Toasted sunflower-basil pesto

Toasted sunflower-basil pesto

4 min read
Toasted Sunflower-Basil Pesto

My heart, to yours. 

This pesto bloomed to existence from a need to create a more budget friendly version. Here in the U.S., pine nuts (typically used in pesto) can be very expensive. Especially if organic. They are so delicious and when toasted, oof – yum. At my local bulk buy grocery; I have an array of nuts and seeds to choose from. Here; sunflower seeds are on the cheaper end of the price spectrum, even when organic.

This seed releases such a nice oil when lightly toasted, that makes for a perfect swap for pine nuts. I toasted my sunflower seeds for this pesto, but you can totally use raw + soaked seeds. The toasted gives it a richer flavor that I prefer.

Now for the basil. I headed to my local farmers market where I found a huge bundle of basil for $5. To give you a reference; I can get a small handful of basil at my local grocery store for $5. We’re talking 4 little stems, vs an entire bouquet. Because of this – I chose basil. You can also swap this for mint, sage, parsley + cilantro or another herb you love. Whatever works for you!

Make you a jar of this delicious pesto and add to pasta, a spread for sandwiches, toast and a bake topping.

I am in love with this one, I hope it’s a hit in your kitchen.

Favorite way to use this pesto:

Fold into al dente fettuccine or linguine pasta. Simple and easy!

Toasted Sunflower-Basic Pesto

Print Recipe
This pesto bloomed to existence from a need to create a more budget friendly version.
Course Dressing
Keyword pesto, sunflower seeds


  • ½ cup sunflower seeds, soaked
  • 2 cups basil leaves, packed *
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil, plus a few extra tbsp if necessary and desired
  • 1 lime, juiced / or lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, whole and peeled


  • Place your raw sunflower seeds in a jar and cover them with enough clean water to submerge them
  • Let them soak for anywhere between 2-8 hours – i like to do mine overnight, just before I go to bed
  • You can soak them in your fridge or counter top
  • When done soaking the sunflower seeds, rinse and drain them well – congrats! You just made them more digestible
  • Pat dry your soaked sunflower seeds between a cotton cloth
  • Heat a cast iron skillet (or small skillet) on low flame
  • When the skillet is hot add the dried sunflower seeds
  • Move them around continuously for a few minutes to give them a slow toast (about 8-12 minutes)
  • They may at first release water, then become sticky to the pan, then start to release their oils and slide around the pan easily
  • Keeping a consistent stirring of them allows them to cook evenly and toast beautifully as they pass through these stages
  • You want them to develop a caramel/golden color, not burn!
  • When they’re beautiful and golden remove from heat to stop cooking
  • To a food processor – add the toasted sunflower seeds and all remaining ingredients
  • Pulse on high until combined to your desired consistency
  • Can be served room temperature or warmed on the stove, yum!


Save your basil stems to infuse their flavor into water, or for a stem pesto for a nice 0 waste recipe
Lemon or lime works great for this recipe – i like lime (:
This recipe makes the perfect amount of pesto for the Creamy Pumpkin Pepper Pasta
Makes the perfect amount for 12 oz of pasta!

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