+ Well Nourished | Best Basil Pesto Recipe (healthiest too)

Best Basil Pesto (and the healthiest)

The best basil pesto recipe going, and the most nourishing!  A bold statement I know but it is rather delicious and definitely has a more extensive nutritional profile than its (also healthy) traditional version.  It is gluten and grain free and I have also included dairy and nut-free variations too.

So what makes this pesto so healthy?
Let’s start with the hero of the dish, basil.  Basil is a rich source of many essential vitamins and minerals and antioxidant flavonoids, two of which have been shown to protect cells and DNA from radiation.  Seeing as we are surrounded by radiation from the various forms of (mostly wireless) technology to which we have grown accustomed, this is surely a good thing.

Kale, well other than being the most fashionable vegetable on the planet right now, it is very nourishing (especially in the calcium and iron department) and adds another dimension of health giving nutrients.  For this reason, I add it to my pesto as it’s flavour sits well behind the very pungent basil.  For kids, this means they don’t know they are eating a vegetable they might ordinarily, never touch.

One more ‘Well Nourished’ touch is that I add sunflower seeds, again, more nutrition than using just one nut! Though I have added a nut free version below for school lunch box inclusion.

Makes about 1 cup of pesto

1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
50 grams parmesan cheese, finely grated (dairy free version below)
2 large handfuls of basil (leaves picked and washed)
1 large handful of kale (leaves torn from the stems)
30 gram (¼ cup) sunflower seeds, lightly toasted
30 gram (¼ cup) cashew nuts, lightly toasted
Sea salt and Pepper
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon (zest optional)


  1. You can make this in a mortar and pestle but I prefer to use my Thermomix (or any good food processor will do the job) as I like a textured pesto.  I tend to use the pulse (turbo) function so I can control the texture I’m after.  If you like a course pesto like me, process less, for a smooth pesto, process more.
  2. You can grate and crush your parmesan and garlic by hand or in your food processor.
  3. Add the basil and kale.  Pulse until almost chopped.
  4. Then add the cashews and sunflower seeds.  A couple more pulses should see it combined nicely.
  5. Lastly, season well and mix with your lemon juice and EV olive oil.  Too easy!

Optional Extras
Add a small red chilli or even half a red capsicum for a vitamin C boost.

Dairy free and vegan
Omit the parmesan.  I’d suggest adding some nutritional yeast for cheese flavour and even ground macadamia nuts to replace the parmesan, but that’s optional too.

Replace the kale with spinach
Which is also very nutritious and I think has a much milder flavour than kale.

Nut free
Replace the cashews with the same amount of sunflower seeds.


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The pesto mixed through a grain free black bean noodle with fresh tomatoes and chilli – delicious and so simple!



  • As a delicious, nourishing dip.  It often features in my kids lunch boxes (the nut free version) with raw veggie sticks.
  • Mixed through pasta or zucchini noodles (for a grain and gluten free option).   Add a little extra olive oil to the pesto to coat the pasta evenly and I also often toss through some chopped tomato to create a special meal.  A pesto noodle salad is great for school lunch boxes.
  • With Quinoa or brown rice for added flavour and nutrition.
  • Use as a dressing to liven up steamed veggies or create a special salad.  Mix one tablespoon of pesto with one tablespoon of olive oil and a little extra lemon juice (if you like) and mix through the vegies or salad leaves.
  • In a sandwich or on toast (with avocado – yum).  Add a poached egg for a protein hit!
  • Spread over grilled haloumi.
  • In a tuna vegetable bake or a casserole.
  • Over grilled or BBQ’d meat or fish.
  • On top of a slice of tomato and slice of buffalo mozzarella i.e. Caprese style.
  • On pizza.
  • In a jacket potato or mixed through diced potatoes for an exciting potato salad
  • I could go on and on here…you are only limited by your imagination.  Any Mediterranean flavoured meal will suit a blob of this nourishing Basil pesto.

Share how you eat pesto.  Post a comment below, it’s simple.


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  • Kirsty

    Hi Georgia,
    Do you know if the pesto freezes well? I’m thinking about doing a big batch over the weekend.

    • Yes it does Kirsty. I freeze it in small mason jars, just add a little covering of olive oil over the top before you seal the jar to stop it oxidising (going brown) and it will keep frozen for the better part of a year. It is not quite as nice as fresh (nothing is and I’m pretty picky), but still way better than supermarket pesto. Enjoy and happy weekend cooking, G x

      • Kirsty

        Brilliant thank you! I always thought I didn’t like pesto – until I tasted the real thing and not from a jar.

  • Cas

    Thanks Georgia for another wonderful recipe. Quick, easy and very tasty.

  • Cath

    Man I love your recipes Georgia. Every time I look for a new ‘nourishing’ recipe to replace my ‘old’ recipes, you hit the jackpot for me. Thanks!

  • Beck Emerson

    I have wanted to make a pesto for ages now … Something I’ve never tried. Well I just made your nut free version and I am in love with it!!! Thanks so much Georgia 🙂

    • Yay – so glad you lied it Beck – thanks for the feedback G x

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