Pumpkin Seed Pesto is the perfect addition to a fall dinner! This pesto without pine nuts uses roasted pumpkin seeds for an autumn twist you'll love served with your favorite pasta, or as a topping for vegetables, chicken or fish.
This recipe was originally posted on October 28, 2015 and updated on September 13, 2021.
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It seems like pumpkin recipes start to make their way into kitchens earlier and earlier each year! If you're already itching for some pumpkin-infused ideas for your fall menu, I've got a great way to ease into pumpkin season: Pumpkin Seed Pesto!
This savory fall recipe comes together with just a handful of ingredients. Made with toasted pumpkin seeds, it's a great way to give this classic sauce an autumn twist and fantastic way to whip up pesto without pine nuts!
This recipe is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.
Pumpkin Seed Pesto packs a powerful punch considering the fact that it only contains five basic ingredients (not including salt):
- Roasted pumpkin seeds. Traditional pesto calls for pine nuts, but you can also use other types of nuts to create delicious pesto variations. Shelled pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are easy to find in most grocery stores around the fall season. I prefer to buy the type that come roasted and lightly salted. You can shell and roast the pumpkin seeds yourself if you want to give yourself a post-pumpkin carving project.
- Fresh basil. Aromatic and full of flavor, fresh basil is essential in good pesto.
- Garlic. This recipe only calls for two large cloves, but feel free to add in as much as you'd like!
- Pumpkin puree. A few tablespoons of canned pumpkin puree lend a tiny hint of sweetness to this version of pesto. Since you'll still have most of the can of pumpkin leftover, check out my other recipes like Pumpkin Spice Beer Bread or Pumpkin Lasagna Rolls with Gouda Cheese Sauce or Savory Pumpkin Cheddar Rugelach to use it up!
- Olive oil. Typically, I'm not picky about the type of olive oil I use in recipes, but since the flavor of the olive oil will be noticeable, make sure to select one with a flavor you enjoy.
Place the roasted pumpkin seeds, basil, garlic, pumpkin puree and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Pulse a few times to combine.
If your food processor has a feed tube or a hole in the lid where you can add ingredients while the machine runs, use it to pour a steady stream of olive oil while processing until you've reached the desired consistency. If it does not, remove the lid and pour in a small amount of oil, replace the lid and process. Repeat this until you've added all of the oil.
Blend until smooth or leave it with a bit of texture -- it's up to you. The pesto is now ready to store in an airtight container or use right away!
I like to toss this pesto with pasta and top with a sprinkle of cheese, but make sure to check out the list below for more ideas on how to add pesto into your recipes!
Tip: Adding the olive oil in a steady stream or a bit at a time during processing helps the pesto emulsify, creating a smoother and more uniform sauce.
Recipes Using Pesto
Pesto isn't just a sauce for pasta! Play around in the kitchen and experiment with these uses for your Pumpkin Seed Pesto:
- Pesto Gnocchi
- Pesto Aioli or Pesto Mayo
- Pesto Hummus
- Pesto Garlic Bread
- Pesto on Salmon
- Pesto Grilled Chicken
If you enjoy pesto and want to try other recipes (using different types, both homemade and store bought) check out my mouthwatering Pistachio Pesto Skillet Pasta with Caramelized Brussels Sprouts that makes a great weeknight meal, hearty Tortellini Artichoke Pesto Soup for those cold weather months or get a double dose of pumpkin with a Double Pumpkin Cheddar Grilled Cheese!
Traditional pesto usually contains cheese, which makes it unsuitable for a vegan diet. This version, however, contains no cheese, so it is in fact vegan!
Sure! It won't be pumpkin seed pesto anymore, but pesto can really be made with any nut: walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, cashews... go nuts!
Yes. Simply scoop the pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a zip-top freezer bag. Frozen pesto will last for up to 6 months. To use, just grab as many individual portions as needed for a recipe.
Homemade pesto should keep for 3-5 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The color may turn dull or darken due to oxidation (much like guacamole turns brown when exposed to air for too long), but it can still be eaten safely.
Yes. Pesto without nuts is actually what the French call pistou. Increase the amount of basil leaves to 3 cups and reduce the olive oil to ½ a cup and blend.
Pumpkin Seed Pesto
- ½ cup roasted, shelled pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt see notes
- Place shelled pumpkin seeds, basil, garlic, and pumpkin puree in a food processor or blender jar.
- Pulse a few times to combine, then stream in olive oil while pulsing to reach desired consistency.
- Taste and season with salt if necessary -- just be careful not to over-season if you used salted pumpkin seeds.
- Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Tip: If you are using salted pumpkin seeds, be sure to taste the mixture before adding extra salt to ensure that it's not too salty.
- Storage: Homemade pesto should keep for 3-5 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The color may turn dull or darken due to oxidation (much like guacamole turns brown when exposed to air for too long), but it can still be eaten safely.
- Freezing Pesto: Scoop the pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a zip-top freezer bag. Frozen pesto will last for up to 6 months. To use, just grab as many individual portions as needed for a recipe.