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
With fresh and bright flavors, this carrot top pesto makes use of the oft-scorned greens from your carrot bunch, complementing them with fresh lemon, garlic, and herbs. Ready in just a few minutes and perfect on pasta, sandwiches, crackers and more.
- 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.
FREEZING: Throw the mint in to blanch with the carrot tops if you plan to freeze this carrot top pesto (you'll need to retrieve it from the water a little sooner). After doing so, it freezes well.
OTHER NUTS/SEEDS: This carrot top pesto is also fabulous with toasted almonds, pumpkin seeds, or pine nuts.
NUT-FREE: Simply omit the walnuts and add another tablespoon of olive oil if needed. This option is tested and the pictured pesto is actually the nut-free version.
OTHER HERBS: You can use basil or another 'fruity' herb instead of the mint. Or, omit the additional herbs and add slightly more garlic and lemon zest.
CHEEZE: Yes, traditional pesto often has parmesan cheese in it, but this carrot top version really shines without it. However, if you are vegan and craving a cheesy flavor, add a tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast to taste (this will also up the protein content).