When fall arrives, the farmer's markets are loaded with hardy greens - among them mustard greens. They're delicious sautéed with garlic, but one of the best ways to use them is to purée them with garlic and plenty of olive oil to make Mustard Greens Pesto.
What is it?
Mustard greens are members of the brassica family and are closely related to broccoli, cabbage, and watercress. They have an intensely green flavor with a hint of piquant heat reminiscent of hot mustard or horseradish, to which they're related.
While mustard greens are often served braised with bacon and onions, sautéed, or added to soups, one of the best ways to prepare them is in a pesto.
Mustard green pesto has a creamy texture thanks to plenty of olive oil, nuts, and seeds. A little lemon lends brightness and brings balance to mustard greens' natural bitterness.
Why this recipe works
- You toss everything in a food processor, so the pesto's super easy to make. All told, you'll spend less than 10 minutes of active time in the kitchen.
- It's a great way to use up lots of mustard greens. If you have a bumper crop in your garden or if there was a deal at the market, this is the recipe to use them up.
- It's a versatile sauce. You can stir it into pasta just as you would a classic basil pesto, but you can also use it as a sandwich spread or spoon it over roasted potatoes or vegetables.
- It's a pretty nutritious recipe. Mustard greens are loaded with antioxidants, plus the pesto is full of healthy fats from olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
- Using parsley in addition to mustard greens in this pesto recipe means a more balanced flavor. Parsley helps balance the bitter notes in mustard greens. A little lemon juice helps, too.
What's in it?
Most pestos contain simple ingredients, such as olive oil or another culinary fat, herbs, nuts, and sometimes cheese. Olive oil and nuts can lend a creamy quality to pesto and are excellent carriers for fresh greens and herbs.
- Mustard greens are the foundation of the recipe. They give the pesto a verdant color, and their flavor brings notes of fresh greens, hot mustard, and horseradish.
- Parsley tones down the natural bitterness of mustard greens and can also give the pesto a vibrant green color. Basil also works in place of parsley.
- Pecans and pumpkin seeds lend a creamy, buttery quality to mustard green pesto. They work in concert with olive oil to give the pesto a little staying power and a beautiful, creamy texture.
- Garlic is a natural match for most hardy greens and works especially well with mustard greens. You'll find it in most pesto recipes, and the scapes make a beautiful pesto on their own, too.
- Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with antioxidants, and it gives the pesto a smooth, creamy texture.
- Lemon juice brings a little brightness to the recipe, which offsets the bitter qualities of mustard greens.
Where to find real extra virgin olive oil.
Graza offers single-origin, hand-harvested olive oil from Spain that's perfect for this recipe. They offer buttery, lightly flavored olive oil for sautéing and a more robust green oil for drizzling as a finishing oil.
Is it good for you?
- Mustard greens are loaded with a special type of antioxidant called sinigrin which supports cellular health. Research suggests it helps calm inflammation, supports the heart and vascular system, and may even have anti-cancer properties (1).
- Parsley is an herb that is traditionally used to support the body's detoxification pathways, such as the kidneys, and there's some research that supports this use (2). It is rich in antioxidants, as well as vitamin K and beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A.
- Pumpkin seeds are rich in healthy fats as well as minerals such as phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, iron, and zinc. They also contain loads of antioxidants, including vitamin E.
Tips for Making Pesto
This mustard green pesto is super easy to make. You'll start by coarsely chopping all the mustard greens and parsley, then toss all the ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until well-combined and uniformly chopped, and then slowly add the oil and lemon juice. That's it.
- Taste your mustard greens before turning them into pesto. If they're particularly bitter (or hot), you might want to use them in a different recipe. Mustard green pesto heightens their flavor, but it won't soften it.
- If your greens are particularly bitter or you dislike the bitter notes in mustard greens, consider blanching them briefly in hot water followed by a plunge in an ice bath. Blanching the greens can reduce their bitterness.
- Pulse the ingredients together before adding the olive oil. They should be well-combined and chopped into uniform pieces.
- Processing olive oil for too long makes it bitter, so add it at the end and only run the food processor long enough to combine the ingredients together.
- A little goes a long way. The mustard greens and garlic mean this can be an intensely flavored recipe, and a small serving is perfect.
How to Serve Mustard Green Pesto
- Drizzle the pesto over roasted fingerling potatoes or even boiled new potatoes.
- Swirl a little mustard green pesto into a soup. It works well with this tomato and white bean soup.
- Spoon the pesto over creamy white beans cooked in chicken broth.
- Sauce your pasta with the pesto as you would with classic Basil Pesto.
- Serve it as a dip with sliced fresh carrots, radishes, and fennel.
Variations + Substitutions
If you're allergic or sensitive to nuts, swap an equal amount of sunflower seeds for the pecans.
Try a different nut. You can easily swap a half cup walnuts for a half cup pecans. Pine nuts are also a nice replacement for the pumpkin seeds.
Parmesan is a hard cheese with a robust flavor, and you can add up to a half cup to this recipe. It adds a beautiful savory note to the pesto.
Skip the parsley, and make the recipe with only mustard greens. The flavor will be intense, but delicious.
You can store mustard green pesto in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week, and in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Yes! Store it in a tightly sealed jar in the freezer for up to 6 months. Alternatively, spoon the pesto into an ice cube tray, then transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer-safe bag and store them for up to 6 months.
Yes! While a food processor is perfect for making this pesto recipe, you can also use a high-speed blender, or make it by hand using a mezzaluna.
No, but you can if you like. Blanching mustard greens in a large pot of water can soften the bitter notes in mustard greens and can set the color so that you have a vivid, green pesto. However, it's not necessary.
If you do decide to blanch your greens, be careful to remove any excess water from the greens by patting them dry.