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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


College gal cooking: pesto with quinoa, hold the nuts

For those with nut allergies, regular pesto sauce is not an option. This version of the classic is nut-free and substitutes high-protein quinoa for pasta. (GISELLE BARKLEY / THE STATESMAN)

If you are a pesto lover like me, then you know all too well that traditional pesto is made with nuts. But for someone who has nut allergies, finding that out the hard way like I did is not very fun. So let’s make some nut-free pesto with quinoa instead of pasta.

Quinoa is a crop that people harvest for its seeds and it has a high protein content. If you are a vegetarian or vegan who is looking to add a different type of protein to their diet, quinoa is great.

The one catch to this recipe is that you need a blender to make the pesto. Aside from that, the ingredients are pretty simple.


2-4 cups of spinach

4-8 cups of basil

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2-4 cloves of garlic

1 lemon / 1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tsp-2 tbs of Parmesan cheese

1-2 cups of Quinoa

2-4 cups water

When I am making this dish, I start with the quinoa first. At least two cups of water are required for one cup of quinoa. Place the water into a small pot and heat on a medium heat level until the water comes to a boil. Add the quinoa into the boiling water and turn the heat down to low. Let it simmer until most of the water evaporates. This should take around 15 to 20 minutes to make.

While the quinoa is cooking, start making the pesto. I add the olive oil into the blender first because I find adding it first makes blending easier. Afterwards, add the spinach, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice.

When I am cooking, I usually just go by taste, so figuring out the measurements for the pesto was somewhat challenging. I do not like my pesto to be super salty, so when it comes to adding the salt and Parmesan cheese, make sure you taste the pesto. I would suggest starting with one teaspoon of Parmesan cheese and tasting the pesto, adding more to suit one’s palate.

Have a spoon or similar utensil handy to push the ingredients down into the blender periodically. I do this if the ingredients resting at the top of the blender are too far from the blades and are not mixing with the rest of the ingredients. Making the pesto usually takes five minutes. It may take longer or shorter depending on the quality of the blender.

Feel free to customize this recipe based on what you like. I usually put more basil than spinach in my pesto because I find that the basil adds more flavor. Sometimes, I do not put spinach at all. I would not suggest putting more lemon juice in the pesto than necessary. I accidentally did that once and the pesto had a tart aftertaste.

If you are eyeballing the measurements for this recipe, be careful when adding the olive oil. If there is too much olive oil, it will separate from the rest of the ingredients over time.

I paired my pesto with quinoa, but feel free to mix it with pasta or even spaghetti squash. Bon appétit, everyone.

Submit recipes at [email protected] or through Twitter at @gsllbarkley or @sbstatesman

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