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Chickpea Pesto Pasta

When my family and I switched from eating a standard diet to a whole foods plant based diet, pesto sauce was something I missed having. I wasn’t sure how to make it dairy free. I also wondered if it would even taste good or the same as the original. In the plant based/ vegan realm of cooking, nutritional yeast is the go to ingredient that replaces cheese in most recipes.  It took me a while before I got over my distaste for this nutrient dense, flaky cheese substitute. I was feeling defeated in my attempts of finding something to replace my cheese addiction. I’ve heard it being said before that if you try something at least 5 or (?) times you will  build up a taste for it. This is where my strong will and determination came in handy or else I wouldn’t have been able to keep trying the stuff. Needless to say, it worked and I now love the stuff! Now it’s sprinkled onto most of our meals. It’s delicious on popcorn by the way!

After a few experimental mishaps, I finally found a pesto dish that 90% of my family enjoys…..there’s always one at every meal- in our house it’s usually the same child 😉 I guess the “try it five times and you’ll love it” doesn’t apply to this one. At least she likes the nutritional yeast.

It’s a good thing my whole family enjoys this cheesy substitute because it’s loaded with nutrients!

What you’re getting in a serving ( 3 tbsp) of nutritional yeast:

  • 9 grams of protein (complete)
  • 5 grams of fibre
  • 1 gram of healthy fats
  • B vitamins such as Niacin (B3), Pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6), Riboflavin (B2), Thiamin (B1) and Folic acid, a form of folate acid (B9). This form can be troublesome for those with a MTHFR mutation ( poor methylation and enzyme production) Making it difficult to convert folic acid into its active form, folate acid.

Although nutritional yeast is high in B12, I didn’t add it to the list because in most cases it is fortified with a cheap synthetic form called cyanocobalamin. Some products may contain  METHYL cobalamin, the active form of B12. I haven’t done enough research to find a brand that contains this form. I will post an update when I come across this product. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend nutritional yeast as your only source of B12.

The Pesto Pasta that makes it onto the rotation of our monthly dinner recipes…..

Chickpea Pesto Pasta

For the pesto:

1 large bulb of garlic, roasted ahead of time and cooled

1 cup of raw walnuts or  raw sunflower seeds for a nut free version

2 cups baby spinach, lightly packed

3 kale leaves, destemmed

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil or you can use less oil plus half of an avocado

1/4 cup of fresh basil or 1-2 tbsp of dried basil

4 tbsp of nutritional yeast

4 tbsp of fresh lemon, juiced or 1 medium lemon

1 tbsp of sea salt or to taste

1 small handful of fresh parsley, chopped

pinch of ground pepper


Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cut the top of garlic bulb off so that all the little cloves are showing. On a medium square piece of tin foil, pour 1 tbsp of olive oil  and place the garlic bulb in the middle of the sheet, loosely wrap it up, place onto a cookie sheet and into your preheated oven. Bake for 40 min. Take garlic bulb out of the oven and carefully unwrap to let it cool. While your waiting for the garlic to cool, place nuts or seeds into a food processor and process until it turns into a nut/seed meal ( 30- 45 seconds). Then add in all your greens, nutritional yeast, rest of oil, lemon juice , sea salt and ground pepper. If your garlic bulb has cooled enough for you to handle it (If not, you can move onto preparing the pasta while you wait), try to squeeze out all of the soft garlic from the bulb and place into the food processor. Process on medium speed and slowly pour the olive oil in- scrapping the sides down occasionally. Process until combined well. Set aside until pasta is finished.

For the pasta:

1 package of spelt spaghetti or penne noodles, cook as directed on package.

1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Gluten free options:

3-4 cups of zucchini noodles, lightly sautéed if preferred or 1 package of brown rice noodles, cooked as directed on package.

If you aren’t sure how to make zucchini noodle, here is a link to the spiral slicer that I use.


Once your pasta of choice is ready, place into a large serving bowl, add in chickpeas and sauce. Then toss until fully coated. Top with Hemp Parmesan if desired (recipe below).



Hemp Parmesan

1/2 cup of hemp hearts

3 Tbsp of nutritional yeast

1 tsp of fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp of sea salt


Place all your ingredients into a food processor and process for 30 seconds.




Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!







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