seed Pesto Sauce Recipe
- 4 cups cleaned, fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds buy them without shells
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- water as needed
- Place basil leaves, olive oil, garlic and sunflower seeds in a blender.
- Working carefully, blend on low speed until leaves are chopped. You might need to stop and smash down the leaves with a spoon. Make sure you are safe and unplug the blender when you do this.
- Puree until smooth, adding water as needed to smooth out the pesto sauce.
- Add cheese and blend on “smoothie” or “puree” speed.
- Pour finished pesto into container with tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator until use.
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.