This post may contain affiliate links. Learn more here.
Vegetarian Recipes

Protein-Packed Hemp Seed Pesto

Hemp Seed Pesto

Protein can be a touchy subject for vegetarians and it’s easy to see why — when someone questions you about the fact that you don’t eat meat, usually the first thing they ask is, “How do you get your protein?” Sometimes it’s a legitimate question, but sometimes it’s a question that’s meant to undermine our diets or trip us up. For a long time, my response was always, “There’s protein in broccoli! You can get protein from a lot of sources besides meat!” and that was that. But then I started counting how many grams of protein I was getting each day and I realized that it wasn’t always enough.

This felt weird to me — like, oh, huh, does this mean the haters are right? If I acknowledge that they had a point, does that make me a bad vegetarian? But really, it’s okay — it is really easy to get enough protein in a vegetarian diet and for many vegetarians, if not most, it probably doesn’t even require counting the grams you’re eating. But because of my eating habits, I realized that I do need to keep track and when I get at least 50 grams of protein a day, I feel less hungry throughout the day.

My main problem was that I ate mostly muffins or granola bars for breakfast, getting almost no protein. So even though I made a point to have a protein with lunch and dinner, skipping it for breakfast was causing a deficit almost every day. Now, I make sure I have a breakfast that has at least 10 grams of protein and I try to add additional protein to my meals and snacks throughout the rest of the day where I can. One of my favorite sources is hemp seeds.

Hemp Seeds
We’ve shared 4 ways to use hemp seeds in the past; they are seriously versatile and they also happen to be high in protein. It’s really easy to toss a tablespoon or two into your morning smoothie or oatmeal, add some to your lunchtime salad, etc. Hemp seeds on everything!

I always make a big batch of pesto at the end of the summer with our basil plants and this year, I decided to use hemp seeds instead of pine nuts. This adds over 3 additional grams of protein per 1/4 cup (about 8.5 grams total), but the pesto really tastes just like any other pesto you’d whip up with pine nuts or walnuts — you wouldn’t guess it’s made with hemp.

I froze some of the pesto in mini muffin tins for future use, and used the rest of it to make naan pizzas topped with the freshly made hemp seed pesto, zucchini slices, heirloom tomatoes, and sweet corn. The awesome thing about this freezing pesto is that you can get a little taste of summer all through fall and winter — and a bonus boost of protein too.

Hemp Seed Pesto

Hemp Seed Pesto

Using hemp seeds instead of pine nuts adds 3 additional grams of protein per 1/4 cup of this basil pesto.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves loosely packed
  • 1/4 cup shelled hemp seeds also called hemp hearts
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Kosher salt to taste about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon is a good amount


  • Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula if necessary.


I don't like my pesto very oily, so I usually don't use more than 3 tablespoons, but if you like a smoother pesto, add more oil until it reaches a consistency you like.
Craving more veg-friendly recipes? Shop our collection of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Ali | Gimme Some Oven
    August 18, 2014 at 8:54 am

    I started adding hemp seed to my pesto a few months ago, and am obsessed. They taste just like pine nuts! 🙂

  • Reply
    Millie | Add A Little
    August 18, 2014 at 9:24 am

    mmm this looks wonderful!

  • Reply
    Susan Rubinsky
    August 19, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    I’m not a vegetarian — But I do eat mostly veggies, seafood, cheese, eggs, and, to a minor extent, nuts and grains (but I’ll also eat a very good cut of grassfed steak or other grassfed/organic/free range/etc. meat every once in a while). I’ve just always craved veggies more than other stuff. I’m also what i call a grazer. I don’t do calculations on anything I eat. I just eat what I feel like eating when I am hungry.

    I am sure I have days where I eat hardly any protein and other days where I eat lots (like when my brother shows up with a fresh caught wild bass and we cook it up on the grill). I personally think that the “daily allowance” seems a little extreme. The real question should be: Do you get enough of the right nutrients over a longer time period, such as a week? “Daily intake” really is a contrived number that doesn’t take into account how humans actually evolved and what is actually right or correct for health.

    Also, where the heck do you get Hemp Seeds? I have never seen them anywhere. I can’t wait to try this recipe!

  • Reply
    Katie (The Muffin Myth)
    August 19, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Great idea! I love hemp seeds and use them almost every day in some form or another. I love the idea of using them to make pesto. Though our basil plants are far too sad at this point for pretty much anything, I bet I can still score some good basil at the farmers market. Yum!

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      August 27, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      We didn’t get nearly as much basil as usual this year. But then again, I kind of neglected the herb garden a little bit too. 🙂

  • Reply
    Joanne Bruno
    August 21, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I have a love/hate relationship with that question also…LOVE because I totally know what to say back but HATE because when are people going to realize that vegetarianism is the new black. or something like that.

    Love the extra protein in this hemp seed pesto! Way to get extra nutrition in in delicious form.

    • Reply
      Kiersten Frase
      August 27, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      I feel like a lot of times people ask that question to be jerky about vegetarianism. Especially now that paleo is such a thing.

  • Reply
    August 8, 2018 at 9:44 am

    Trying this one today. Looks good! Hemp hearts are available at Costco and Superstore in Winnipeg.

  • Reply
    September 23, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    Wow!!! So good, so easy. Making a bunch more today and freezing it in ice cube trays.

  • Leave a Reply

    Recipe Rating