Sunflower Basil Pesto


Sunflower Basil Pesto

Pesto is one of those things that is almost never vegan. About 99% of the time a store bought or restaurant made pesto will contain some sort of dairy. I used to be able to find a really delicious vegan artichoke pesto when I was San Francisco, but I haven’t been able to find it at any of the stores I go to in New York. Because of this I decided to create my own basil pesto that could be the base for many other recipes including pesto vinaigrette, pesto pizza and pesto pasta. Instead of using pine nuts I used raw sunflower seeds, which give pesto the same texture, but are not quite as expensive.

I would consider this more of a summer recipe since it calls for fresh basil, but I’m sure you can buy fresh basil at other times of the year I just never have. An important thing to note about using fresh basil to make pesto is that basil oxidizes rather quickly so the top layer of pesto will turn brown almost immediately. It’s fine to eat and still tastes delicious it’s just kind of unattractive. The brown doesn’t really bother me because I usually use it within a couple of minutes of making it or just stir it to get rid of the brown part. If you want it pretty bright green pesto you will need to blanch the basil beforehand. I have personally never done this step, but I will include a link to Food & Style’s recipe where they explain how to blanch the basil leaves- here.

3 garlic cloves
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked in hot water for approximately 1 hour
~2 cups loosely packed fresh basil
½ Tbsp. of nutritional yeast
¼ cup olive oil
salt to taste (I used ½ tsp., but adjust according to your preferences)

Place garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor and process until they are finely minced. Add in drained and rinsed sunflower seeds, basil, nutritional yeast, oil, and salt. Process until you have your desired consistency.

Makes approximately 1 cup of pesto.

Use as the base for a pizza, a pasta sauce or make pesto vinaigrette for salads (recipe below)

Pesto Vinaigrette (makes ~2 servings)
2 Tbsp. prepared pesto
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
½ Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. water

Whisk all ingredients together. I like to make a salad with quinoa, arugula, grape tomatoes, chickpeas, roasted tofu, and corn and use this as the dressing 🙂


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