Basil Swiss Chard Sunflower Pesto

Basil Chard Sunflower Pesto

My creative spin on Pesto

I love herbs. It’s been a passion for me since I was in Junior High. I remember sorting electronics surplus parts for my uncle and typing address labels for his catalog like a fiend so I could save up to buy plants at the local nursery. My bedroom window was filled with plants, and eventually I created three different herb gardens in my yard. I loved the smell of them, I loved that many could be relied on to come up year after year, and I loved that they loved sandy soil and a bit of a drought every now and then. I also loved experimenting with them in recipes. But around the same time I developed a serious pine allergy. My eyes would swell shut, I couldn’t breathe. This was long before epi-pens, and while I knew to take allergy meds when pine trees were shaking their yellowy pollen-filled branches at me, I didn’t realize that pine nuts were also a product of the tree! I shouldn’t have been eating them. But I hadn’t tested for having an issue with food allergies. At least not any major ones. I just knew that I didn’t like the way my tongue felt when I ate anything with pesto in it.

Flash forward MANY years later, and allergies are a common point of discussion. Unfortunately for me, my pine allergy has been a constant in my life. Meaning no Christmas Trees for me, no pretty festive wreaths during the holidays, no pine cones decorating a table… well at least no REAL pine related décor. But I’ve also never really been able to enjoy pesto because I always worried I’d find out too late that it was indeed made with pine nuts. I say, “never really” but in fact as of yesterday I’ve found a solution! So here’s my experimental Pesto recipe. I’m happily eating pesto now and couldn’t wait to spread the word!

Basil Chard Sunflower Pecan Pesto


  • 1/3 cup of sunflower kernels (unsalted) and chopped pecans (almonds or walnuts are also nice)
  • 3 tsp minced garlic (more if you like!)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¾ – 1 cup fresh basil leaves (washed, dried and torn into small pieces)
  • 1 cup fresh chard leaves (stems removed, washed, dried and torn into small leaves)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (more if needed)
  • ½ cup grated romano cheese (or a mixture of parmesan and romano)
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Red Pepper flakes if you like a bit of heat

Place the first 3 ingredients into your food processor and pulse a few times until you get a coarse chop.

Add the basil and chard leaves (I have a small food processor I used so had to do in a few bunches. In my large processor I could have thrown them all in at once) and pulse on high till well blended and leaves are chopped fine.

Add cheese and half the olive oil and pulse again watching for the mixture to become blended and creamy. If you need more oil to keep a creamy consistency add it.

Give it a taste to see if you need more salt, and add the lemon juice if wanted for a bit of brightness.

It’s as simple as that. Great for an appetizer, served with crackers and cheese, or you can add a bit more oil and stir it into pasta or no-yolk egg noodles like we did. It’s a light dinner or a special appetizer that can ALSO be used as a filling for homemade pasta!

This is definitely something I’ll be making again. I hope you like it!