This carrot top pesto has a bright and fresh spring flavor and is great anywhere ordinary pesto is used. Use the whole carrot and create something amazing!
You know I’m no stranger to making the most of my greens (and making them into pesto). If you find some mysterious* greens at the market or in your fridge, you can almost always turn them into some sort of delicious pesto by blanching them, drying them, and then preparing them similarly to classic pesto by mixing them with an herb, a nut or seed, citrus, and a little bit of oil.
*Confirmed edible, please.
Carrot tops are totally edible themselves, and taste faintly of carrot while also having some bitter notes and a slight natural saltiness. For pesto-fying them we remove the thick stems (or finely chop them before adding them to the food processor) and combine them with some other flavor notes to balance them out. The result is a really unique pesto that highlights carrot tops… but not too much. 😉 No cheese needed or missed, this recipe is totally plant-based and vegan and more delicious for it.
The origin of my particular carrot top pesto recipe was the same friend who helped me create my black garlic vinaigrette. We were creating a whole Moroccan-inspired feast including glowing Moroccan vegetable stew, salad with vinaigrette, and crostini with almond ricotta and carrot top pesto. I’m sure there was more, but I can’t remember, probably because the feast also included copious amounts of wine.
As such, this carrot top pesto evolved to have some vaguely Moroccan-inspired flavors. Along with the carrot tops themselves I like to include some fresh mint and a few green scallion pieces. Originally the pesto used toasted almonds. I then switched it to walnuts when almonds became the victim of an elimination diet in our household. The carrot top pesto reached its nut-free form when I made it recently and forgot about the walnuts altogether. Turns out it’s still fantastic anyway with an extra glug of EVOO.
Other carrot top pesto recipes on the internet don’t seem to be blanching their carrot tops. I think it’s a worthwhile step, though. You can pack in more of them and temper their flavor; you can use more of the stem if it’s been blanched; and the pesto is better prepared for freezing. If you do choose to make-n-freeze this, you should also blanch the mint so that it doesn’t tarnish in the freezer. Otherwise, you’re good to go.
I urge you to try my crostini serving recommendation above; this carrot top pesto is also great on pasta, spread in lasagna, stirred with vegan cream cheese, inside a sandwich, on roasted vegetables (like perhaps…. carrots?) and beyond! (In the photo above, I have served it with rice crackers and Treeline cashew cheese). Enjoy!
Carrot Top Pesto
- 1 clove garlic chopped
- 2 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 of a lemon)
- 1 tsp fresh lemon zest (about 1/2 of a lemon)
- carrot tops from 1 large or 2 smaller bunches of carrots (yields 1 cup blanched)
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 4 green onions fresh green parts only
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts (optional)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- To blanch the carrot tops: remove thick stem pieces. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water in it. Once boiling, add the carrot tops to the pot. Stir occasionally, cooking for about 3 minutes or until bright green and tender. Immediately remove from the pot, drain the hot water, and add the carrot tops to the ice cube bowl to stop the cooking process.
- Drain the carrot tops, wring out excess liquid, and spread them on a plate to dry while you do the remaining recipe prep.
- Add all of the ingredients from garlic through walnuts (if using) to the food processor. Blend until a chunky paste forms with small bits of carrot tops. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to stop frequently to scrape down the sides. Add the olive oil a tablespoon at a time until combined. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if desired.
- To use as a pasta sauce, cook your pasta in salted water according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot. Add the reserved cooking water and carrot top pesto, stir to combine, and cook over low heat until warmed. Serve right away.
- Otherwise, once cooled to room temperature, store the pesto in the fridge in an airtight container for several days. The bright green color may fade to a slightly darker green, and this is totally normal.
Thank you for this delicious recipe. I use it every time I have carrot tops.
Absolutely fantastic! We made it without any mint and it had a lovely earthy-citrus taste. Paired beautifully with pita chips!
Bought a bunch of organic carrots at a local farm and was so delighted with the beautiful green tops that I found this recipe and decided to try it. Stirred the pesto into rice as part of last night’s supper. It is delicious! Never again will I throw away carrot tops. I didn’t have green onions and didn’t think of using chives – very good substitute idea. Thanks so much for a wonderful recipe.
rachel lindover says
This is delicious!! I hadn’t found a recipe that made these abundant greens as yummy and crave-able as this recipe! I didn’t have mint on hand so subbed fresh cilantro and it came out so deliciously. Thank you for this staple recipe. Much appreciated, now I don’t have to guiltily compost all my carrot greens.
