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Carrot Top Pesto

Wondering what to do with carrot tops? Don't throw them away! Make this bright, sweet and peppery carrot top pesto with pistachios, extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. Vegan, gluten-free, high in protein and the kids love it!

Carrot pesto in a bowl next to some carrots and bowls of salt and pistachios.
Photo credits: Elana Lepkowski

Forget the basil pesto, carrot tops are a wonderful alternative to aromatic herbs to change up your routine. Pesto alla Genovese, made with basil, pine nuts and pecorino or parmesan, is the most famous. However, in Italy there are many others. Basically, if you can crush it, you can make pesto!

There’s no shortage of recipes for using fresh carrots, from roasted carrot soup to Moroccan-style carrot salad. But the question of what to do with carrot tops strikes me every year thanks to the abundance of carrots in our garden and a desire to reduce waste in the kitchen.

To solve this conundrum, my family started making carrot pesto. With its naturally sweeter flavor, I found that my kids preferred it to traditional pesto on pasta! It’s also dairy-free, making it a delicious option for vegetarians and vegans.

You can use this Carrot Top Pesto in place of many dishes that call for basil pesto. Try it on pasta, chicken, or seafood, or yes, even drizzled over carrots! You may find that this milder pesto becomes your new go-to.

Summary
  1. Carrot Pesto Ingredients
  2. How to make carrot top pesto
  3. How to store carrot pesto
  4. Ways to mix things up
  5. What to serve with carrot pesto
  6. But what do I do with the carrot bottoms, you ask?
  7. Carrot Pesto Recipe
Ingredients for carrot pesto: carrots with their tops, garlic, pistachios, lemon, olive oil and kosher salt.Ingredients for carrot pesto: carrots with their tops, garlic, pistachios, lemon, olive oil and kosher salt.

Carrot Pesto Ingredients

Carrot Top Pesto relies on just a few ingredients for a flavorful sauce. It’s best made with the freshest carrots you have on hand.

  • Carrot tops: Carrot tops have a sweet, peppery flavor, much like carrots! The fresher the better; discard any wilted or brown tops.
  • Pistachios: Either roasted or raw will work in this recipe. Pistachios add a subtle, sweet nutty flavor to the pesto. Choose unsalted ones, as salt content can vary from brand to brand.
  • Garlic: I like one clove, but if you want a little more garlic, you can increase the amount with a second clove. Keep in mind that too much garlic can overwhelm the nuanced flavor of the carrot tops.
  • Lemon juice: Brightens, balances and keeps pesto bright green. Use freshly squeezed lemon for optimal flavor.
  • Olive oil: fruity, buttery olive oil draws all the ingredients together and makes them blend. Don't use a delicate neutral oil, as olive oil is an ingredient that will shine and you want something with a fuller flavor.
  • Kosher salt: Since this pesto is cheese-free, you may find that you need a little more salt than you would see in a basil pesto. Always adjust to taste.
Overhead photo of farfalle pasta topped with carrot pesto in a bowl garnished with chopped carrot tops.Overhead photo of farfalle pasta topped with carrot pesto in a bowl garnished with chopped carrot tops.

How to make carrot top pesto

Carrot Top Pesto requires very little preparation. In fact, if you’re used to making pesto, this is pretty close! And if you don’t have a food processor or blender, this pesto can be chopped by hand and blended for a thicker version, or ground in a large mortar and pestle. Here are the steps:

How to store carrot pesto

To store your Carrot Top Pesto, keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. You can also freeze the pesto whole or cube it in an ice cube tray for smaller quantities.

I've found that adding a light coating of olive oil to the surface of the pesto while freezing helps prevent freezer burn and keeps the pesto a brighter green.

Overhead photo of carrot pesto in a bowl with a spoon next to a bowl of pistachios.Overhead photo of carrot pesto in a bowl with a spoon next to a bowl of pistachios.

Ways to mix things up

While this carrot top pesto is delicious on its own, here are a few ways to swap out ingredients and make it in your own kitchen.

  • Replace half of the carrot tops with other leafy greens. Basil, parsley, and cilantro are all aromatic herbs. You can also replace half of them with arugula or spinach, although I sometimes find that this can add a slight bitterness.
  • Do you like the cheesy flavor of pesto alla genovese? ½ cup of finely grated Parmesan will give you some of that tangy flavor, but remember to reduce the salt in the recipe, as hard cheeses can sometimes be quite salty.
  • Want to try another nut? This recipe can be substituted 1:1 with unsalted roasted cashews or raw walnuts. If you can only find salted walnuts at your supermarket, avoid adding salt to the recipe, so taste and adjust if necessary.
An overhead shot of a bowl of carrot pesto. Next to it, a bunch of carrots, 2 lemon wedges, a bottle of olive oil, a head of garlic, and bowls of salt and pistachios.An overhead shot of a bowl of carrot pesto. Next to it, a bunch of carrots, 2 lemon wedges, a bottle of olive oil, a head of garlic, and bowls of salt and pistachios.

What to serve with carrot pesto

You can use Carrot Top Pesto in place of many recipes that call for a basil-style pesto. The bright, peppery, lemony base pairs well with fish, chicken, pasta, and vegetable dishes. Here are more ideas for using this pesto recipe:

  • Pasta is a great choice for pesto. Top with potato gnocchi, ricotta gnocchi, spaghetti or farfalle with a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water for an easy-to-prepare dish.
  • Spread the carrot pesto over the meatlike this whole roast chicken.
  • Pesto doesn't always have to be a sauce! Use it as a spread for sandwiches, mix it into aioli for a creamy dip, or try it in this Grilled Cheese Pita!
  • Carrots! Roast the carrots and use the carrot top pesto as a sauce.

But what do I do with the carrot bottoms, you ask?

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  • Prepare the carrot tops. Remove the hard stems from the carrot top, keeping only the lacy tops. Wash the tops thoroughly and dry them. Set aside.

  • Blend until you get a paste. In a food processor or blender, pulse together the garlic and pistachios until they are broken down into small pieces. Then add the carrot tops and lemon juice to the food processor and pulse for 30 seconds until well combined.

  • Make a sauce. Run the machine on low while slowly adding the olive oil, then add the salt. Stop and scrape down the sides and pulse a couple more times to combine all the ingredients.

  • Complete and serve. Taste and adjust if necessary. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

  • Buy this recipe: Visit our shop to discover quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oil used in this recipe.
  • If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can grind and blend the pesto by hand for a chunkier version, or crush it in a large mortar and pestle.

Calories: 232.5kilocalorieCarbohydrates: 5.6GProtein: 3.1GFat: 22.8GSaturated fats: 3.1GPolyunsaturated fats: 3.3GMonounsaturated fat: 15.6GSodium: 194.3mgPotassium: 107mgFiber: 1.1GSugar: 0.8GVitamin A: 42.6IUC vitamin: 17mgSoccer: 79.2mgIron: 2.3mg

Bottle of Nocellara olive oil.Bottle of Nocellara olive oil.

Recommended for this recipe

Extra virgin olive oil, hand-picked and cold-extracted, from 100% Sicilian Nocellara del Belice olives.

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