Fragrant basil, slightly spicy raw garlic, nutty hemp hearts all paired with spinach to make an affordable and healthy pesto. This spinach basil pesto is definitely a crowd pleaser and is so easy to make it can be enjoyed no matter what the occasion. Did I mention it’s super healthy as it’s vegan, paleo, and gluten free, dairy free! The spinach provides loads of vitamins and minerals with minimal calories. Hemp hearts and walnuts add protein and omegas 3 & 6.
Basil, garlic, lemon juice, nutty parmesan cheese, and that buttery flavor from the pine nuts. Classic pesto. Believe me, in the summer when my basil plants are growing wild, classic pesto is made quite often in my house! However, lets be honest, basil in the winter is a bit pricey and I have almost no luck keeping my basil more than 2 days before it starts turning brown in the fridge. Anyone have a tip on how to keep it from going bad? Pine nuts, well they are always expensive (but yummy). So I wanted to make a more affordable version of this classic dish, since I really enjoy it on things like pizza, pasta, and swirled into roasted tomato garlic soup. It’s also great on crackers with roasted tomatoes or in lasagna. You see pesto, when made right, only adds to a dish, it never takes away. Which is why I love having an affordable, easy recipe during the winter when I don’t have an abundance in my garden.
I don’t think you should just forget about this recipe when the summer comes though. Oh no, that’s far from what I’m recommending. This would be so amazing over vine ripened tomatoes with just a splash of good balsamic vinegar and some raw red onions. This recipe is great, it can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week in the fridge, and the acid in the lemon juice keeps the basil from browning on you. This is also a great way to “sneak” some veggies into your picky eaters food. I mean assuming they don’t shy away from everything green that is! The spinach just gets lost in the background, similar to when you make green smoothies for breakfast.
To get the nutty flavor you normally find from the parmesan cheese, I’ve found that hemp hearts, with their nutty taste are the perfect vegan substitute. I added them to the food processor with the basil and they worked perfectly. In fact, I think that most people wouldn’t even miss the parmesan, vegan or not. Have you tried hemp hearts yet? If not, be sure to enter the giveaway going on now!
Basil is a pretty great herb. Not only does it smell awesome, check out this great list of benefits it has!
- Contains essential oil compounds that are thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties
- Contains Vitamin A, and other antioxidants that are responsible for fighting off oxygen based free radicals
- Basil is a plant based source of iron, which is great for ladies and vegans (and guys too!)
- There are a ton of reasons to enjoy basil, if you need more check out this article from Precision Nutrition
I used my small food processor (affiliate link) to make this pesto. It’s small enough that I don’t need to make a huge batch, but easy enough to clean that I can make a few batches at once if needed.
Grater for my garlic – oh how many times have you thrown a garlic clove into the food processor only to find it didn’t quite process! A tip I learned from Rachel Ray back in the day, grate (affiliate link) your garlic. Here’s a tip for you! If you rub your fingers on stainless steel after washing them after handling garlic, the smell DISAPPEARS!! I wish I could say the same about my breath!
Air tight containers (affiliate link). See I told you guys I use these for everything!! You have to store this basil in an airtight container for it to last more and 1-2 days in the fridge. The basil, even though it’s covered in lemon juice will want to turn black quickly if it’s not sealed off from the air.
- ¼ cup hemp hearts
- 6 raw walnuts
- 1 package of basil (about ¼ cup leaves)
- 2 large handfuls of baby spinach (about 2 cups)
- the juice of one lemon (large)
- 1-2 tbs. olive oil
- pinch (1/8-1/4 tsp) salt
- black pepper to taste
- In a food processor, add the hemp hearts, walnuts and basil. Pulse to combine. Add spinach the lemon juice. Pulse to combine. Turn food processor on high and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Add pinch of salt and few cracks of black pepper.
- Serve immediately over pasta, as a topping for pizza, with crusty bread or on your favorite tomato soup.
What about you?
- Do you have a favorite pesto recipe?
- Do you ever add spinach or kale to your pesto?
- What is your favorite dish to serve pesto on? Mine is pizza!