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Basil Sunflower Seed Pesto

If you’re looking for a nut-free and budget-friendly twist on the traditional pesto, this basil sunflower seed pesto is the one. Versatile and bursting with the taste of summer, it’s perfect for a variety of meals. Whether tossed with your favorite pasta, spread on sandwiches, or used as a dressing for quick salads, this easy homemade pesto adds extra flavor to any dish.

Basil sunflower seed pesto in small glass jar on wooden board next to sunflower seeds, a golden spoon, basil, and a lemon.
Table of contents

Why you’ll love my sunflower seed pesto recipe

During my studies, I came up with many ways of saving money by cooking from scratch or finding cheaper ingredients without compromising on taste. This sunflower seed pesto is a great example but that’s not the only reason why I love this recipe:

Nut-Free: Perfect for those with a nut allergy or looking for a nut-free pesto recipe for school lunches.

Versatile: This sunflower seed basil pesto can be used in various dishes, from pasta sauces, and dips to salad dressings, adding a burst of fresh basil flavor to your meals.


Ingredients needed to make sunflower seed pesto.
  • Sunflower seeds: Use unsalted sunflower seeds for the base of this pesto. 
  • Basil: Opt for fresh basil leaves for the best flavor. 
  • Parmesan: Grated parmesan cheese adds a savory kick to the pesto. For a vegan option, substitute with nutritional yeast.
  • Olive Oil: Choose a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil for its rich flavor.
  • Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves are essential for that classic pesto taste. Alternatively, garlic powder can be used.
  • Lemon: Fresh lemon juice and zest brighten up the pesto.
  • Salt & pepper: Enhance the flavors with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.


  1. Pumpkin seeds: Replace sunflower seeds with toasted pumpkin seeds for a different nutty flavor.
  2. Spice it up: Add some chili flakes or cayenne pepper for a spicy kick.
  3. Sundried tomatoes: Add 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes to add a rich tomato flavor.

How to make basil sunflower seed pesto

Steps 1-4 on how to make sunflower seed pesto.
Steps 5-7 on how to make sunflower seed pesto.
  1. Add sunflower seeds to a pan and toast them on medium heat under close supervision.
  2. Immediately remove them from the pan and place them in a bowl.
  3. Once slightly cooled, add the toasted seeds to the food processor.
  4. Pulse them until they’re finely ground.
  5. Add all other ingredients to the bowl.
  6. Pulse until a thick paste has formed.
  7. While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you have reached your desired consistency.


This homemade basil pesto can be enjoyed in a variety of ways:

  • Pesto pasta sauce: Toss with hot pasta for a quick and flavorful meal and add to rich bolognese-style sauces for extra flavor. My fresh egg noodles are a great match.
  • Dipping: Use as a dip for homemade Turkish bread, crackers, or focaccia.
  • Pesto dressing: Add extra olive oil to create an easy Italian pesto dressing for pasta or quinoa salads or vegetables such as my slow-roasted tomatoes.
  • Spread: Mix with mayonnaise for a delicious sandwich spread.
  • Marinade: Make pesto roasted vegetables or use it as an easy marinade for chicken or seafood.


Can I freeze leftover pesto?

Yes, freeze leftover pesto in ice cube trays for later use. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a plastic wrap-covered mason jar and store in the freezer.

How long does homemade pesto last?

Stored properly in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil on top, homemade pesto can last up to a week in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer. 

For more easy sauces, check out the following recipes:

If you loved this Basil Sunflower Seed Pesto Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating below. Thank you!

Basil sunflower seed pesto in small glass jar on wooden board next to sunflower seeds, a golden spoon, basil, and a lemon.

Basil Sunflower Seed Pesto

Caro Jensen
If you're looking for a nut-free and budget-friendly twist on traditional pesto, this basil sunflower seed pesto is the one. Versatile and bursting with the taste of summer, it's perfect for a variety of meals.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Snack, Staples
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 16 servings
Calories 98 kcal


  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds toasted
  • 1 1/2 cups basil leaves tightly packed
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper ground
  • 1/2 cup olive oil extra virgin


  • Toast raw sunflower seeds on medium heat until golden brown. Transfer them to a small bowl. Wash and dry basil leaves and grate parmesan cheese.
    1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1 1/2 cups basil leaves, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • In the bowl of a food processor or high-speed blender, combine toasted sunflower seeds, basil leaves, grated parmesan, garlic clove, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and black pepper.
    1 garlic clove, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp lemon zest, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • Pulse the ingredients while slowly drizzling in extra virgin olive oil until the desired consistency is reached. 
    1/2 cup olive oil
  • Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Transfer the pesto to an airtight container, covering the top of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to preserve freshness.


Toasting: Roasting the sunflower seeds briefly in the oven or toasting them gently in a pan enhances their nutty flavor – don’t skip this step.
Fresh herbs: Fresh basil is key to this recipe but you can also substitute some of it with baby spinach or arugula if you don’t have enough or are looking to save money.


Calories: 98kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 2gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 87mgPotassium: 40mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 0.2gVitamin A: 145IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 45mgIron: 0.4mg
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