Homemade Pesto without Pine Nuts

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Getting sick of spaghetti sauce? It’s one of those staple ingredients in our kitchen and yet there are so many different sauces out there! Enter in, homemade pesto without pine nuts. A deliciously fresh and earthy sauce that you’ll start adding to more than just your pasta.

What You’ll Need

Ingredients: fresh basil, garlic, sunflower seeds, olive oil, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste.

Equipment Options

I chose to use a food processor to make this so I could easily drizzle in the olive oil while it was blending. However, I think an immersion or regular blender would work just as well. The only other equipment you’ll need are some measuring cups and your hands.

How to Make It

The longest step in this recipe is taking the fresh basil off of the stems. Once you do that, you’re halfway done! The remaining ingredients will get blended first, with the exception of about half of your olive oil. The last thing you want to blend into the pesto is the basil itself. I learned from a gardener that blending the basil too much can actually cause it to be bitter.

Extra Basil Tips

Pick fresh looking basil that isn’t droopy, the fresher the better! You can also blanch it to improve the creaminess of the pesto and to maintain the color. To blanch it, you’ll put the leaves in boiling water for fifteen seconds and then strain them out and into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. If desired, try different varieties of basil.

glass jar of pesto sauce without pinenuts

Substitution Options

If you want to use pine nuts you certainly can. These are a traditional ingredient but they’re not used in a lot of other recipes. Here are substitutions for pine nuts:

  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Hazelnuts

Storage and Freezing

Store fresh basil in an airtight container in the fridge for approximately four to five days. If you have leftover pasta or wish to freeze it, freeze it in small portions via an ice cube tray. Alternatively, you can use a plastic egg carton as well. Once frozen it can remain in the freezer up to three months. Take out a bit to add extra flavor to all kinds foods!

Will I Save Money Making It Myself

It depends. Fresh basil can be up there in price but if you grow it yourself this is a cheap way to make tons of great tasting pesto. You will save money switching from pine nuts to sunflower seeds, though.

glass jar of pesto sauce without pinenuts

What to Serve With It

I recommend serving it with pasta, chicken, and cherry tomatoes all in one pot. It’s also delicious on toasted naan with mozzarella cheese or even on toast with a sunny side-up egg on top.

Can You Reheat It

Absolutely! When you reheat it I recommend adding a little fresh olive oil into the sauce to thin it out.

glass jar of pesto sauce without pinenuts

Homemade Pesto without Pine Nuts

A delicious and fresh sauce to change up your typical dinner meals.
Print Pin Rate
Course: dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: pasta, pesto
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4 1/4 cup servings
Calories: 427kcal
Author: Jessi Holden, MS, RDN


  • food processor


  • 2 cups Fresh basil packed (a 3 oz container is about 1 cup)
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • ¼ cups Sunflower seeds unsalted
  • cups Extra virgin olive oil divided (which means you'll use this amount likely cut in half, in two different spots in the recipe)
  • ½ cups Parmesan cheese not the powder
  • 1 tsp Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Peel your garlic and remove the leaves of basil from their stems.
  • Add the garlic, sunflower seeds, parmesan, lemon juice, lemon zest, and ⅓ cup of olive oil into your food process.
  • Pulse for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add your basil in.
  • Replace the lid and pulse again for approximately half a minute while drizzling in the remaining ⅓ cup olive oil.
  • Remove the lid and taste the pesto. Sprinkle in salt and pepper, mix it in with a spoon and taste it again. Enjoy!


Cooking notes:
  • Divided: When an ingredient notes “divided” just know that you’re going to use the total amount listed, throughout the recipe but not all at once
  • You can sub out the sunflower seeds for pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds
  • This is delicious poured over cooked pasta, grilled chicken and cherry tomatoes
Did you make this recipe? I would love to see how it turned out! Let me know in the comments, give it a rating and tag me on Instagram @The.Kitchen.Invitation


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 427kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 28g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 282mg | Potassium: 109mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.4g | Vitamin A: 742IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 144mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Mention @The.Kitchen.Invitation or tag #TheKitchenInvitation!

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glass jar of pesto sauce without pinenuts
signature that reads happy Cooking! from Jessi

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