Hemp Seed Pesto
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This super healthy hemp seed pesto recipe is a perfect way to squeeze more protein and essential fatty acids into traditional pesto sauce. Great with pasta, zucchini noodles, or as a sauce for grain bowls.

A white and light gray ceramic bowl is filled with zucchini noodles dressed in a vegan hemp seed pesto, edamame, and cherry tomatoes.

Happy Thursday! As of today, I have exactly two weeks of my crazy summer Chem II class remaining. Given that I haven’t slept more than 4-5 hours nightly on a weeknight since class started, I’m excited to realize that I’m more than halfway done. Phew.

It will come as no surprise to readers that I’ve found a way to squeeze hemp seeds into pesto. I love hemp seeds–they’re one of my favorite easy sorts of vegan protein and healthful fatty acids–and they can make a more nutritious alternative to other nuts and seeds in all sorts of recipes. This hemp seed pesto recipe can be used for pasta, as a topping for roasted veggies, as a spread on vegan sandwiches, or as a means of adding flavor to salads.

A single serving of shelled hemp seeds provides us with:

  • Complete protein (all twenty amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids)
  • Essential fatty acids (EFA’s)
  • An ideal 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 Linoleic Acid and Omega-3 Linolenic Acid
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium

Impressive, no? I have a bunch of hemp recipes on my blog, and they include:

My Cheesy Red Pepper and Hemp Dip (personal favorite!!!)


My hemp hummus:

High Protein Hemp Hummus | The Full Helping



My creamy hemp milk:


And my nutrition powerhouse chia seed power pudding:

An angled photograph of zucchini noodles dressed in a hemp seed pesto. The noodles are tossed with edamame and cherry tomatoes.

At the moment I’m enjoying this untraditional pesto on zucchini noodles, regular noodles, salads, toast, over roasted veggies, and in pasta salad. The list goes on–and I’m delighted to have a new, higher protein hemp pesto recipe to add to my pesto collection.

A white bowl is filled with zucchini noodles, vegetables, and a green herb sauce. It's placed on a white tablecloth.
A white and light gray ceramic bowl is filled with zucchini noodles dressed in a vegan hemp seed pesto, edamame, and cherry tomatoes.
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Hemp Seed Pesto

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 4 servings


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves (tightly packed)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  • Place the basil, garlic, and hemp seeds into a food processor fitted with the S blade. Pulse about 10 times, to help break down the basil.
  • Add all remaining ingredients to the processor. Process till smooth, adding an extra drizzle olive oil if needed to thin the pesto. Serve or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. 
A white, ceramic bowl with a light gray rim is filled with summery zucchini noodles, tomato, and pesto.

Two nights ago, I served this wonderful pesto over a bowl of zucchini pasta with sundried tomatoes, edamame, and cherry tomatoes from the Georgetown farmer’s market. It was a quick and summery lunch bowl!

This all goes to show that a small modification in a traditional recipe can multiply its nutrition in really significant ways. Using pine nuts in pesto is just fine, but hemp seeds truly have more to offer in terms of essential nutrients and protein. Putting them in pesto is an easy and efficient way to offer yourself a few more benefits from your meal, without sacrificing taste or turning something you like into an unpleasant form of “health food.” Enjoy!


Images courtesy of Lighter.

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Categories: Recipes, Dressings, Sauces
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Raw, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free

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  1. Has anyone tried this with spinach instead of basil? No basil on hand and have some spinach to use up.
    Looks like a nice twist on your regular pesto which is our go to!

  2. just tried this. came out a treat! and I’m a stupendously bad cook. I didn’t need as much water, but perhaps that was something to do with the basil. wonderful! thanks!

  3. This looks delicious! I went to Cafe Gratitude and had theirs recently so I’m really excited to make it for myself. Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  4. Wow! Thanks for all of the great recipes and ideas- Please keep them coming. It’s inspiring and exciting to try new things and stay healthy at the same time.

