Little Gem Salad with Grilled Veggies, Pesto, White Beans


Though the weather has yet to fully transition to summer here in LA, my palette has already shifted towards warm-weather meals – and this little gem salad recipe with grilled veggies, white beans, and pesto makes me feel like it’s 80 degrees and sunny even when May Gray is in full effect.

I made this salad on a whim one afternoon when I had a bunch of basil and veggies from the farmer’s market that needed to be used, and the result far exceeded my expectations. From the crisp little gem leaves, to the charred veggies, to the garlicky, zesty pesto contrasted by the briny sweetness of the balsamic glaze, this is anything but a *sad salad.*

The star of this dish, though, is my easy vegan pesto – it is, without a doubt, the most delicious pesto sauce you’ll ever make (and it takes about 5 minutes with a food processor or blender)! The hemp seeds are what pack this pesto with a superfood punch, bringing a hearty dose of omega fatty acids, protein, and fiber to the equation (in addition to a slew of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium, to name a few)! That said, you could also swap the hemp seeds for pistachios, sunflower seeds, or even good old pine nuts, which are used in traditional pesto.

This is the absolute best little gem salad recipe to make for your next gathering, random weekday lunch, or just anytime you have a hankering for bright summer flavors in the form of an equally delicious and nutritious salad.

If you’re in the market for some more tasty vegan recipes, be sure to check out this easy vegan quiche recipe (great for mother’s day coming up!) or my plant-based take on the famed Jon + Vinny’s spicy fusilli.

Little Gem Salad Recipe (Grilled Veggies, White Beans, & Pesto)

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Recipe by Anjelica Price-Rocha Course: Lunch, DinnerDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1 head little gem lettuce

  • 1 large zucchini (2 small/medium)

  • 6-8 baby bell peppers (or 1-2 regular)

  • 1/2 red onion

  • 1 can white beans (cannellini) – rinsed, drained, and dried

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

  • balsamic glaze, for drizzle

  • olive oil, salt, pepper, to taste

  • Superfood Pesto (if making homemade – you can also use store-bought)!
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves

  • 2 tbsp hemp seeds

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 4 tbsp nutritional yeast

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tsp lemon zest

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • Wash and dry the little gem lettuce, making sure all water is gone – we want those leaves to be extra crisp!
  • Heat your grill (or grill pan, as I did) on medium-high heat. Cut zucchini into rounds, baby bell peppers in half lengthwise (if using larger peppers, cut into 2-3 inch wedges), and red onion into 2-inch wedges.
  • Drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste on the vegetables. Place veggies on the grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side (aim for a good char on both sides)!
  • While the veggies grill, make your pesto (if you’re using store-bought, skip right on to the next step)! Add basil, hemp seeds, garlic, and nutritional yeast to a food processor or blender. Process or blend on high until fully combined and finely minced. Slowly begin to drizzle in the olive oil. Once combined, add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Taste, and add more salt as-needed.
  • Toast pine nuts in a toaster oven (or traditional oven) until golden brown (keep an eye on them – they burn quickly)! I did mine in the toaster oven for 2-3 minutes.
  • Assemble your salad! Place the little gems on a platter or bowl, followed by the grilled veggies, white beans, and toasted pine nuts.
  • Drizzle the salad with olive oil, followed by a generous drizzle of the pesto (bonus points for a dollop in the middle!) and another hearty drizzle of the balsamic glaze. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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