Hemp Seed Pesto, a twist on traditional pesto using hemp seeds instead of pine nuts. This nut-free pesto has only 7 ingredients, is vegan-friendly, and comes together in only 5 minutes!
Are you a pesto lover that can’t eat nuts? We’ve got you covered! Making pesto nut-free is easy by simply replacing pine nuts with other nuts or seeds — and we like getting creative by using hemp seeds!
👉 Here’s why you’ll LOVE this pesto with hemp seeds:
- It’s nut-free. Traditional pesto sauce uses pine nuts, which is not suitable for people with tree nut allergies. Using hemp seeds makes this recipe allergen-friendly!
- It’s simple. You only need 7 simple ingredients and a food processor or blender to whip up this pesto sauce. Easy peasy.
- It’s nutrition-packed pesto. Hemp seeds are a nutrition powerhouse — they are packed with plant-based protein and healthy fats, and are high in vitamins and minerals.
Want to learn how to make this nut-free pesto with hemp seeds? Let us show you how!
- Basil: There many basil varieties, but pesto is typically made with sweet basil (the type you’ll find in most grocery stores). Pick basil with bright green leaves and no dark spots. If purchased ahead of time, store basil in a glass of water in your refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Hemp seeds: Hemp seeds are the seeds of the hemp plant. They are small in size and have a soft texture and nutty flavor. Sometimes referred to as “hemp hearts”, hemp seeds are highly nutritious. They are high in plant-based protein, are good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are good sources of vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and zinc (USDA Food Nutrient Database).
- Cheese or nutritional yeast: Traditionally pesto is made with Parmesan or pecorino cheese, but you can also substitute it for nutritional yeast (sometimes called nooch). Nooch is a vegan cheese alternative made from deactivated yeast that has a savory, cheesy flavor. It looks like yellow flakes, but can also be found as a powder. Nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamin B12, which is a nutrient often lacking in vegan diets.
- Olive oil: Using a good oil is imperative since it adds flavor to your pesto. But it is also used to coat all the ingredients and to bring your pesto together as a liquid instead of a thick puree.
- Garlic, salt, and pepper: Keep your pesto seasoning basic and use it to enhance the flavors of the pesto, not overpower.
- Optional ingredients: We always recommend finishing your pesto with lemon juice to intensify the natural flavors.
🥣 How to make (step-by-step photos)
1️⃣ Step One: Wash + prep the basil
First, gently clean any dirt from the basil by running under cold water. You can do this up to 4 days in advance and then store in a wet paper towel in a zip lock bag in your refrigerator.
Dry the basil by laying it flat and pressing it between two kitchen towels or using a salad spinner.
2️⃣ Step Two: Blend the greens, hemp seeds, garlic, and oil
Next add the basil, hemp seeds, and garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse until combined.
As you’re pulsing the ingredients, drizzle in olive oil and continue to pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped and coated in oil.
3️⃣ Step Three: Add nutritional yeast, spices, and lemon juice
Finally, add in the remaining ingredients and taste. Adjust any seasonings as needed to meet your preferences.
♻️ Storage + freezing
Pesto is a great make-ahead recipe that can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to use it. Pesto will keep for:
- Refrigerator: 1 week in a airtight container
- Freezer: 4-6 months in a sealed freezer-safe container
👉 Pro pesto tip: For best results, store your pesto in an airtight container and drizzle a layer of olive oil poured over the top to prevent the pesto from browning.
❓ Questions + quick tips
Hemp hearts are the hulled part of hemp seeds, thought most people use the terms hemp hearts and hemp seeds interchangeably. The seeds of the hemp plant have a hard outer shell, and when they’ve been hulled (or the shell is removed) what’s left is the soft, chewy heart of the seed.
Hemp seeds, sometimes referred to as hemp hearts, are the soft inner heart of the hulled hemp seed. They have a savory, nutty flavor and a soft, chewy texture that makes them great inside sauces, smoothies, or as a sprinkled topping on salads or other dishes.
Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, which is a tree nut that is not suitable for people with tree nut allergies. Pesto sauce can be made nut-free by substituting seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, or hemp, or by using beans or pulses like white beans or chickpeas.
💚 More nut-free pesto recipes
We hope you LOVE this hemp seed pesto recipe! If you’re looking for more nut-free pesto ideas, we’ve got you covered:
Looking for more alternative pesto recipes? Try substituting basil for pesto with carrot tops, pesto with radish leaves, or pesto with beet greens. Or try a plant-based pesto like Vegan Kale Pesto, Vegan Parsley Pesto, or Vegan Cilantro Pesto. The pesto possibilities are endless!
Hemp Seed Pesto Recipe
- 2 cups basil
- ⅓ cup hemp seeds
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup cheese or nutritional yeast
- 1 pinch salt and pepper
- Optional: squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- Wash and prep the basil: First, gently clean any dirt from the basil by running under cold water. You can do this up to 4 days in advance and then store in a wet paper towel in a zip lock bag in your refrigerator. Dry the basil by laying it flat and pressing it between two kitchen towels or using a salad spinner.
- Blend the greens, hemp seeds, garlic, and oil: Next, add the basil, hemp seeds, and garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse. As you're pulsing the ingredients, drizzle in olive oil and continue to pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped and coated in oil.
- Add cheese, spices, and lemon juice: Finally, add in the remaining ingredients and taste. Adjust any seasonings as needed to meet your preferences.
- Make it vegan: Make this pesto recipe vegan by using dairy-free parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.
- Tools needed: food processor or blender, knife set, cutting board
- Prep ahead: Make this simple pesto up to 2-3 days before serving, or freeze until ready to use.
- Leftovers and storage: Leftover pesto should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days, and in the freezer for up to 2 months (possibly longer).
- Nutrition notes: This recipe made as written (with vegan cheese and hemp seeds) is plant-based, gluten-free, and nut-free. It is a good source of plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fats.