This basil pesto is really delicious and has a more extensive nutritional profile than its (also healthy) traditional version. It is gluten, nut and grain-free and I have also included a dairy-free variation too. Being nut-free, you can safely include to health-up school lunches.


Health benefits

Basil is a rich source of many essential vitamins and minerals and antioxidant flavanoids, two of which have been shown to protect cells and DNA from radiation. 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 – 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 its 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.


The pumpkin seeds? I’ve already touted the benefits of this super seed!


Makes about 1 cup of pesto



  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 50g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 large handfuls basil (leaves picked and washed)
  • 1 large handful  kale (leaves torn from the stems)
  • 60g (¼ cup) pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon, zest optional



You can make this in a mortar and pestle but I prefer to use my food processor as I like a textured pesto. I tend to use the turbo (pulse) 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.

  1. Grate and crush your parmesan and garlic by hand or in your food processor.
  2. Add the basil and kale. Pulse until almost chopped.
  3. Then add the pumpkin seeds. A couple more pulses should see it combined nicely.
  4. Lastly, season well and mix through your lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.



Dairy-free and vegan

Omit the parmesan.  I’d suggest adding some nutritional yeast for cheese flavour and 50g of finely ground pumpkin seeds to replace the parmesan.


Replace the kale with spinach

Spinach is also very nutritious and I think it has a much milder flavour than kale.


Add capsicum

I love to add half a vitamin C-rich red capsicum to my pesto.


Make it Thai (coriander pesto)

Replace the basil with coriander leaves and swap the lemon for lime juice and zest.



As a dip for raw or steamed vegetables.

In a sandwich, instead of butter or mayonnaise.

Mixed through cold pasta or rice (salad style).

With a little homemade mayonnaise to bind chicken, tuna or egg in a sandwich.



Cover the top with of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil to seal it (which stops it from oxidising or going brown). Store it in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to a week.

You can also freeze in one large glass jar or in ice cube trays. If using ice cube trays, once frozen solid, transfer to an airtight bag or container for up to three months.


Visit www.wellnourished.com.au for loads of recipes including hidden pumpkin seeds.


Well Nourished

Well Nourished  

Founded by Georgia, a mum, cookbook author, naturopath with 19 years experience and the creator of The Well Nourished Lunch Box Challenge, Well Nourished delivers wholesome, easy-to-follow recipes targeted to busy families. Readers flock to Well Nourished for inspiring health advice and free, nourishing, family friendly recipes. // www.wellnourished.com.au