Vegan Hemp Seed Pesto - Thermobexta

How to make Plant-based Hemp Pesto

When considering plant-based hemp pesto, it’s important to first understand the typical components of traditional pesto and the role hemp ingredients might play in this culinary creation. Traditional pesto, known as pesto alla genovese, originates from Genoa in the Liguria region of Italy and generally consists of basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino cheese, and olive oil. Its characteristic flavor is fresh and vibrant, with a rich, nutty, and slightly cheesy profile.

Now let’s examine the elements of plant-based hemp pesto and explore how it differentiates from the traditional recipe. In a plant-based version, some traditional ingredients are substituted to align with vegan cuisine, which avoids animal products. Hemp seeds can be used as a substitute for both the pine nuts and cheese within the classic recipe. Hemp seeds bring a distinctive nutty taste and a nutritional profile rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, high-quality plant protein, and various minerals. They blend well and create a creamy texture that emulates the mouthfeel of cheese.

A plant-based hemp pesto typically involves a process of food processing or blending raw shelled hemp seeds along with the other plant-based ingredients, such as basil, garlic, and possibly substitute vegan cheeses or nutritional yeast for umami flavor. Olive oil remains a key component for its flavor and to achieve the right consistency. The use of hemp creates not only a vegan-friendly pesto but also offers a different nutritional angle, as hemp is known for its health benefits including anti-inflammatory properties.

Different variations of plant-based hemp pesto might include additional herbs, spices, or nutritional elements to enhance flavor or health benefits. For instance, some recipes might include kale or spinach to increase the content of leafy greens, or sun-dried tomatoes for a tangy depth.

Plant-based Hemp Pesto recipe

Vegan Hemp Seed Pesto - Thermobexta

Plant-based Hemp Pesto

Hemp pesto is a variant of the traditional Italian pesto sauce, which is typically made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), and olive oil. In the plant-based hemp version, some of these ingredients are substituted or modified to create a product that is suitable for vegan or plant-based diets, as the original pesto recipe contains cheese which is not vegan.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8 serving
Calories 68 kcal


  • 1 blender
  • 1 blender bowl


  • 2 heaping cups packed basil
  • 2 tbsp garlic about 4 cloves
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds or pine nuts
  • 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 4 tbsp clean water you can use olive oil if you want


  • Combine the basil, nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, garlic, lemon juice, and sea salt in a bowl of mini food processor or blender and process or blend until smooth and creamy.
  • Scrape the side of the blender bowl and gradually add the water, little at a time until pesto get to your desire pourable level. If using oil, stream in the oil gradually as the machine is still running until very smooth and creamy.
  • Taste and make adjustment to suit your taste. Adding additional Nutritional yeast for cheesiness, more salt to taste, basil or hemp seeds to thicken, lemon juice for acidity or garlic for kick,
  • Serve immediately or store in an air tight container and keep in the fridge, use within 1 week.
Keyword garlic, hemp seeds, packed basil

Cooking tips about Plant-based Hemp Pesto

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  • Texture and Consistency: Hemp seeds have a different texture than pine nuts. To achieve the right consistency, they should be blended until they are finely ground. It’s advisable to pulse them in a food processor before adding other ingredients, ensuring that the mixture is neither too coarse nor overly processed into a paste.
  • Ratio of Ingredients: Start with a classic pesto ratio as a foundation – about 2 cups of fresh basil leaves, 1/3 cup of oil, 2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds, and adjust to taste. For hemp pesto, you might use 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup of hemp seeds, depending on how nutty and rich you want the pesto to be.
  • Acidity and Flavor Balancing: With the absence of Parmesan cheese, you can balance hemp pesto with nutritional yeast, which provides a cheesy flavor without dairy. Lemon juice not only adds a bright, acidic counterpoint but it also helps keep the vibrant green color of the basil. Garlic adds depth, but the quantity should be adjusted to taste as it can easily overpower the other flavors.
  • Customization: Customize your pesto with additional herbs or greens such as spinach, kale, or parsley to diversify the flavor profile and nutritional content. Herbs like cilantro or even mint can pair nicely with hemp for a refreshing alternative.
  • Oil Choices: Extra virgin olive oil is traditionally used for its fruitiness and peppery finish, but you can also experiment with hemp seed oil to reinforce the hemp flavor profile. Note that hemp seed oil has a low smoke point and a strong flavor, so it should be used judiciously.
  • Storing: Oxidation can quickly diminish the vibrancy and flavor of pesto. To store, place it in an airtight container and drizzle a layer of oil on top, or cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface before sealing it. Refrigerate and use within a week or freeze it in an ice cube tray for longer storage.

