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Dressing and sauce recipes

Vegan hemp seed basil pesto

Prep time 15 minutes
yields 2 cups

Photography by Tracey Creed
Assisted by Amandine Paniagua
Recipe by Amandine Paniagua and Tracey Creed
Words by Tracey Creed

Published May 24 2020
Updated May 29 2021


12 cup sunflower seeds
14 cup hemp seeds
14 cup nutritional yeast
4 cups fresh basil leaves packed
2 garlic cloves small
juice of 1 lemon
14 cup hemp seed or olive oil
pinch of sea salt


To prepare the pesto, place the sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, basil, garlic and lemon in a blender or food processor and pulse to combine until the mixture is coarsely ground.

With the motor running, add in the oil until you reach your desired consistency. You might need to scrape down the sides of the bowl or jug a few times. Season to taste with sea salt.

Pasta plus pesto is always on high rotation at our place

This basil pesto with hemp seeds and pasta combination is ideal for a simplified weeknight meal or prepped lunches for the week ahead. Some would argue pesto is not pesto without Parmesan, but this vegan version is very good. You swap the Parmesan for nutritional yeast — make sure what you are buying contains the essential B vitamins (including fortified B12), not all brands do. It is a must for any plant-based eater.

And as we may be reading this from different continents, with different climates and access, adapt as required. Here I have kale and basil, though if it were winter, I would instead replace the basil with kale entirely. This is also more cost-effective in general. Striking that balance between great flavour and nutrition without spending an entire paycheck is vital for inspiring others to get on board with what you are doing — I think that tends to be the main criticism of vegan diets.

Our recipes are heavily whole food-focused, and we hoped this would encourage others to return to basics, now perhaps it seems more relevant, experiencing multiple lockdowns.

While I'm usually picking up ingredients throughout the week from the grocery store, this was no longer possible during the lockdown. Acquiring groceries had become challenging. I had not considered the struggle many people felt that takeout was no longer an option until I saw the memes. There had not been a better time to organise one's self — even partially commit to meal prep.

And while two-minute noodles were absent from supermarket shelves, I would like to think that some people came to appreciate the time, love and effort that goes into preparing a meal. To me, a happy refrigerator is one bustling with batches of hummus, fresh juice, nut milk and jars of sauerkraut. And this pesto is one of those foods we prepare from scratch for making a meal in moments. That and it was a personal commitment to minimise my plastic use. Cooking is in many ways, my meditation and primarily my connection to myself and the earth.

If anything, I think while the COVID-19 epidemic reminded us of the fragility of humanity — it also brought to focus the underlying food security risks, and inequities within our global food systems. There is no doubt that the food system is challenging to navigate, especially when it comes to consuming responsibly, that said, eating in season supports local growers. And if you can, eating organic, food produced without pesticides/herbicides/fungicides is positive for the earth and those who cultivate these foods. Either way, both are wonderful opportunities to put our dollars in the right direction. We prepared this pesto with basil from our yard (Amandine's partner Benoit is cultivating it by the Masses. If you make this pesto, we would love to see. Tag us on Instagram, @thisislagom.

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