How to Make Sunflower Seed Pesto

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Do you have more basil than you know what to do with? What better way to celebrate basil season than to make fresh pesto!  That potent, garlicky sauce is the bedrock of many quick, simple meals.

Not only is it delicious, but it’s loaded with nutrients and antioxidants!  Pesto contains vitamins A, K, and E, as well as calcium, iron, and essential fatty acids.

The only problem is that unless you happen to have a free or cheap source of pine nuts, they are outrageously expensive.

You can solve that problem using the humble, thrifty sunflower seed. Heck, if you grow sunflowers, you can find pretty much every single ingredient for this in your backyard garden. You may even find that Sunflower Seed Pesto is your new favorite condiment and forget that pine nuts ever even existed in pesto.


  • 2 cups of fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup of roasted sunflower seeds
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil

Step 1

Coarsely grind 1/3 of a cup of roasted sunflower seeds in a food processor – don’t turn them into powder!  If the seeds are salted that’s okay – just don’t add salt to the pesto.

Step 2

Wash 2 cups of fresh basil leaves and then pat them dry gently. Avoid getting too much stem.

Step 3

In the food processor, pulse the sunflower seeds and 4-6 cloves of garlic.  Then add the basil, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 cup of olive oil and pulse until it is the consistency that you desire.

Step 4

Stir pesto into hot pasta for a fresh, frugal meal. You can top it with additional cheese too.

For more delicious ways to use your basil, click HERE!

How to Make Sunflower Seed Pesto
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Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

7 thoughts on “How to Make Sunflower Seed Pesto”

  1. Yes! We use sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts, too. Or, if we have walnuts or local pecans on hand, we use them.

    Also, if you don’t have basil, try other greens – garlic scapes, carrot tops, fennel tops, radish or beet greens. A great way to use a “waste” garden product, turning it into delicious pesto.

    These days, basil pesto tastes funny to me because I’m so accustomed to using spring greens for a “brighter” alternative. I add a splash of lemon juice, too!

  2. If you’re making a lot to freeze, omit the cheese. Frozen in glass jars (with a little olive oil on top), the pesto will last longer frozen without cheese, and it’ll take up less space in the freezer. Then add fresh Parmesan when you serve it. It’s an absolute staple in our freezer (and I swear it’s the ultimate mood elevator!)

  3. I love basil pesto ! How ever I only use 1 clove of garlic, as it’s too strong for me. Sunflower seeds, that makes me want to experiment with other seeds !

  4. You can make pesto like things also out of other greens – whatever you like, to either mix with the basil or to even replace the basil entirely. I’ve had some wonderful pesto inspired dips and spreads!

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