Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Easy Meals

Pumpkin seed pesto is delicious and nutritious made with toasted pumpkin seeds, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and parmesan reggiano cheese. Packed with plant-based protein, and can be made vegan, it’s flavorful and the perfect complement to pasta, proteins, sandwiches and more.

best pumpkin seed pesto

Summer is pesto season and there’s nothing better then pesto pasta for a fresh summertime meal that’s bursting with flavor! For my take on the perfect summertime pesto, it should come as no surprise that I turned to my favorite seed — pumpkin seeds to make pesto. Move over pine nuts, pumpkin seed pesto is the way to go!

Much more cost-effective than pine nuts, pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrition and a smooth nutty flavor that really complements fresh basil, garlic, and cheese. In this recipe I toast the pumpkin seeds before making the pesto to help bring out their buttery, nutty flavor. Toasted pumpkin seeds add flavor to pasta, chicken, fish and more on their own.

This pumpkin seed pesto can also be made vegan by using nutritional yeast if you’re looking for a cheese alternative.

pumpkin seed nutrition

Pumpkin seeds are small but mighty when it comes to nutrition! They’re packed with plant-based protein, healthy fat, fiber, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron and zinc and are easy to incorporate into your diet in a variety of ways.

A one ounce serving of pumpkin seeds contains 7 grams of plant-based protein. This is especially great to keep in mind if you don’t eat meat and are looking for different ways to add protein to your diet. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on a salad, or grain bowl and of course make this pumpkin seed pesto!

I always recommend incorporating pumpkin seeds into a snack anytime you’re feeling a little stressed and here’s why. Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium aka the “calming mineral”. Magnesium blocks the activity of stimulating neurotransmitters and binds to calming receptors, resulting in a more peaceful, resting state. I’ll snack to that!

Read more about the benefits of pumpkin seeds and how to roast and eat them here.

ingredients for pumpkin seed pesto

Ingredients for pumpkin seed pesto

  • raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)I love how beautiful and buttery pumpkin seeds get when you toast them! Just a couple minutes in the oven really helps to bring out their nutty flavor.
  • fresh basil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • parmesan reggiano – using a nicer cheese is nice in the recipe, however any type of grated parmesan cheese you have on hand will work. I’ve tried it with both!
  • fresh garlic
  • salt & pepper

equipment/ utensils:

toasted pumpkin seeds

making pumpkin seed pesto

Toast your pumpkin seeds: This will really help to bring out there delicious nutty flavor and take away some of that “raw” flavor. After a couple minutes in the oven they will be puffed up and slightly golden.

Add olive oil + garlic to the pan: Adding olive oil to the hot pan when you remove it from the oven will help further toast the pumpkin seeds. The garlic will also slightly toast, helping to draw out the flavor.

Process all of the ingredients: Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth. You want to make sure there are no big pumpkin seed pieces left.

Taste: Taste a small spoonful of pesto and see if it needs a little more salt and pepper. Process once more for a few seconds.

Enjoy: Add to pasta, sandwiches, proteins and more!

Store + Freeze: Store pesto in an airtight contain in the fridge for up to a week. If you know you’re not going to get to it all, I recommend freezing pesto in individual ice cube trays. This way you can simply use one cube of pesto at a time anytime you’re in the mood!

Easy pumpkin seed pesto

vegan pumpkin seed pesto

Making this pumpkin seed pesto vegan is easy. Simply swap parmesan cheese for nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a nutty, cheesy tasting cheese alternative that contains B vitamins, zinc, fiber and protein (about 8 grams per 2 tbsp.).

how to use pumpkin seed pesto

Or maybe the question should be how can’t you use pumpkin seed pesto?! There’s so many different ways you can infuse it into meals and snacks this summer! Here are a few of my favorite ways:

  • tossed with any shape of pasta
  • on a sandwich
  • on chicken or salmon
  • tossed in a caprese salad with tomatoes and mozzarella
  • used as a dipping oil with sourdough bread

Did I miss anything?! How else would you use this pumpkin seed pesto? Let me know in the comments!


Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Maggie Michalczyk, RDN
Packed with plant-based protein thanks to the mighty pumpkin seed, pumpkin seed pesto is flavorful and nutritious and the perfect accompaniment to pasta, sandwiches, chicken and more!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 cup


  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 + 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan reggiano cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes optional


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and add pumpkin seeds to a sheet pan. Toast in the oven for about 5 minutes. 
  • Remove pumpkin seeds from the oven and drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil on to them. Add cloves of garlic to the sheet pan as well to slightly toast from the heat of the pan. Let cool.
  • Add basil, pumpkin seeds, garlic, cheese, additional 1/2 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper to a food processor. Process until smooth. Taste and add additional salt or pepper. 
  • Store covered in the fridge for up to a week. Freeze pesto in an ice cube tray to save for easy use later.


Recipe adapted from Andrew Zimmerman 
Keyword pumpkin seed pesto; vegan pumpkin seed pesto

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