Sunflower Seed Pesto Recipe

Sunflower Seed Pesto Recipe
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.

This sunflower spinach pesto recipe is by Amie of It’s an awesome pesto because not only is it easy and delicious, but it packs a whole lot of spinach in there to make it super healthy. It’s a great way to get some greens in a form other than salad.

The spinach is lightly wilted for this recipe, which makes for a softer flavor and texture, but also helps you absorb the nutrients from the greens. Spinach has something called oxalic acid, which limits the absorption of nutrients – especially calcium. Lightly cooking spinach breaks down oxalic acid and allows your body to use more of the calcium in spinach.

Sunflower Seed Pesto Recipe

Prep time:
Cook Time:
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Makes about 1 ½ cups

I experimented with the onions and garlic, by dry sauteeing them in a pan with just the oil that might have come out of the seeds when I toasted them. I finished them off with a couple of tablespoons of water to quickly steam them, kind of like a stir fry. I thought the flavor came out really nicely.

You can, of course, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil as Amie suggests for a richer, more concentrated flavor. If I was making this recipe for serving, I would definitely do that. But since I was just making this for myself, I thought I’d see how it turned out without oil.

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The serving possibilities for this pesto are nearly endless: on crackers or toasts, on cucumber/zucchini slices with half a cherry tomato, on top of or stirred into some rice or quinoa, on top of a salad or some steamed veggies, mixed in with some beans, straight off your spoon.


  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sweet white onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach (I used 2 cups spinach and 2 cups chard)
  • 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp. white sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp. black sesame seeds (or more white)
  • 1/6 tsp. sea salt (I use Herbamare)


  1. I first dry toasted the sunflower and sesame seeds in a pan on medium-high, stirring continuously until they started to brown (about 4-5 minutes). You can also do this in an oven or toaster oven. Just be sure to keep an eye on them, because small seeds will go from just barely toasted to burnt very quickly. I put the toasted seeds right into the food processor.
  2. Next, I sauteed the onions and garlic in the same pan, stirring occasionally until the onions caramelized. To make sure they were nicely cooked, I poured 2 Tbsp of water into the hot pan to steam the onions and deglaze the browning on the bottom of the pan.
  3. You can also saute the onions and garlic with the olive oil for a more concentrated and rich flavor, or bake the onions and garlic in an oven or toaster oven.
  4. Add the spinach to the pan, heating it with the oil or with a bit more water, and let it cook for about 3 minutes or until it’s wilted. (I transferred my onions and garlic to the food processor before wilting the spinach, since I didn’t want the flavor diluted by the water I added to steam the greens.)
  5. Transfer the spinach mixture to a food processor, and add the seasonings. Pulse it all together until smooth.



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