Nut Free Super Green Pesto with Kale, Savoy Cabbage + Basil

(Last Updated On: 25 February 2021)

Today we’re making a super speedy green pesto – this no-nut pesto is vegan and gluten-free. I’ve incorporated raw savoy cabbage for an extra boost to this super seasonal, vibrant, green condiment.

I have a love affair with pesto that knows no bounds. I’ll stick it in my sandwich’s every day, better yet inside a toastie (that’s a grilled cheese to US readers), top soups and salads with the stuff. Pesto is THERE for me when I want a quick and easy dinner. It just GET’S ME! Heck, I’ve even been know to eat a spoonful of the gorgeous stuff straight out the jar. Don’t @ me!

Vibrant Green pesto in a flip top jar on the work surface alongside it is kale and basil leaves, and a scattering of sunflower seeds.

This vegan kale pesto joins my Red Pesto here on The Accidental Chef, but that one wasn’t nearly as seasonal.

Quick disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using the links in this post, I may receive a small commission at no extra expense to you. I only recommend and link to stuff that I personally love, and either own or have owned, that’s the tea.

Pesto with Sunflower Seeds

We’re making pesto without nuts today, so we’re turning to trusty sunflower seeds in place of the usual pinenuts or cashews. But are sunflower seeds good for you? Let’s explore.

According to Healthline, sunflower seeds are among the top 6 healthy seeds we should eat more of. This is owing to the fact they’re fairly high in protein, monounsaturated fats and Vitamin E. Just 28 grams of sunflower seeds contains 47% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin E. By my calculations that means if you eat this entire tub of pesto – you’ll nearly be set for the day. Challenge Accepted.

Don’t eat the sunflower seed’s hull though, that’s not good for digestion (source: I advise buying raw, hulled sunflower seeds, like these, they will contain far less salt than other processed versions.

Sunflower seeds are great scattered in salads, on top of soups or just eaten raw as a healthier snack.

Ingredients for Vegan Pesto

To make this easy pesto, you will need:

  • 50 grams of sunflower seeds
  • 15 grams of basil – that’s about 15 big leaves by my calculations
  • 110 grams of savoy cabbage – that’s approximately 5 of the big, greener outer leaves.
  • 100 grams of kale – a couple of large handfuls will do
  • 250ml of extra virgin olive oil – or if you prefer using cup measurements, use one cup
  • 125ml of cold water – half a cup for you US folks.
  • Juice of a whole lemon
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast – this brings that typical pesto cheesiness to the party
  • Large pinch of salt
Pile of kale, savoy cabbage leaves and basil in a white bowl
Ingredients to make green pesto on a white background

Substitutions + Changes

There are a few bits you could change here to make this homemade pesto your own. If you’re trying to avoid oil, you could switch the olive oil for water, or cold vegetable stock. Next, if you lack in the cabbage department, add extra kale, some parsley or rocket/ arugula in its place. If you love pine nuts, and cannot live without them in your pesto, then, by all means, pop them in instead of the sunflower seeds.

Top Tip

For an extra PUNCH of flavour, lightly toast your sunflower seeds in a dry pan for 4 – 5 minutes until they start to turn a lovely, deep, golden brown. This will bring extra nuttiness and add a new depth to your green pesto.

Making Kale + Cabbage Pesto

There isn’t really a step by step process to making pesto is there – just bosh it all the blender and blitz it?!?! BUT wait a minute! My advice to you is this, blitz together the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast, sunflower seeds, kale and cabbage first – until they’re almost a paste, then add the lemon juice, salt and water and blitz again. THEN, slowly stream in the olive oil, whilst your food processor is running, if possible.

Voila creamy, delicious and aromatic as hell. Transfer your kale pesto to a jar and pop it in the fridge.

Blitzed kale, cabbage, sunflower seeds, garlic, oil and lemon in a food processor.

Can You Freeze Pesto?

Absolutely. In fact – I’d recommend it. We don’t want to be chucking pesto away that’s been forgotten about in the fridge, do we?

Pop spoonfuls of your super green pesto into an ice cube tray, and pop in the freezer until frozen solid. Remove the frozen cubes of pesto from the tray and pop them into a ziplock bag or freezer-proof container so they’re ready for your next pesto pasta adventure.

You can either defrost on the worktop (they won’t take long) or add them to a pan with a splash of water over low heat and then toss your pasta through that. Easy.

Ice cube tray containing pesto

What Should I Serve My Pesto With?

EVERYTHING! Stir this green pesto into your next risotto, smother vegetables in it and even griddle or roast them, stir it through your mash potatoes. You can add it to every sandwich you ever make. Stir some into my Butternut Squash Pasta Bake or, better yet, mix savoy with savoy and stir it through my creamy, cabbage pasta.

Yes – Pesto. With. EVERYTHING.

Nut Free Pesto Pin

Did You Make This Pesto?

If you’ve made yourself some easy homemade pesto today, I would love it if you could leave a rating and comment below. It really helps me get to know you better and tells me which sort of recipes you want more of.

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Vegan Kale Pesto

Is there anything on this earth that's as tasty as pesto, yet as simple as pesto? I don't think there is.
Servings 20 servings (one tablespoon per serving approx)
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins


  • 50 g sunflower seeds
  • 15 g basil leaves approximately 15 leaves
  • 100 g kale about 2 large handfuls
  • 110 g savoy cabbage about 5 large leaves
  • 250 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 125 ml water
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Juice of a lemon


  • Optional first step – lightly toast sunflower seeds in a dry frying pan, 1 – 2 minutes.
  • Add the basil, garlic, nutritional yeast and sunflower seeds to a food processor. Tear in the kale and cabbage leaves. Blitz to a coarse paste. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times.
  • Add the lemon juice, salt and water and blitz again for 20 seconds.
  • Whilst the food processor is running slowly stream in the olive oil until fully combined.
  • Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge. It will last for up to 10 days.
  • To freeze, transfer some of the pesto into an ice cube tray, and pop in the freezer until frozen solid. Once frozen transfer to a freezer safe container or bag. The pesto will keep in the freezer for up to three months.


Looking for a quick meal? Add frozen pesto cubes to a splash of water in a pan over low heat. Stir your pesto through some pasta and voila, one quick pasta dinner.
Calories: 134kcal
Course: Sauce/ Condiment
Cuisine: Italian Inspired
Keyword: 15 minute meals, Pasta Sauce, Pesto
In Season: December, February, January, November, October, September
Special Diet: Gluten Free, Nut Free, Vegan


Calories: 134kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 4mg | Potassium: 78mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 594IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 14mg | Iron: 1mg

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