Instead of throwing away your carrot tops, make carrot top pesto. It’s an easy recipe that comes together in only a few minutes. And it’s a great way to minimize food waste and use every scrap in your kitchen.
What is it?
In this version of pesto, you’ll skip the basil and other herbs in favor of frilly, feathery carrot greens. Blended with olive oil, garlic, walnuts, and a little parmesan cheese, they make a fantastic alternative to traditional Basil Pesto.
Why this recipe works
- It’s fast. You toss all the ingredients into a food processor, pulse to combine, and then serve.
- You’ll waste less food and save a little on your grocery bill by using every scrap.
- It’s nutritious. Carrot tops contain vitamin K, beta carotene, vitamin C, minerals, and fiber.
Traditionally, pesto is made with herbs and olive oil, although there’s a delicious version from Modena, Italy, that’s made with cured pork fat and rosemary.
In addition to herbs and oil, you’ll often find nuts or seeds and sometimes parmesan cheese in most recipes. Occasionally, cooks will add a bit of lemon juice which lends a little brightness to the fresh herbs.
- Carrot tops are the foundation of this recipe. They’re in the same botanical family as parsley and share a similar flavor profile with that herb.
- Garlic gives the pesto a bright, savory element.
- Walnuts add sweetness, depth, and a creamy quality to the pesto. You can also use other nuts and seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, or even pecans.
- Parmesan cheese provides a savory element and a punch of salt to the recipe.
- Extra virgin olive oil brings the pesto together, helping it to become smooth.
How to Make Carrot Top Pesto
Making pesto is easy and straightforward. You chop your ingredients, pulse them in a food processor and then add olive oil and pulse again. A little bit of sea salt or a squeeze of lemon, stirred in at the very end can help balance the flavor if you need. While making carrot top pesto is easy, there are a few things to pay attention to.
- Trim away the tough ends and only use the soft stems and leaves.
- Prepare your greens by rinsing them thoroughly to dislodge any dirt or debris.
- Wash the carrot greens thoroughly. They tend to accumulate dirt, so giving them a good soak is a good measure. Then allow them to dry well before you make the pesto.
- Trim the tough stems. While the long stems are edible, some food processors have trouble breaking them down, so only use the soft, tender stems and fronds.
- Extra virgin olive oil can become bitter if you process it for too long in a food processor or blender. So, add it at the very end and process it just enough to allow all the ingredients to come together.
- When storing the pesto, drizzle a little extra olive oil on the surface. This helps it last a little longer and can help prevent browning.
How to Serve Carrot Top Pesto
Carrot Top Pesto is delicious drizzled over roasted carrots, or served as a dip for fresh carrots and other vegetables.
Consider spreading it on a slice of your favorite sourdough bread instead of mayonnaise for a veggie-packed sandwich.
You can also swirl a dollop into hot pasta or toss some roasted potatoes in the pesto.
Get the cookbook.
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Variations and Substitutions
Substitute chopped fresh parsley or basil for some of the carrot tops.
Pine nuts or pecans are delicious in this pesto in place of walnuts. You can also use pumpkin or sunflower seeds, too.
Pecorino Romano cheese makes a nice alternative to parmesan cheese. Or you can skip the cheese altogether if you prefer a dairy-free carrot top pesto.
Other ways to enjoy carrot tops
Just as you can make carrot top pesto, there are other ways you can use up leftover carrot leaves. Consider adding them to a salad such as this roasted carrot and white bean salad or this version made with carrot tops and chickpeas. They also make an excellent chimichurri sauce, perfect for drizzling over sous vide flank steak.
Love carrot top pesto? Try these recipes next.
Are carrot tops edible?
Yes. While carrots have some toxic look-alikes, carrot tops are completely edible. They’re also super nutritious and a great source of antioxidants, vitamin K, fiber, and minerals such as calcium.
How do I store it?
Spoon the pesto into a small jar, and then cover with olive oil. Seal the jar tightly, and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
How long does it last?
Carrot top pesto will last in the fridge for about 5 days and you can store it in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Can I freeze it?
Yes. Spoon the pesto into a small jar, allowing at least 1 inch of headspace. Seal the jar tightly, and then freeze for up to 6 months.
Can I use a blender instead of a food processor?
Yes, you can make this pesto recipe in a blender. You may need to work in batches.