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.

Print this recipe
Hemp Seed Pesto

Prep Time

5 minutes

Total Time

5 minutes


About 3/4 cup of pesto


  • 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)


  1. 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.


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!

I agree; I think dietary guidelines are pretty arbitrary and can vary from person to person. Still, I’ve noticed that when I make a real effort to eat more protein, I feel better. Whether 50 grams is the exact amount I need to hit, I don’t know, but I just try to get into that general vicinity by the end of the day. 🙂

Our small town grocery store has hemp seeds now! I think they’re catching on, so hopefully you’ll be able to find them locally soon. If you have a Whole Foods nearby or another natural food store, I’m sure they have them. Abe’s sells big bags of them too: -products/food-and-drink/meal-mixes/natural-organic-ingredients-sides/bobs-red-mill-hemp-seed-hulled-12-oz-

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!

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *