Pepita pesto is herb-y, smooth and full of flavor. It pairs perfectly with almost anything from sandwiches to pizza to pasta to rice bowls or use it to add a boost of flavor to dressings, vinaigrettes or aioli. This is an amazing pesto recipe without pine nuts, if you are sensitive to tree nuts or legumes. In this post, we’ll talk about exactly how to make it and what to use it on!

jar of pesto with basil leaves, half a lemon, garlic papers and pumpkin seeds

All of the fabulous reasons to love this pepita pesto:

  • It’s a great way to use up a bunch of fresh basil leaves (I have an indoor hydroponic garden and my basil is NUTS so I’m always looking for recipes to use up a lot of basil)
  • It utilizes just a handful of healthy ingredients, many of which you may already have on hand
  • It is a delicious nut-free pesto
  • The flavor of this homemade pesto will blow your mind- it is leaps and bounds better than any storebought pesto (if you’re on TikTok you’ll know all about storebought pesto right now LOL)
  • This pesto sauce is wildly versatile and can be used to add flavor to so many dishes
ingredients needed for the recipe: basil, parmesan cheese, lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and pepitas

What you will need to make it:

Basil: the main ingredient and star of the show! Fresh basil gives pesto its signature herbaceous flavor. You can find basil in the produce section of any grocery store, usually right next to the tomatoes.

Pepitas: pepitas are hulled pumpkin seeds that are crunchy, nutty and incredibly nutrient-dense. One ¼ cup serving provides 8 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and 15 grams of healthy fats. (source) Fun fact: ‘pepitas’ was one of my 2-year-old’s first words lol. You can use raw pepitas or roasted pepitas for this recipe.

Garlic cloves: another flavor powerhouse, garlic adds a kick to this easy pesto.

Parmesan cheese: good quality parmesan adds a salty, cheesy, nutty flavor that is irresistible. I’m a diva and recommend buying the block of parmesan and grating it yourself as it is SO much better than the pre-grated stuff! Use the smallest holes of a box grater or a microplane for soft, finely grated parmesan.

Lemon: a squeeze of fresh lemon juice provides contrast to the salty and herby flavors with a hit of bright acidity.

Salt and pepper: these two seasoning pillars lift all of the other flavors.

Extra virgin olive oil: opt for a good quality extra virgin olive oil, I like this one.

Cold water: water is used to adjust the consistency of your pesto without using extra oil, if needed.

Equipment you will need:

Food processor: you can use a standard food processor, high powered blender or I love this food processor attachment for my immersion blender.

Microplane or box grater: for grating the parmesan cheese. If you have a grating attachment for your food processor you won’t need this!

Chef knife: to roughly chop the garlic and slice the lemon in half.

How to make this pumpkin seed pesto recipe:

Adjust your food processor with the standard blade attachment. Add the pepitas, basil leaves, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process on high speed for about 5-10 seconds, until the mixture is very finely chopped.

side by side pictures of a food processor with the un-processed ingredients and then the ingredients pulsed together

With the motor running on low speed, stream in the olive oil through the feed tube until the pesto is emulsified and smooth. Add 1-2 tablespoons cold water (also via the feed tube with the motor running) to loosen the pesto, if needed. If I don’t have quite enough oil, I like to use a splash or water to reach my desired consistency. If you prefer, you can use a little oil.

side by side pictures of a hand pouring olive oil into the food processor and an overhead shot of the blended pesto

Taste and season additionally with salt or pepper, per your taste.

pepita pesto in the food processor

Ways to use pepita pesto:

This recipe differs slightly from classic pesto in that it uses pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts. However, the taste is incredibly similar to a traditional pesto recipe and you can use it the same way you would any pesto.

  • Make pesto pasta by adding ½ cup pesto and ½ cup or so of starchy pasta water to any variety of pasta
  • Spread as the base for pizza and top with cheese and your favorite toppings
  • Combine with a few spoonfuls of mayo to make a pesto aioli that is perfect for sandwiches or as a healthy dip for veggies or French fries
  • Add a spoonful to scrambled or fried eggs for a flavorful nutrition boost
  • Whisk into any salad dressing or vinaigrette for garlicky, herby flavor without having to chop garlic or mince herbs. Score.
  • Stir in a couple spoonfuls to nearly any soup for a boost of flavor.
  • I love adding a big scoop of pesto to pasta sauce or marinara sauce for spaghetti or lasagna
  • Marinate little skewers of fresh mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes in this delicious pesto for an addicting appetizer
jar of bright green pesto made from fresh basil and pumpkin seeds

FAQs

Can I make this dairy-free?

Absolutely! Simply leave out the parmesan or sub ¼ cup nutritional yeast. This makes a delicious vegan pesto!

Can I use something besides pepitas?

You can use pine nuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds or sunflower seeds.

How should I store this and how long does it last?

Store in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge for up to 10 days.

If you love this pepita pesto you’ll love these other flavor-boosting condiments:

Use this pepita pesto in these easy weeknight dinners:

close up of a jar of green pepita pesto

Alright friends, time to make some pesto! If you try this recipe, I would love it if you’d leave a rating and star review and tag me on Instagram so I can see your delicious creations!

Print
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jar of bright green pesto made from fresh basil and pumpkin seeds

Pepita pesto

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  • Author: Erica
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: N/A
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: heaping 1 cup 1x
  • Category: Condiment
  • Method: Blend
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This pepita pesto is bursting with fresh basil flavor and pairs perfectly with pasta, sandwiches, pizza, fresh or roasted vegetables, rice bowls or nearly any protein. Dollop this stuff on everything!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 tablespoons cold water, if needed

Instructions

Adjust your food processor with the standard blade attachment. Add the pepitas, basil leaves, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process on high speed for about 5-10 seconds, until the mixture is very finely chopped.

With the motor running on low speed, stream in the olive oil through the feed tube until the pesto is emulsified and smooth. Add 1-2 tablespoons cold water (also via the feed tube with the motor running) to loosen the pesto, if needed.

Taste and season additionally with salt or pepper, per your taste. Store in a jar, tightly sealed, in the fridge for up to 7-10 days, if it lasts that long!


Notes

Refer to above blog post for more information on ingredients, ingredient substitutions and ways to use this pesto!

Nutritional information is an estimate and may vary slightly.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
  • Calories: 149
  • Sugar: 0.5 g
  • Sodium: 104.5 mg
  • Fat: 15.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 2.1 g
  • Fiber: 0.6 g
  • Protein: 3.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 1.9 mg

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