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Meatless Monday: How to make hemp seed pesto

Happy Nut-Free Pesto with pasta and cherry tomatoes.
Happy Nut-Free Pesto with pasta and cherry tomatoes. The Kansas City Star

Note: This is the first in a three-part Meatless Monday series on recipes that incorporate hemp seeds.

Last summer, I wrote a story for The Star’s food section about the rising popularity of hemp seeds.

While working on the story, I learned to like the seeds, which have a creamy texture and nutty taste similar to sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Hemp seeds are small — they’re similar in size to sesame seeds — but they pack a big nutritional punch. They are high in protein and fiber and contain an almost ideal balance of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which support heart and brain health.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, hemp seeds won’t get you high or make you fail a drug test. Like marijuana, hemp is a variety of cannabis, but it contains super-low levels of THC.

Consuming the recommended 3-tablespoon serving over the course of one day is relatively easy: Just blend the seeds into smoothies or sprinkle on cereal, yogurt, salads and grilled fish.

I typically buy Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts, sold by natural grocers and chains such as Whole Foods, Costco and Kroger. I like the seeds sprinkled on oatmeal with raisins, walnuts and a drizzle of real maple syrup, but I also use them to bump up the protein in basil pesto.

The following recipe is from Tara Miko, founder of an Austin, Texas-based line of hemp seed products called Happy Hemp. It substitutes low-allergen hemp seeds for pine nuts, so it’s great for those with nut allergies.

Happy Nut-Free Pesto

Makes 1 cup pesto

2 cups basil

1 cup parsley

2 cloves garlic

1/4 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup hemp seeds

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the basil, parsley, garlic, lemon and hemp seeds in a food processor. Pulse a few times. Turn the food processor to low and slowly add olive oil.

Scrape the sides of the food processor, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Per 2-tablespoon serving: 122 calories (79 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 4 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 14 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.

Enterprise reporter Sarah Gish writes dining guides and bar guides for Ink magazine. Contact her via email at or tweet @sarah_gish.