Serving suggestions about Plant-based Hemp Pesto

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Plant-based hemp pesto can be a versatile and nutritious addition to various dishes. Hemp seeds are known for their high-quality plant protein, essential fatty acids, and various minerals, making them an excellent ingredient for a vegan pesto variation. Traditional pesto is made from basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil. In a plant-based hemp pesto, hemp seeds can replace pine nuts, and nutritional yeast can be used instead of Parmesan to provide a cheesy flavor while keeping the recipe vegan.

When considering serving suggestions for plant-based hemp pesto, it’s essential to highlight its flexibility in culinary applications while also considering the unique taste and texture that hemp seeds may impart. Hemp seeds have a slightly nutty and earthy flavor profile that can complement and enhance a variety of dishes.

Here are a few ways to enjoy plant-based hemp pesto:

  • Pasta: Toss plant-based hemp pesto with your favorite pasta. It pairs exceptionally well with linguine, spaghetti, or zucchini noodles for a gluten-free alternative.
  • Spread: Use it as a flavorful spread on sandwiches or wraps to add a dose of nutrients and a burst of flavor. It works well with roasted vegetables, grilled portobello mushrooms, or a vegan cheese alternative.
  • Dressing: Thin the pesto with a bit of extra virgin olive oil or lemon juice to create a savory dressing for salads, especially those with bitter greens like arugula or kale.
  • Dip: Serve as a dip with crudité or toasted pita bread for a healthy, protein-packed appetizer.
  • Pizza: Replace the traditional tomato sauce with hemp pesto as a pizza base, topped with a variety of vegetables, such as artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives.
  • Grains: Mix into cooked quinoa, rice, or bulgur for an herbaceous flavor boost that will make a simple grain bowl more exciting.
  • Baked Goods: Swirl into bread dough before baking for a savory twist on homemade bread or dinner rolls.

Top 5 FAQs about Plant-based Hemp Pesto

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  • What are the nutritional benefits of plant-based hemp pesto compared to traditional pesto? Plant-based hemp pesto typically contains hemp seeds or hemp oil which are rich in beneficial nutrients like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, complete protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This can make the pesto more appealing to health-conscious consumers and those following specific dietary regimes.
  • Can plant-based hemp pesto be a complete protein source? Yes, because hemp seeds contain all nine essential amino acids, which are not produced by the body and must be obtained from diet. When hemp seeds are integrated into the pesto, they can enhance the protein quality of the dish, making it an excellent option for vegans and vegetarians.
  • Is plant-based hemp pesto safe for people with nut allergies? Often, it can be. Traditional pesto includes pine nuts, which some people are allergic to. Since hemp seeds are not nuts, they’re typically safe for those with nut allergies. However, always check the labeling to ensure there are no nut-based ingredients or cross-contamination risks if allergies are a concern.
  • How does the taste of plant-based hemp pesto compare to traditional pesto? Replacing pine nuts with hemp seeds might alter the taste of plant-based hemp pesto slightly, giving it a nuttier and earthier flavor profile. The essential taste of pesto, however — characterized by basil, garlic, and Parmesan or a vegan substitute — remains the base of the flavor.
  • What are some creative ways to use plant-based hemp pesto in cooking? Plant-based hemp pesto can be used in various culinary applications similar to traditional pesto, such as a pasta sauce, a spread for sandwiches or wraps, a dressing for salads, or a flavor booster in grain bowls and soups. Its unique taste can also complement the flavor of roasted or grilled vegetables.

When creating a plant-based hemp pesto, one would substitute the traditional pine nuts with hemp seeds to harness the nutritional benefits mentioned earlier. Plant-based versions of pesto might also use nutritional yeast or another non-dairy substitute to mimic the flavor of cheese, making it suitable for vegan diets.

The conclusion about creating a plant-based hemp pesto is that it could be an innovative and nutritious take on the traditional recipe, bringing in the health benefits of hemp seeds while aligning with plant-based dietary preferences. It would offer a rich, nutty flavor different from that of pine nuts, with a creamy texture contributed by the hemp seeds. This version of pesto could appeal not only to those following plant-based diets but also to anyone looking to add variety and nutritional value to their meals.


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