Vegan Basil Pesto

It’s no secret that I have a thing for pesto. However, I have not posted a single go – to version on the blog. So yaay it is finally here!

This plant based version skips the cheese, using nutritional yeast instead, offering a nut free basil pesto made with fresh lemon juice and sunflower seeds.

I eat pesto with pretty much anything, I slather it on toast for breakfast, mix into my salads for lunch or enjoy it with soup for dinner.

Traditionally pesto is made with pine nuts, but have you seen the price of pine nuts lately?! Wowza! Discovering sunflower seeds in pesto not only made the pesto more cost efficient, but also has not changed the depth of flavour in anyways! It is still the same creamy consistency it has always been.

I use raw unsalted seeds. I haven’t tried it with roasted or salted seeds yest, but I think it might change the flavour and consistency to something more salty. Remember you can always add more salt if you need, but it’s not that easy to remove the salt flavour once it’s there.

Next on the list is fresh garlic. Because this recipe calls for a lot of fresh ingredients I would recommend using fresh garlic cloves as opposed to the pre-minced garlic you buy in the store. This recipe doesn’t make a ton of pesto, so I wouldn’t recommend more than 2 garlic cloves as it can overpower the basil.

I personally do not like the raw garlic taste in pesto, so I have decided not to add the garlic into my own pesto.

Then there is olive oil. The recipe calls for 1/3 cup. You might use less but most likely a little bit more. It depends on the desired consistency you would like to have.

I hope you will love this pesto! It is:

And SO easy to make

Vegan Basil Pesto

Gluten Free, Vegan, Paleo, Raw, Nut Free

Makes about 1 cup


2 cups fresh basil

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 fresh lemon, juiced

2-3 Tbsp filtered water as needed

1-2 fresh garlic cloves (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste


Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blitz. Slowly add in the olive oil and blitz till well combined. Scrape down the sides if needed and add more olive oil. If the pesto is still too thick add a dash of water until you reach the desired consistency.

Taste and adjust the flavour as needed. You can add more nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavour, salt for overall flavour or extra lemon for zing.

Store in an airtight container for one week.


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 stirred again, this is normal.

It also freezes well in ice cube trays, so you can thaw and use a small amount whenever a recipe calls for pesto.

Have you tried this recipe?

I would like to know if you tried this recipe at home. I would love your thoughts and feedback in the comments below. Don’t forget to share your creation on Instagram and tag @chefdot

Dot you later! X

About the author

Qualified chef, Health Coach and Nutritionist based in Johannesburg & Cape Town, South Africa


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