Don't throw away those gorgeous carrot tops! Use them instead in this easy and delicious and nutritious carrot top pesto that takes all of five minutes to put together. You can stir it into pasta, of course, but also slather it on bread or use it as a dressing for veggies, including roasted carrots and potatoes.
I like squeezing all the use I can get out of my veggies and fruits. This carrot top pesto is not just one of the funnest things I've made in a while, it's also one of the most delicious--and nutritious.
Making a pesto is really simple, and I often make all kinds of pesto in my kitchen, including this amazing vegan basil pesto, vegan fennel fronds pesto, and green garlic pesto. Pesto is a great sauce for pasta, of course, but it also works really well as a dressing for roasted veggies. I toss it with roasted carrots and sometimes with air-fried potatoes for a really delicious side. Or you can slather it on crusty bread for bruschetta.
What are carrot tops or carrot greens?
Carrot tops or greens are simply the leaves of the carrot that grow above the ground. They are rather pretty, a little bit like parsley to look at, with a slightly bitter, grassy flavor.
Why eat the carrot tops?
Like carrots, which are a nutrition powerhouse, carrot tops are packed with vitamins A and C (they have six times as much vitamin C as the roots), fiber, calcium and iron. They are also high in potassium, an important nutrient for reducing blood pressure and keeping your heart healthy. The nutrients in carrot greens are also said to improve bone mineral density, reducing the risk for osteoporosis.
You can simply saute carrot tops with olive oil, garlic, black pepper and salt for a tasty side.
Tips for making carrot top pesto
- Use fresh-looking greens, and trim out any yellow portions. You don't want those in your pesto.
- The stems can be fibrous. Trim them out when you use them in your cooking and use the leafy portions only.
- You can blanch the greens if you wish before you add them to the pesto, although I find that an unnecessary step. The leaves are slightly fibrous but the food processor breaks them down quite nicely and they "cook" a bit when you add them to the hot pasta or veggies. If you do decide to blanch them, put the carrot tops in boiling water for a minute, then strain them and run cold water over them before adding them to the food processor.
- I use pistachio nuts in the pesto, but almost any nut will work here, including walnuts and pistachios. For a nut-free pesto use an equal amount of pumpkin seeds that are raw and unsalted.
- My pesto is not floating in oil, as pestos often do, because I used just a quarter of a cup of extra virgin olive oil--enough to keep the blades of the food processor moving--for 2 packed cups of carrot greens. You can add more oil, by all means, and your pesto will be all the more delicious, but I find this much oil adds all the flavor I want while keeping the pesto refreshingly light.
- I used pretty much typical pesto ingredients here--garlic, EVOO, nuts, lemon juice and salt and black pepper--but there is one ingredient here that's a bit different, and that is ground cumin. Cumin is a nice flavor with carrots, and it really brings out the flavors of these greens without making itself too noticeable.
- You can add 1-2 tablespoon of nutritional yeast to the food processor, for a cheesier pesto. Or stir in 2 tablespoon of vegan parmesan.
Carrot Top Pesto
- 2 cups (packed) carrot tops (or carrot greens. Tough stems removed, leaves chopped coarsely)
- ¼ cup pistachio nuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ to 1 teaspoon ground cumin (start out with ½ teaspoon and add more if you want)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (approx 1 large lemon)
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Place all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. If using nutritional yeast or parmesan, add them at this time. Don't add both--use one or the other.
- With the blade running, drizzle in the olive oil through the feed tube. Make sure you have enough salt and pepper in there before you scrape the pesto out of the bowl.