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Last summer, I dined at a cozy restaurant in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a small town in the heart of Ontario’s most renowned wine region, the Niagara Peninsula. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could follow my PALEO & WHOLE0 lifestyle in reading the menu.  I saw something delicious — sunflower seed risotto!  We don’t think of risotto using sunflower seeds. But it’s ideal for your PALEO & WHOLE30 diet.   It was the perfect dish for me to order, given my commitment to living a grain-free lifestyle. The idea of eating risotto high in protein and virtually carbohydrate-free intrigued me. The sunflower seed risotto served with a side of pork belly was decadent and delicious, both creamy and al dente. I decided to make my version of this same dish at home.   Below is the recipe. Serve this protein-rich risotto with salad or a side of ribs, chicken, pork, or beef.


This dish is sooooo good and healthy.  It offers that contrast of al dente chew with creaminess from the melted cheese.  The raw and cooked sunflower seeds can almost pass for rice.  The saltiness from the pancetta and cheese nicely offsets the acidity left behind from the addition of wine.  The alcohol leaves the wine but retains its tangy nature.  So we have 2 layers of complementary contrast — the creaminess offsetting the chewiness and the saltiness against the tanginess.  

DIRTY-BIRDY WINE PARTNER (For those following a dirty-Paleo or dirty-Whole30 lifestyle)

The predominant flavour of this dish is saltiness due to the cheese and pancetta.  The density of the risotto requires a wine with weight to match.  So we need a full-bodied dry white wine with enough acidity to nicely offset the saltiness of the cheese and pancetta.  A warm climate stainless steel Chardonnay would do the trick.  Look to Chile and South Africa. 


Sunflower seeds are under-rated and under-utilized in food creation. Whether roasted or raw, these kernels are packed with nutrition and worth adding to your recipe repertoire. Sunflower seeds possess protein-building amino acids. They are an excellent source of vitamin E, and in fact, a quarter-cup serving provides 90 percent of our daily Vitamin E requirement. This source of vitamin E helps to prevent asthma, arthritis, colon cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of copper, vitamin B1, and B6, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, folate, and niacin.

Due to their high level of polyunsaturated fatty acids (about 68% linoleic acid) and in being low in saturated fats, sunflower seeds can be eaten regularly. The reason is that our bodies cannot make Polyunsaturated fats. These fatty acids include omega-3 and omega-6 fats and therefore support brain function and prompt cell growth. 

Omega-3 fatty acids are heart superfood! They help to:  

  • Reduce triglycerides (fat in your blood)
  • Reduce the risk of arrhythmia 
  • Reduce the building of arterial plaque 
  • Help to lower blood pressure

Omega-6 fatty acids are just as useful. They help to:

  • Control blood sugar
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes
  • Lower blood pressure

Sunflower seeds support cardiovascular and thyroid health and promote beneficial cholesterol levels. They are a significant source of magnesium and so contribute to the health of your heart, nerves, and immune systems. These little kernels also help in keeping your brain and your mood healthy and happy.



  • Author: FRESHDOH
  • Prep Time: 35
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 45
  • Yield: 4 to 6
  • Category: PALEO & WHOLE30
  • Method: STEAMING
  • Cuisine: DINNER
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Extra-virgin olive oil

6.5 ounces pancetta, diced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 small sweet onion, minced

1 cup torn fresh kale

1 pound shelled raw sunflower seeds (4 cups)

1 quart of low sodium or homemade salt-free chicken stock 

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup Homemade Paleo & Whole30 Vegan Parmesan*


*Check out this blog for the Paleo & Whole30 Vegan Parmesan recipe:


In a pressure cooker, add oil. Add pancetta. Cook until pancetta is crisp, stirring constantly. Transfer pancetta and fat to a bowl. Deglaze the pot with white wine. Simmer until wine reduced by half. Add onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, 3 minutes. Fold kale into the mixture. Add the sunflower seeds and cook, stirring, 4 minutes.  

Add the stock—season mixture with pepper.

Cover and bring the cooker up to pressure. Maintain pressure over low heat for 7 minutes. Set the cooker in the sink and run cold water over the lid to cool and depressurize it; remove the top once it can be released without force.

Drain the cooking liquid into a cup. Transfer 1/2 cup of the seeds to a food processor or blender along with the 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and puree until creamy.

Transfer the whole seed mixture from the pressure cooker to a skillet. Add the pancetta. Add the sunflower seed puree and cook over moderate heat, constantly stirring, until the seeds are coated with a creamy sauce, about 2 minutes. Fold in cheese. Spoon the risotto into one large serving dish and garnish with your choice of barbecued protein.


This risotto will work with both summer, fall, and winter vegetables.  

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