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Carrot top pesto is a delicious way to reduce food waste in your kitchen and highlight a healthy, flavorful green that’s in season both spring and fall. With just a food processor you can transform nuts, herbs, olive oil, roasted garlic and carrot greens into a delicious sandwich spread or pasta topping.
Food waste is one of those things that really irks me. As a from scratch, homemade kind of cook, I really try to maximize both my cooking techniques and the ingredients I buy. This not only reduces my overall time in the kitchen, but saves money. Carrot Top Pesto is one of those magical things that does both.
Beyond the practicality of it, I love making funky pesto. Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of traditional ones, but a good carrot top pesto or broccoli pesto is right up my alley. It’s SO easy to make, freezes very well, and is seriously tasty on pastas, sandwiches and mixed into dipping sauces.
Are Carrot Greens safe to eat?
Yes! Absolutely! Much like the greens on beets or radishes, carrot tops are a green that often ends up in the trash. And for no real reason other than it’s not a well known green!
Truth be told you can happily add chopped carrot greens to your salads, finely chopped as an herb garnish to dishes, added to stock pots, or blended up happily in a pesto like this one.
The cool part is, by choosing carrot greens that are very fresh and vibrantly green, you’re also choosing carrots that are fresh and flavorful. Avoid bunches with yellowing, brown, or wet greens.
When you get them home, be sure to separate the greens from the carrots right away. The greens literally suck nutrients from the carrots to stay alive, and will cause your carrots to go bad quickly. So, instead whip up this carrot top pesto, and make a batch of carrot tomato soup with the carrots!
How do they taste?
Carrot greens are interesting. Carrots are often considered one of the sweetest vegetables, but carrot greens actually have a mild spiciness. They’re similar to baby arugula or a milder mustard green.
They’re also oddly dry. Go ahead and nibble one, you’ll see what I mean. It means they’re pretty much built for this carrot top pesto recipe, or for other olive oil heavy recipes like a chimichurri.
Ingredients for Delicious Carrot Green Pesto
This is a play on traditional pesto. You’ll notice I took liberties with some of the ingredients that I think make this absolutely delicious.
- Carrot greens – for a large batch of pesto I used all the greens from a small bunch of spring or fall carrots. About 3 cups, loosely packed.
- Parsley – Carrot greens on their own make for a spicy pesto, so about half a bunch of parsley, or 1 ½ cups loosely packed, balances it out nicely.
- Lemons – You’ll need the zest and juice from half a lemon. Store the rest in the freezer for use when you next need it!
- Pecans – These are my favorite nut, but you can also use walnuts or pine nuts if you prefer.
- Olive oil – I like to use a mild, buttery olive oil, rather than a green or spicy one, but use an authentic extra virgin olive oil you like.
- Roasted garlic – Raw garlic was far too spicy in this during my tests, so I recommend roasted garlic which I can teach you to make, or sauté the garlic first.
- Salt – I always use coarse kosher salt in my recipes.
- Pepper (optional) – this pesto can be mildly spicy depending on your greens. If they’re very mild, a grind or two of fresh cracked pepper is tasty.
Tips for Making Perfect Carrot Top Pesto
This is really an easy recipe, you simply need a food processor, a good blender, or if you’re up for it, a knife and a mortor and pestle. But pesto can go awry, so here is how to make this perfectly every time.
- If using fresh garlic, be sure to sauté it over very low heat in a tablespoon of oil until it’s softened. Then drain it, and set aside to cool completely before adding it.
- Wash the carrot greens very thoroughly. They have a tendency to harbor dirt near the carrots. Discard the bottom inch or so, and wash them very well a few times.
- Dry the greens completely, a salad spinner makes really quick work of this.
- Use raw or roasted pecans, but be sure they’re not salted, or reduce the salt called for if they are.
- Pulse everything together until it’s a chunky mixture, then scrape the sides and mix it up before turning the food processor on again and drizzling in the oil.
Storing and Serving your Pesto
When it comes to storing pesto, it keeps well in a mason jar or other airtight container in the fridge for a week. Honestly it’s more pesto that we usually go through in a week, so I like to freeze it in these silicone ice cube trays I once used for baby food.
Just let it thaw when you’re ready, or toss it straight into a sauté pan or pasta pot and let it melt. Thanks to the high olive oil content, it thaws fast.
For serving, we often have this as a pasta sauce. Simply combine it with some pasta water, olive oil, and a few tablespoons of pesto. It’s also great on a caprese sandwich with fresh melted mozzarella and thick sliced tomatoes, and perhaps an avocado.
You can use it however you please. Since carrots are in season in spring and fall, this carrot top pesto is can be enjoyed fresh twice a year. During off seasons, enjoy it from the freezer for 3 months after!
I hope to have more carrot green recipes to share soon, to not only keep reducing our waste but as a way to enjoy the natural flavors of spring and fall. In the meantime, enjoy this recipe, and check out these fantastic recipes that use pesto for some inspiration on how to use it! Happy Eating!
- Orzo Pesto Salad with Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella
- Pesto Crusted Salmon
- Roasted Veggie Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette
- Arugula Peso Prosciutto Pizza
- 3 cups carrot greens, loosely packed
- 1 1/2 cups parsley, loosely packed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice*
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 cup pecans, unsalted
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 cloves roasted garlic (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
- Thoroughly wash and pat dry the carrot greens. Zest and juice half a lemon.
- Combine everything except the olive oil in a food processor, adding the greens and parsley in first.
- Pulse until everything is coarsely chopped. Pause to scrape down the sides and bottom of the food processor.
- With the processor running on low, drizzle the olive oil in until it becomes a wet, but not soggy paste. Begin with 4 tablespoons, adding up to 6 (5 is usually perfect for me).
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or the freezer for 3 months.
Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.