  5. Hi thanks for the recipe! Confused about the water though. I didn’t add it all and the pesto was still really runny. Help?

  6. Have you authored a cook book, by chance? You have a real talent here-your food is delectablnts unique (and pack a nutrition punch)! I am quite a foodie & I’d love buy a recipe book(s) by you.

  7. I’m a huge hemp seed fan! And since I live in Canada I can buy them in bulk from a local farmer! I made this a few nights ago. It was delicious and it didn’t taste ‘hempy’ at all. I only used about 1/4 water though since it was already fairly liquidy. I didn’t add any oil and it was still rich and creamy.

  8. You are a genius at inventing recipes that appeal to both my taste buds and quest for nutrient density. It’s these types of super simple recipes using refreshingly few ingredients (!) that I typically already have on hand that tend to remain in my regular rotation. (I still can’t get over your sweet potato hummus…craving my next batch!)

    I am so excited to make this pesto tonight. I am hoping you will catch up on those zzz’s this weekend. Have a wonderful one and take good care, Gena!

  9. Gena, I am SO EXCITED to make this! This is such a GREAT idea. And I actually really love the nutty taste of hemp seeds. And love pesto. I’m slightly bummed now, because I’m going out of town today and won’t be back in my kitchen to try this for a couple weeks haha. BUT I’m also excited to get out of the city for a bit! 🙂 Great recipe lady!

  10. This looks so delicious! I love pesto and have a lot of fresh basil growing…which means I’m definitely planning on trying this!

  11. I love hemp seeds! I haven’t gotten as creative with them as you have. They’re mainly a smoothie staple for me. I should definitely try harder to incorporate them into my other meals. I have a whole bag of them sitting in my fridge. I wonder if they would still hold onto some of their nutritional value if baked into something…

  12. I recently bought hemp seeds because of the frequency in which they appear on your blog and I love them so much.

    I’ve eated hemp protien for a while and founds its taste to be a little bitter, so I was apprehensive about using the seeds, but I’m so glad I finally caved.

    I will be trying this recipe.

  13. I’m allergic to nuts so I can’t eat traditional pesto. I’ve made it with sunflower seeds but would never have thought to try hemp seeds. Thank you for this yummy-looking recipe!

  14. I adore hemp too! Seeds, oil, soap, fabric – it’s all great. I love using hemp oil in my hummus for a nutty flavour.

  15. Wow! Love all the info about hemp seeds. I’m a chia seed fanatic but haven’t heard too much about hemp…I once tried hemp milk but hated it, I think it was heavily sweetened. I’m definitely going to try out some recipes with hemp after this, thanks!

  16. Genius recipe. I love how this bowl o noodles is more than just noodles and sauce. I definitely prefer pesto sauces with zucchini noodles over raw tomato sauces. You can actually eat this one as a meal to satisfy my massive appetite.

    Can’t wait until Chem is over so you can get some rest and we can finally see each other!

  17. Oh, how I love hemp. Pretty funny actually…I’m currently chowing down on a HUGE kale salad, doused in a creamy smoked paprika dressing that uses hemp oil. mmmmm

  18. Uuuuhhhh, that looks amazing! I think the edmame beans are such a neat addition! Crunch and color. Again, I am sending you love and wishing for you to have super human strength to get through your semester! But with all the amazing foods you are putting into your body, combined with your seemingly bottomless pit of will power, I have no doubts you will be amazing.

  19. Perfect timing, as I just came into a boatload of both fresh basil and hemp seeds! A favorite tip of mine for excess pesto is to freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, the little blocks of pesto can be thrown in a freezer bag and they will keep for a while. When you’re ready for pesto, simply take one or two cubes out and let thaw on counter. Thanks for the recipe, I really will be making it tomorrow!

  20. A totally different pesto experience! Looks really delish.. I usually have pesto on my home made chicken pesto pizza, and this would be my next target for pesto! Thanks!