Kristina M Church says
My friend Grace and I share a CSA each summer, and when we couldn’t bear to throw out the beautiful carrot tops, we found this recipe and began making it each week. It’s been several years now and we still haven’t made a bad batch! Some weeks we use a mix of dill, Tulsi basil, cilantro, or Italian basil in place of the mint, and it always turns out great– though even if there is just a little bit of fresh mint in the mix, it really adds something special! Don’t be afraid to adjust the ingredients to your taste. If it seems too bitter, add a little more lemon juice and a drop or two of maple syrup. We’ve also substituted almonds, pine nuts, or even pumpkin seeds for the walnuts. We just use whatever is on hand that week. Our kids are both picky eaters in different ways, but both have loved this in different presentations: slathered on sourdough bread and then topped with sharp cheddar cheese and an heirloom tomato slice, then broiled till bubbly; or served traditionally with pasta. Even on crackers it’s delicious. Thank you for the recipe!
Wow, this is excellent. I was worried that the mint would be too strong, but it was perfect, and the whole thing tasted super fresh.
i have made this over & over & over… more garlic (tweak it to yr own taste of course) longest part cleaning leaves from stems… aftr that it’ s fast- super delish!!
ANGELA CAYNE says
you are correct this is soooo good I added just a bit of salted vinegar and more olive oil so I could get a smoother texture
First official “vegan” recipe I’ve tried. I tend to eat healthy anyway but Yesterday I went to a farmers market and bought fresh carrots. I didn’t want to throw out the carrot tops and came across this recipe. Thank you very much it is quite delicious.
Sue Moore says
Interesting site. I am always looking for ideas for my garden bounty
Janet Hooks says
Wow! This is great! : ) I made it EXACTLY as written, including the walnuts (and because I am not vegan, I added some parmesan cheese….and I included the walnuts. Luckily, the amount of carrot tops I have is double what is needed…so I can make TWO batches! Thank you for this amazing recipe!
Barnaby Lockyer says
Thank you for the recipe and all the enthusiasm. I tried nibbling a carrot top and did not keel over and die. They look quite delicate on my feeble first carrot frop but the taste was alright
I just made this pesto and it’s yummy. I forgot the green onions and it’s still good! Can’t wait to try it with pasta tomorrow.
I just want to say I tried this with the carrot tops I grew in my garden and it was incredible. It’s a shame I don’t have any more until next year! Thanks for this wonderful recipe 🙂
Diane Bonar says
I made this beautiful carrot top pesto today and just love it. I’m one to follow a recipe and that’s what I did…except added more garlic. We look forward to serving on fish as it has a bright Mediterranean flavor! Or using it in a white bean or couscous salad! Thanks for the recipe. Look forward to trying other recipes!
CHRISTINA SMITH says
Fantastic! Thank you for the recipe!
Miss Adelle says
I am definitely going to make this and I will let you know how it comes out. I have a nice bunch of carrot tops from our garden and looked up ways of using them. I am curious if I could fine instructions for canning it with my big canner. I am going to have a lot more carrot tops. We had a late garden but it is finishing nicely. I don’t think I will use mint. I think I will use some homegrown basil. If I don’t can it I will freeze the excess but I always can things when I am able as I have a huge garden and need all the freezer space I have from one large chest freezer and my two freezers in both my fridges. That might sound excessive but I use one fridge for aging cheese that I make at home.
I made this without green onion, but I also added some sprigs of Thai basil and cilantro (not a 1 for 1 sub, but oh well.) It turned out great, I agree that it definitely doesn’t require cheese!
I just made this, using everything except the onions. It tastes delicious!
I meant to leave a five-star review!
Really didn’t like this. It was very bitter with no earthy, fragrant or sweet flavours to balance the bitterness. Do not recommend at all.
Behnosh Najafi says
I didn’t blanch the carrot tops, I only used the most delicate of carrot top leaves to make this and it was still delicious!
Christine Madden says
Made this tonight with a beautiful bunch of carrot tops that I couldn’t bear to just toss. I used pine nuts instead of walnuts and 1&1/2 tbsp lemon juice instead. Turned out delicious!
Hey! I haven’t made the pesto yet, but I’m curious to know if using chives instead of green onions would work. If anyone knows, I’d appreciate a reply <3
Bonnie Lundgren says
Go for it! This recipe is fairly flexible, and it should be great with choices. Just make sure you have enough to balance the flavor.
Bonnie Lundgren says
Sorry, that’s meant to be “chives” not “choices” – although the choices for a forgiving recipe are many. If in doubt, just taste and balance out (search “flavor star” for help with that).
What a surprise! I had a gorgeous bunch of organic carrot tops that looked just to good to compost, so did a search and found your site. LOVE this! Trying on fish tonight. Thanks! Next time I will save the blanching water for soup stock, too.