If you have a garden, are part of a farm share, or get carrots at a farmer’s market, you’ll often end up with masses of carrot greens that end up in the bin. Those greens are nutritious and tasty, though, and an excellent addition to carrot top pesto.
Food waste is a major contributor to climate change and while we may not think of carrot tops as being food, they are, and can be used similarly to other greens (like beet greens, or chard). Pesto is a great beginner’s way to utilise these fluffy greens and this version is mixed with basil for a more classic flavour.
For some more easy, flexible pesto recipes, try garlic mustard pesto, classic dairy-free pesto, or forager’s standard wild garlic pesto. Like those recipes, this one can also be made with a variety of nuts or seeds and doesn’t require cheese or nutritional yeast (though they can be added if you’d like).
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Carrot tops: these must be fresh, from carrots harvested that day or perhaps the day before. Don’t use floppy, yellowing greens, as they won’t taste good. Be sure to remove any hard, woody stems.
- Nuts or seeds: use sunflower seeds as pictured, or walnuts, pine nuts, hemp hearts, or even harder options like almonds, hazelnuts, and pumpkin seeds. Note that harder nuts/seeds will result in a chunkier pesto.
- Herbs: use basil for a more typical pesto taste, or try parsley or even mixed fresh soft herbs.
- Lemon: use fresh lemon juice if possible. The zest of a lemon can be a nice addition for certain dishes, like pasta with peas.
- Garlic: pictured is fresh young garlic, so I’ve used a quarter of that rather than individual cloves. It has a milder taste so you can use a little more.
Step by Step
Step 1: add everything but the olive oil to a mixing container.
Step 2: mix until finely chopped (keep as pictured for a looser pesto, or blend longer for a smoother version).
Step 3: for a smooth pesto, mix until the seeds or nuts are well incorporated and no large pieces remain.
Step 4: slowly pour in the olive oil while blending, until incorporated and smooth.
I started this pesto in the food processor and decided partway through that I wanted a smooth spread, so switched to the immersion blender. A less powerful (read: cheap) food processor like mine will make a rather piece-y pesto, which is fine for some dishes, but generally speaking a good immersion blender will do a better job here – and it takes up less space.
If you’d like to add cheese, mix in a handful of grated hard cheese like pecorino once the pesto is finished blending. Alternatively, add nutritional yeast to taste.
How to Store
Storage: keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Freezing: spoon dollops onto a baking sheet or tray lined with baking paper and freeze until solid, or freeze in ice cube trays, and then transfer to an airtight container. Freeze for up to six months and use in soups and pasta dishes.
- Use the leafy bits: the woody lower stems can be used, but they tend to give the pesto a bit of a stringy texture. Omit the larger pieces of stem.
- Thin it as needed: the pesto will be quite thick, ideal for spreading. For pasta, thin it with a splash of the pasta cooking water.
- Season to taste: as with any savoury dish, you should adjust the amount of added salt to suit your personal preference.
- Wash well: carrot tops tend to get a lot of soil splash-back on rainy days, and they usually have some hard-to-wash-out soil and sand. Give them a soak for a few minutes before rinsing well to release it.
If you make this Carrot Greens Pesto or any other vegetarian dips on Occasionally Eggs, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more OE, follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, purchase the Occasionally Eggs cookbook, or subscribe for new posts via email.
Carrot Top Pesto
- 130 grams carrot tops washed well, hard stems removed
- Handful fresh basil or parsley
- 50 grams sunflower seeds or other seeds or nuts
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- Juice 1 lemon ~4 tablespoons
- ½ teaspoon sea salt to taste
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Add the carrot tops, basil, sunflower seeds, garlic, lemon juice, and salt to a mixing container or food processor fitted with the blade attachment.130 grams carrot tops, Handful fresh basil, 50 grams sunflower seeds, 2-3 cloves garlic, Juice 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Blend until well combined and the seeds or nuts have broken up into very small pieces. You may need to add a small splash of water to get it going.4 tablespoons olive oil
- Add the olive oil in a slow stream while blending, until the pesto is smooth and creamy. Serve immediately, store in the refrigerator for up to three days, or freeze for several months.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.