Upgrade Your Pesto With This One Unlikely Ingredient

Skip the walnuts and add these nutty snacks for crunch instead.

Adobe Stock | Photo by Oksana

When making the garlicky green stuff, skip the walnuts and add these nutty snacks found at several Hudson Valley shops instead.

Pesto makes everything better. Whether it’s tossed with gnocchi or smeared below a smattering of mozzarella on white pizza, it’s the secret sauce that turns even the most basic of meals into mouthwatering dishes. While you’re probably familiar with the basic pesto formula (herbs + oil + garlic + pine nuts or walnuts, depending on preference), you might not realize just how easy the recipe is to adapt. That’s why we love Jonathan Botta’s take on the delectable green sauce. The toasted sunflower seeds offer a light nuttiness and a subtle crunch, while the mint provides a refreshing contrast to the rich oil and garlic flavors.

Sunflower Seed Pesto

Makes 2 cups


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½ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
1 cup basil leaves, packed
1 cup parsley leaves, packed
1 ¼ cups mint leaves, packed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 ½ cups blended oil


Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to combine and break up herbs. Drizzle in blended oil gradually. Season with salt and pepper.

Courtesy of Chef Jonathan Botta, The Dutch Ale House Make It: Want to impress your dinner party guests? Drizzle the pesto on top of a bowl of this butternut squash bisque for a gourmet upgrade on an already delicious entrée. 

Related: Hudson Valley Chefs Reveal Their From-Scratch Cooking Secrets

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