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Quick & Easy Pumpkin Seed Pesto (Vegan & Nut Free)

A delicious, quick and easy Pumpkin Seed Pesto recipe that is vegan, dairy free, and nut free! This homemade pesto is made with pumpkin seeds (aka: pepitas), fresh basil, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and sea salt. It is delicious on pasta, pizza, sandwiches, or as a dip. Honestly, you won't believe it isn't traditional pesto!

If you are looking for more easy vegan sauce recipes, you have to try this Creamy Avocado Dip!

All About This Pumpkin Seed Pesto

  • Flavor: Bright, fresh, and nutty are how I would describe the flavor of this vegan pesto. Even without nuts, the pumpkin seeds bring that rich nutty flavor while the addition of lemon juice brightens it up perfectly. And we all know you can't beat fresh basil!
  • Texture: This vegan pesto is smooth, creamy, and thick enough to get the best flavor in every bite. You can always alter the amount of liquid used to get the consistency you like best.
  • Ease: Homemade pesto is a breeze to make. A beginner can easily master this recipe by following my instructions below. This pesto is EASY and only takes a few minutes!
  • Use: This pumpkin seed pesto can be used in so many ways! It is delicious as a pasta sauce in this Veggie Pesto Pasta, a salad dressing, a condiment on wraps or sandwiches, a dip for roasted or fresh vegetables, and much more. My favorite ways to eat it are as a pasta sauce, salad dressing, or with roasted potatoes!
Ingredients for vegan pumpkin seed pesto in wood measuring cups on white marble counter top.

Pumpkin Seed Pesto Frequently Asked Questions:

What do you eat with pesto?

Pesto can add tremendous flavor to so many dishes. It is great as a pasta sauce, a salad dressing, a condiment on wraps or sandwiches, a dip for roasted or fresh vegetables, and much more. My favorite ways to eat it are as a pasta sauce, salad dressing, and with roasted potatoes!

What nuts and seeds are best for pesto?

Pumpkin seeds are clearly my choice, but you can also make pesto with pretty much any kind of seed or nut. Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, but you could also use walnuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, etc.

Is pesto usually vegan?

Traditional pesto is made with parmesan cheese, so it is not considered vegan. You can easily make pesto without it though. In my opinion, this dairy free version is even more delicious! You won't even miss the parmesan.

What can I use instead of cheese in pesto?

I make up for the lack of cheese in this pesto recipe by using a flaky sea salt and lemon juice for that salty punch of cheese like flavor. You can always add some nutritional yeast as well if that isn't enough.

Ingredients for pumpkin seed pesto in food processor.

Ingredients For Pumpkin Seed Pesto:

To make this recipe, you will need the following ingredients. See the full recipe card at the end of this post for detailed amounts and instructions! 

  • Pumpkin Seeds/Pepitas - Pumpkin seeds or pepitas (same thing) help give our pesto that good nutty flavor. Plus, they are full of valuable nutrients such as healthy fats, magnesium and zinc.
  • Garlic - You know I love it, but if you don't you can skip.
  • Lemon Juice - My advice, don't skimp on the lemon juice. I love the bright flavor it brings!
  • Olive Oil - Extra virgin olive oil helps to create a smooth, rich pesto.
  • Fresh Basil Leaves - The fresher the basil, the better the pesto!
  • Sea Salt - I like using flaky sea salt for this pesto.

How to Make This Vegan Pumpkin Seed Pesto:

To make this pesto, simply:

  1. Add ingredients to food processor.

    Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse on high for at least 1 minute. Remove lid and scrape down the sides and give a little stir to the bottom of the processor before pulsing again for another minute or until pesto is combined and smooth.

  2. Do a taste test.

    Before removing pesto from the food processor, do a taste test. If necessary, add more sea salt for flavor or add more lemon juice, or olive oil to reach your desired thickness. 

Pumpkin seed pesto on rotini pasta in white bowl.

Tips For the Perfect Vegan Pumpkin Seed Pesto

  • Avoid bitter pesto by using more lemon juice. Sometimes the olive oil in pesto can create a bitter taste. This can be avoided by adding lemon juice!
  • Scrape down the sides of the processor. To get the smoothest pesto, be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of your food processor between pulses. Those pesky pumpkin seed pieces tend to get thrown around if you don't scrape it.
  • Always do a taste test. Depending on the time of year and freshness of your ingredients your pesto can turn out differently. Before removing a batch from your food processor be sure to do a taste test and adjust accordingly. I find I'm often adding a touch more lemon juice or a pinch more salt to get it just right.

Vegan Pesto Variations

Pesto is a great recipe to have in your rotation because you can tweak it in so many different ways. My favorite up to now is the recipe I've shared here today, but here are a few more ways that you could change it up!

  • Add sun-dried tomatoes. For an extra punch of rich and savory, try adding some oil packed sun dried tomatoes. I love doing this when I have them!
  • Add nutritional yeast. If you are still missing that cheesy flavor, try adding up to 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast to the recipe below.
  • Change up the greens. Pesto can be made with pretty much any of your favorite greens or herbs. Try replacing the basil with parsley or cilantro. Or doing half basil and half spinach, kale, or arugula. A great herby mix to try is a third basil, third parsley, and third spinach. Truly, whatever you have on hand will work!
  • Change up the nuts/seeds. Pretty much any nut or seed will work in this vegan pesto. I definitely prefer pumpkin seeds, but pine nuts, cashews, walnuts, or sunflower seeds are all great options too.

More vegan recipes you'll love!

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Vegan pumpkin seed pesto in white bowl with wood spoon on white marble counter top.

Quick & Easy Pumpkin Seed Pesto (Vegan & Nut Free)


  • Author: Lauren
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 ½ cups 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

A delicious, quick and easy Pumpkin Seed Pesto recipe that is vegan, dairy free, and nut free! This homemade pesto is made with pumpkin seeds (aka: pepitas), fresh basil, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and sea salt. It is delicious on pasta, pizza, sandwiches, or as a dip. Honestly, you won't believe it isn't traditional pesto!


Ingredients

Units Scale

½ cup pumpkin seeds

2 small cloves garlic

2 cups fresh basil leaves + more for garnish

Juice of one lemon

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon flaky sea salt


Instructions

  1. Add to food processor. Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse on high for at least 1 minute. Remove lid and scrape down the sides and give a little stir to the bottom of the processor before pulsing again for another minute or until pesto is combined and smooth.
  2. Do a taste test. Before removing pesto from the food processor, do a taste test. If necessary, add more sea salt for flavor or add more lemon juice, or olive oil to reach your desired thickness. 

Notes

  • To store. Store in fridge in an air tight container for up to 3 days. 
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes. For an extra punch of rich and savory, try adding some oil packed sun dried tomatoes. I love doing this when I have them!
  • Add nutritional yeast. If you are still missing that cheesy flavor, try adding up to 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast to the recipe below.
  • Change up the greens. Pesto can be made with pretty much any of your favorite greens or herbs. Try replacing the basil with parsley or cilantro. Or doing half basil and half spinach, kale, or arugula. A great herby mix to try is a third basil, third parsley, and third spinach. Truly, whatever you have on hand will work!
  • Change up the nuts/seeds. Pretty much any nut or seed will work in this vegan pesto. I definitely prefer pumpkin seeds, but pine nuts, cashews, walnuts, or sunflower seeds are all great options too.

Keywords: pumpkin seed pesto

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