This autumnal riff on the classic condiment swaps in parsley and pumpkin seeds for the traditional basil and pine nuts. The resulting pesto is divine. And exceptionally well suited to autumn. Dollop it onto roasted veggies and meats, slather it on a sandwich, or stir it into cooked pasta. Really, the possibilities are endless. So give it a whirl. And then let us know how you used it in a comment below.Angie Zoobkoff

Glass jar of pumpkin seed pesto, nearby the lid and a spoon with pesto

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

5 / 2 votes
This autumn-inspired pesto combines pumpkin seeds, parsley, pecorino, and olive oil to make an exceptionally versatile condiment.
David Leite
Servings12 servings (1 1/2 cups total)
Calories214 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


  • 2/3 cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds, or substitute salted pumpkin seeds but reduce the salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 1/2 oz) packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping up the jar
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Pecorino cheese
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or less to taste


  • In a dry skillet over high heat, toast the pumpkin seeds, shaking the skillet occasionally, until they stop crackling and popping, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the seeds to a food processor and toss in the parsley, oil, cheese, lemon, and salt. Blitz until a coarse paste-like pesto forms.
  • Scrape the pesto into the sterilized jar and add enough oil to form a layer on top to ensure it’s airtight. Screw on the lid and refrigerate for up to a week. Every time you use a little (or a lot), always make certain there’s a thin layer of oil on top of the pesto before popping it back in the refrigerator.
Comfort Cookbook

Adapted From


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Serving: 2 tablespoonsCalories: 214 kcalCarbohydrates: 1 gProtein: 4 gFat: 22 gSaturated Fat: 4 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3 gMonounsaturated Fat: 14 gTrans Fat: 0.003 gCholesterol: 9 mgSodium: 299 mgPotassium: 80 mgFiber: 0.5 gSugar: 0.2 gVitamin A: 667 IUVitamin C: 11 mgCalcium: 101 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2018 John Whaite. Photo © 2018 Nassima Rothacker. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Calling all pesto lovers! This variation on a classic is unique in its ingredients and bursting with flavor.

Swapped for the traditional toasted pine nuts are pumpkin seeds, and, for the sweet fresh basil, Italian flat leaf parsley. Those two items plus quality olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and (my favorite) grated Pecorino cheese make for a no-cook sauce that pairs well with a multitude of dishes. Its simplicity is just a delight. Minimal ingredients, minimal effort, but the results very flavorful and memorable.

I like the texture of the pesto, too. To me, it was a bit thicker than a basil pesto which makes it heartier. The only thing that might need to be pointed out is the majority of pumpkin seeds I see in the store are roasted and salted, which are delish, but for this purpose with all of the added cheese and the added salt, it could get really salty really quickly. Just a thought.

My first go-round with the pesto sauce I decided to toss it onto roasted cauliflower florets, and I plan to give it second go-round tonight tossed with some al dente orzo pasta stuffed into baked sweet bell peppers. I can also see this delightful pesto sauce working well with a pork tenderloin, grilled chicken perhaps, or even as a sauce for the season’s best roasted squash. The possibilities are endless!

It’s sometimes a difficult mind-bend to separate the word pesto from it’s most common basil-parmesan-garlic rendition. This pumpkin seed pesto, however, makes a strong case for the greater good of the category of herb and nut pastes and for the wide flexibility of ingredients. The pumpkin seeds do indeed give this an autumnal flair that’s a welcome change of pace as we head into cooler fall days. The flavor of the pesto is earthy and excellent and don’t even get me started on the aroma in my kitchen as the mixture was whizzing in the food processor!

The recipe made about two cups, leaving me enough to stash a small jar in the fridge for use on sandwiches, on pasta, or alongside grilled fish or chicken, plus plenty more to freeze for the future.

