Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto

Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto in a small bowl with a spoonful ready to be spread and tossed with your next meal
Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto - easy, nut free, & vegan

I have been crazy about pesto this summer. I have been putting it on everything pizza, pasta, sandwiches, vegetables. It is so versatile and so freaking easy to make. My Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto takes only a few ingredients and takes almost no time put together.

Now traditional pesto is made with pine nuts but have you ever seen the price of pine nuts at the grocery store. Yeah ridiculous right?! So I have always been a little hesitant to make my own until I was in a pinch lately, a sandwich emergency and I needed more pesto. So I had a bunch of basil but no pine nuts but a ton of sunflower seeds!

The results AMAZING! Since I made the Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto the one time I have been making it on a weekly basis. The sunflower seeds give it a really beautiful smooth consistency that I don’t think you can achieve using nuts. Plus pesto couldn’t be easier to make.

You’ll start out with a large bunch or two of basil and you’ll want to remove and measure the leaves. The recipe calls from 2 cups but a little more or less isn’t going to hurt anything. When I measure out my leaves I would say I loosely pack the basil into my measuring cup. I pack them in there but not so much that I’m squishing and breaking the leaves.

Next you’ll want a couple of cloves of fresh garlic. Because this recipe calls for a lot of fresh ingredients I would recommend using fresh full cloves opposed to the pre-minced garlic you can buy in jars (I’m usually all about easy but this recipe is so much better with the fresh stuff). And because this doesn’t make a ton of sauce I like 2 larger cloves in this recipe, when I tried more the garlic started to overpower the basil.

Next the smooth sunflower seeds. I use raw unsalted seeds. I haven’t tried it with roasted or salted but I imagine that it would change the recipe quite a bit. The roasting would change the flavor and consistency of the seeds and if you use salted the pesto might become too salty.

(Side note: I have learned over the past few years to always go for the unsalted varieties whether it’s nuts, seeds, or butters because that way you have full control of your salt content. Basically you can always add more salt if it needs it but you can’t remove the salt once it’s already in there.)

Lemon juice, this little bit of acid definitely helps round out the flavors big time!

And coming back to salt (& pepper) I add just a quick dash of both in. Just a dash because I love the freshness of this sauce and I don’t want my salt and pepper overpowering that freshness.

All of these above ingredients will be added to your food processor (or high powered blender).

Sunflower Seeds, Basil, and garlic in a food processor, waiting to be made into sunflower seed basil pesto

Lastly the ever so important to Pesto, Olive Oil. I am going to give a quick (in no way sponsored, just loved) pitch for California Olive Ranch. This is hands down my favorite Olive Oil you can buy in the grocery store. A lot of Olive Oil’s these days are actually sometimes mixed and cut with other oils or are sourced from different countries. California Olive Ranch is 100% Olive Oil all from California sourced olives. Plus in my personal opinion it’s also one of the best tasting.

Okay so Olive Oil. The recipe calls for ~1/3 cup. You might use less but most likely a little bit more. You’ll drizzle in the olive oil from the top opening while the machine is running until you get to a consistency you like.

freshly made sunflower seed basil pesto in the food processor

Boom. Done. You have your own homemade Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto. Ready to be slathered over sandwiches and tossed with pastas, cooked into pizzas and for adding flavor to soups. Look for some upcoming recipes featuring pesto or check out my Prosciutto Pesto Burger for some instant pesto usage!

freshly made sunflower seed basil pesto in a measuring cup

{Also wanted to give a PESTO PARTY shout out for my The Office fans. Season 7 am I right?!?}

My mom makes the best pesto in the world. And I always tell her, “Mom you should sell this. You’d make a fortune.” And she always says, “No. It’s just for family.” Well, finally I was like **** it, I’ll sell it. So I’m like, “Mom, I need you to make a ton of pesto for a pesto party for all my friends.” She’s like, “Oh, okay.” Pesto party, really? Anyway, she makes like a hundred bottles worth. It’s so good. And Phyllis just had that Mom look I wanted.

-Ryan, Season 7 ‘Garage Sale’

{Pretty sure I could come up with a relatable The Office or Parks and Rec quote for every post I do… why am I so obsessed?}

Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto in a small bowl


• You might have to stop your machine occasionally to scrape the pesto off the sides of the processor, keep adding oil and scraping down until you get the consistency you want

• You can add parmesan or romano cheese if you are looking for a more classic pesto

• Keep your Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto sealed in an airtight container in the fridge, after some time sitting the pesto might become darker in color and need to be stired again, this is normal

Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto Recipe

Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto Recipe

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

an easy nut free and vegan pesto made at home with sunflower seeds and basil leaves


  • 2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, or a little more for consistency


  1. Add basil, sunflower seeds, garlic, lemon juice, and salt & pepper to taste to a food processor or blender.
  2. Start the processor, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the food processor until a sauce forms. It might not be the whole 1/3 cup or it might take more until you get a consistency you like. 
  3. Use immediately or store for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge.


Nutritional data is automated, final nutritional information will depend on ingredients used and any changes made.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 90 Total Fat: 10g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 0mg Carbohydrates: 1g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Protein: 0g
Nutritional data is automated, final nutritional information will depend on ingredients used and any changes made.

Peace & Love

Lauren, The Schmidty Wife

P.S. Looking for more sauce recipes like my Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto? Check out my 5 Minute Pizza Sauce or my Homemade Tzatziki Sauce.

Please note that my links above may be affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. I recommend them because they are helpful, and are companies that I trust, not because of the commissions that I may earn from you using these products.

3 Replies to “Sunflower Seed Basil Pesto”

  1. I recently substituted sunflower seeds as well. Very happy with the results. Great reviews.

  2. Roasted sunflower seeds do work! It actually mimics a nut this way. Love your Office flashbacks!

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