With a slightly milder, grassier flavour than basil, parsley pesto makes an excellent alternative to the classic. If you live in a colder region, parsley is also much easier to grow and can be abundant well into autumn. This is a flexible recipe, with several options for nuts and seeds that can be used along with the parsley, lemon, and olive oil.
Use pesto made from parsley the same way you would basil. Add it to pesto pizza, use it as a spread on sandwiches, or sub it in for the filling of pesto rolls. I particularly like to add it to summery soups like this roasted tomato soup. This recipe is lightly adapted from my vegan pesto.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Parsley: while you can use any type of parsley, I highly recommend choosing flat-leaf rather than curly as it has a stronger taste. If you’d prefer something milder, go for curly, but note that you’ll need a strong blender to make it very smooth.
- Lemon: fresh lemon juice does make a difference, but jarred can be used in a pinch. For a stronger citrus taste, which is very nice with certain dishes, try adding the zest of a lemon as well.
- Nuts or seeds: use sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, walnuts, pine nuts, cedar nuts, and even pecans for this recipe. Choose raw and unsalted for the most neutral flavour. Other harder nuts like pistachios and almonds can also be used, but they will made for a chunkier pesto. Read more about these options here.
- Garlic: reduce as needed if you are sensitive to raw garlic. Fresh (sometimes called baby) garlic has a milder taste if you can get it.
- Cheese: add a small handful of grated hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino if you’d like to include it. This should be blended in right at the end, once the pesto is already fully mixed.
Step by Step
Step 1: add everything but the olive oil to a mixing container.
Step 2: mix with an immersion blender (another blender can be used) until finely chopped.
Step 3: add the olive oil in a slow stream while mixing.
Step 4: once the olive oil has been fully combined, the pesto is ready.
You’ll need some kind of mixer that’s open so that the oil can be added while mixing. This removes bullet blenders from the options here, but a small food processor and immersion blender both work well. I aways use an immersion blender. If you have a weak blender (under 800W), try using tahini, sunflower seed butter, or hemp hearts rather than whole seeds or nuts for a smoother pesto.
Adding the oil after blending the other ingredients makes for a smoother, tastier pesto. Trying to get it to emulsify by adding all the ingredients at once can over-work the herbs, making the pesto rather bitter.
How to Store
Storage: this is best used fresh, but can be refrigerated in a sealed container for a day or two.
Freezing: transfer to a clean ice cube tray immediately after mixing and freeze until solid. Once frozen, transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to three months. See more about this in my cookbook (page 255, herbs in oil).
Growing and Harvesting Parsley
Parsley grows on a biennial schedule, and is best the second season after sowing. If you have the space, I recommend sowing parsley every year to have an endless supply, but it can be sown biennially if preferred. It has a long root (related to carrots) so it is a bit harder to grow in small pots, but it can be done.
It can be harvested in great handfuls rather than pinching off individual leaves to encourage regrowth (rather easier than basil) and grows voraciously even in cooler climates. In the Netherlands our giant flat-leaf parsley was useable year round, despite frosts down to -15°C, and no protection. It is very easy to grow in large quantities and good fresh herbs are a good cook’s secret.
- Use the stems: remove any particularly large and woody stems, but otherwise add the whole bunch of parsley, leaves, stems, and all. No need to waste them.
- Season to taste: adjust the added salt to your personal preference. Note that if you add cheese, be sure to season to taste after adding it as cheese contains additional salt.
- Feel free to cook it: parsley holds up a bit better to heat than basil does, so this is a better option for hot dishes. Like any pesto, it isn’t ideal to cook for long periods, but it can be used for eggs, for example.
If you make this Parsley Pesto or any other vegetarian sauce recipes 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.
- 60 grams fresh parsley thin stems can be included
- 2 cloves garlic
- 30 grams nuts or seeds*
- Juice of a lemon ~3 tablespoons
- ½ teaspoon sea salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Add the parsley, garlic, nuts/seeds, lemon juice, and salt to a blending container or small food processor. Mix until broken down and no large pieces remain.60 grams fresh parsley, 2 cloves garlic, 30 grams nuts or seeds*, Juice of a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Slowly pour in the olive oil while mixing, until the pesto is fully combined and very smooth. Serve immediately, refrigerate, or freeze for up to three months.3 tablespoons olive oil
* 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.