  21. Hi Gena, I know this is all about hemp but in my country hemp is apparently “not for human consumption” so it’s not sold anywhere and I don’t think it can be imported/sent here.

    Are there any alternatives to using hemp seed? I LOVE the look of your protein packed cheesy hemp kale chips but I don’t know what I can use instead of the hemp. I do have another fabulous kale recipe that uses only tahini, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, nama shoyu and garlic but I reeeeeally want to try yours! Thanks!

    • Hi Kaitlyn – Bob’s Red Mill carries them. They have displays in Whole Foods stores and other grocery chains nationwide. If you are outside of the U.S., they may ship to you via their online store. Check out: http://www.bobsredmill.com

    • Don’t forget Amazon.com – I now find the most of my organic and raw products there…..like Hempseed (I know -it’s not raw) and that sometimes includes Free Shipping.

  22. love the idea of using hemp seeds, I am not a fan of pine nuts, well actually i hate them and my body does like them either…thank goodness for hemp seeds 😉

    and craving your chia house pudding, so good!

  23. Thanks for this! I’m a lover of hemp seeds as well and have been thinking about doing a hemp pesto (since I’m also growing basil in the back yard this year)–now you’ve done it and I can make yours! Can’t wait to try it out. 🙂

  24. brilliant idea! I just made pesto the other night and the pine nuts cost me a fortune for a teensy container. Hemp seeds aren’t cheap but they’re less expensive than pine nuts and better for you too. I will definitely be trying this recipe soon. Thanks!

  25. I love your love for hemp- it’s definitely turned me on to the nutritional powerhouse seeds :)!
    You never cease to amaze me with your creative recipes- can’t wait to try this one out! Hemp rocks 🙂

  26. Great alternative to the regular pesto! Pine nuts are quite expensive, compared to the BIG buckets of hemp seed that I buy. Time to spiralize some zucchini! Good luck with your Chem and sleep 🙂

  27. My brother got ambitious and bought a bag of hemp seeds and didn’t know what to do with them, so they sit and sit and sit. I just moved back home, so now I shall show him the greatness of hemp with your awesome recipes!! thanks!

  28. I love hemp pesto! It’s probably one of my favorite pestos ever.

    Interesting comments about sleep: I didn’t use to sleep much for years, but ever since I started turning around toward recovery from my lowest weight, I’ve generally needed 8 hours (the first year, I sometimes needed _12_–couldn’t believe it!) Sometimes I get away with 6 or 7, but not for long, and when I’m doing a lot of exercise (as I am now), I need at least 8 and sometimes 9. I often think that it would be wonderful to be able to get up two hours earlier, but it seems like something one really can’t push.

    I love how your food is always so beautiful and well-rounded. I’m just coming off a stint of trying to go back to ‘mostly fruit’ (I shared in my last post how/why it hadn’t worked and thank goodness for my husband giving his feedback and thank goodness I could listen to him)–and have also noticed that reading about how ‘food reward’ correlates with obesity has led me to eschew all ‘rewarding’ foods most of the time. I’d love to talk with you about this whole thing sometime, trying to help others with my experience: for now, I’m thinking of instituting a challenge on my blog to make something ‘rewarding’ at least once a week.


    • Ela, I had the same experience with weight vs. sleep required. I must admit, I love the feeling of being able to sleep in.. Something I was never able to do while underweight. Despite the fact that I follow a healthy diet, I still need my 8+hrs!

  29. Just yesterday I relinked all kinds of zucchini pastas of mine. It was amazing to me how many newish readers wrote in that zuke pasta was news to them or that they’ve never tried it. Guess I’ve been hanging out in the blogosphere too long; I assumed everyone uses raw zucchini as noodles 🙂

    Love the hemp-errific post!

    Hemp seeds are SO versatile and unlike cashews (or almonds!) no soaking time making them so nice for blending into things.

    And I also love hemp towels and pants. Uber soft stuff!

    And here in San Diego, I live next to about 17 dispensaries. Hemp ‘o plenty here 🙂