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Lemon Basil Pesto

Pesto is the perfect partner for a quick pasta dish, but you can also use it as a dip for flatbreads and crackers, as a spread for sandwiches or a sauce for a gluten-free pizza.
May 5, 2016 | Joy McCarthy

This is a super simple recipe that literally takes just five minutes to make and it's incredibly delicious!

Pesto is the perfect partner for a quick pasta dish, but you can also use it as a dip for flatbreads and crackers, as a spread for sandwiches or a sauce for a gluten-free pizza. You can easily personalize this pesto by experimenting with additional ingredients. (I personally add sundried tomatoes.)

For this recipe, I'm going to keep it fairly classic with a lemon basil pesto. 

No pesto's truly complete without the basil that gives pesto its signature taste. But this herb is more than just tasty, it's also chock-full of health-boosting nutrients. Basil's got:

  • blood-building folate and iron;
  • antioxidant, skin health-boosting vitamins A and C;
  • magnesium (nature's mineral chill pill!); and
  • anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

For an extra dose of super healthy plant-based omega-3s, I've used hemp hearts instead of the pine nuts you'll usually find in pesto. I love adding hemp to my recipes. Hemp hearts are shelled hemp seeds and they're a great way to add blood-sugar balancing healthy fats. You'll find me using hemp hearts in everything from my Vanilla Chai Truffles , to Spicy Hot Chocolate , to Sweet Pea and Mint Dip .

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  • 2 cups fresh spinach (loosely packed)
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup hemp hearts
  • 1/2-1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • Pinch of sea salt to taste
  1. Add all ingredients to food processor (I use a mini one)
  2. Blitz to desired consistency
  3. Enjoy!


Give a taste test and add more of what ever your taste buds desire

What's your go-to way to perk up a pasta or pizza? Let me know in the comments below!

Dawn   •   May 12, 2016

Going to try the pesto recipe! I make the raw cacao vegan balls all the time (surely a staple in our home). I miss your recipe videos - guessing you're very busy with your sweet baby these days!

Heather Allen   •   May 12, 2016

Lisa Locke   •   May 13, 2016

Hi Joy, I am a newbe to your website but I love your recipes. Was wondering if your book is available in Kindle edition? Lisa

Heather Allen   •   May 13, 2016

Connie   •   May 17, 2016

Your lemon basil pesto talks about basil but yet the recipe calls for spinach???

Heather Allen   •   May 17, 2016

Amy   •   March 4, 2017

Hi! This recipe sounds awesome - how long do you think it lasts in the fridge?

Joy McCarthy   •   March 4, 2017

Jill forester   •   June 14, 2017

Do you ever use hemp powder instead of hearts? Thanks! Xoxo

Joy McCarthy   •   June 15, 2017

Angela Jakse   •   January 15, 2019

Is this freezable? I make Broccoli "pesto" and defrost when I make Banza pasta for my toddler!

Joy McCarthy   •   January 15, 2019

Tammy   •   May 24, 2019

I’m unable to eat spinach ... can you suggest a replacement for that in this recipe?

Joy McCarthy   •   May 24, 2019

Anne Marie   •   May 25, 2019

My fave pizza is a gf crust topped with pesto (yours forever more) mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, garlic topped off with moz cheese. Once out of the oven a little crumble of goat cheese.

Joy McCarthy   •   May 25, 2019

Meg   •   August 19, 2019

I like that this doesn’t include pine nuts. Mostly because pine nuts are so much $$$$. Do you find this pesto tastes much different from traditional pesto?

Joy McCarthy   •   August 20, 2019

Elisa Echevarria   •   June 21, 2021

Any suggestion for a substitute for the hemp hearts?

Joy McCarthy   •   June 22, 2021

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