Setting foot into the produce section is a guarantee that I’ll leave with a fistful of parsley. Though I claim sweet, fragrant basil as my favorite, its tenderness is fleeting. Parsley’s tender yet sturdy, confidently versatile qualities never seem out of place. Honestly, I have no idea how parsley pesto has escaped me, but I’m hooked. I’m a sucker for pasta after a long day at work and love how quickly premade pesto makes a meal feel special.

This pumpkin seed pesto kept well—and stayed green, perhaps from the lemon juice—for more than a week and livened up noodles, sauces, and even was used on a grilled cheese sandwich. I think it’d be especially good paired with mushrooms and roasted squash wedges. If you’re a bit short on the cheese, the toasty pumpkin seeds seem to make up for the umami—I was short about half the amount of cheese and found the pesto plenty tasty, if a bit short of salt. I also balanced to taste with extra lemon juice.

This pumpkin seed pesto was so different from the traditional basil pesto, but versatile and delicious.

I found many uses for the toasty pesto. I used it to top roasted beets, baked sweet potatoes, roasted Brussel sprouts, and drizzled it over ripe heirloom tomatoes. I’ll definitely keep this in the refrigerator in the future!

The perfect recipe for my bumper crop of parsley. I was able to whip this up in 25 minutes, and found it to be a more mild and earthy pesto. We didn’t mind a departure from the traditional basil punch. Served it on butternut squash ravioli and the flavors complemented each other nicely. This is a keeper!

This is a flavorful and interesting take on pesto. I found it to be quite rich compared to the version I am accustomed to, so I found a little goes a long way when using it. For example, I can’t really imagine this as a sauce on pizza or pasta as it might be overwhelming. I used it in a polenta dish that called for a parsley pesto, and it went very nicely drizzled over the polenta that was also topped with roasted broccoli, mushrooms, and sausage. I can imagine it would also be fantastic with a thin layer on flatbread or paired with other ingredients in a pasta dish.

In my garden parsley grows most vigorously from late summer to early fall, so I happily made this autumnal pesto using the fresh harvest. The pesto was enjoyed on toasted ciabatta with tomato slices on top, on crackers, and folded into an omelet. Although this pesto was delicious overall, one whole cup of very salty Pecorino Romano may have been too much, as pumpkin seeds and parsley struggled to come through. Next time I would try 2/3 cup of Parmigiano, which is nuttier and less sharp.

I was not sure exactly what to expect from this pesto, I am a huge fan of basil and sun-dried tomato pesto and to be honest, I didn’t think I would love anything as much. I was blown away by the nutty, rich flavor of this pesto, and frankly have not been able to stop eating it since—on practically everything! I love the intense nutty flavor from the pumpkin seeds which complements the strong flavor of the pecorino beautifully. The lemon juice cuts through the richness of the pesto and adds a much needed hint of acidity. These create a rich pesto, a great warm autumn pesto (I definitely agree with the description of this recipe) that can be enjoyed with anything from sandwiches, pizza and warm meat (or vegetable) dishes. It is very versatile and a little goes a long way, adding a depth of flavor to anything you decide to eat it with. I would recommend trying this recipe and personally I will be making this more regularly at home.

Pesto is a great way to add flavors to anything: pasta, soup, bread, omelets, and fish. It can be prepared with a lot of greens, or seeds like in this recipe that uses pumpkin seeds. This is a simple, fragrant, and nutritious pesto recipe ideal for autumn dishes.

I am always looking for nontraditional pesto recipes so I was excited to try this recipe. The pesto had some nice earthy flavors, but I felt it needed a bit more acid and less salt. Perhaps my pecorino was too salty, but if I made this recipe again, I would add the juice of a whole lemon and 1/2 cup of cheese. I used this pesto on pizza and topped it with tomatoes and goat cheese and it was delicious!

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I’ve been a fan of this pesto since I tested in 2018! I divide it into clean jars, top it with olive oil, and freeze it like I do regular basil pesto. It thaws overnight in the fridge, and all you need to figure out what to pair it with—an easy task since pesto has many friends! I tossed homemade potato gnocchi in it tonight. DELICIOUS!