Don't throw away those leafy green carrot tops! They can make a delicious and vibrant Carrot Top Pesto which is a delicious addition to pasta, soup or sandwiches.
We are all about trying to reduce our food waste and this carrot top recipe is one of our favourites. We grew a lot of carrots this year and it just seemed such a shame to throw away all those beautiful leafy greens, so we turned them into an incredible pesto.
The best thing is, this comes together in just a couple of minutes and there are so many ways that you can use it too.
Looking for more ways to reduce food waste? Why not try our Leftover Mashed Potato Gnocchi?
Ingredients and substitutions
- Oil - Use a really good quality extra virgin olive oil. You really will be able to taste the difference.
- Basil - Fresh basil is what gives pesto its unique flavour.
- Pine nuts - This it what thickens the pesto and gives it the creamy texture. You could can use cashews, pistachios or walnuts instead.
- Parmesan - Use a vegetarian Italian hard cheese alternative if you want a vegetarian carrot top pesto.
- Carrot tops - This is the star of the pesto. If you are not growing your own carrots, you can find carrots still with their tops at the farmers market or your local fruit and veg stall.
- Salt and pepper - Generously season. Taste it and then season again if needed.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
How to make carrot top pesto - Step by step
One: Add the carrot tops, basil, parmesan, pine nuts, salt and pepper to a food processor.
Two: Blitz everything together. Continue blitzing while adding the oil until you reach your desired consistency.
Benefits of carrot tops
Carrots come from the same family as parsnips, fennel, coriander and parsley, so it's not surprising that carrot tops taste a little like parsley. They are also a little bitter and do have a carrot flavour to them. The green tops from younger carrots are milder than those from older carrots, so keep that in mind.
Carrot tops are high in potassium and iron, as well as vitamins C and K, so it's an easy way to give your pesto a nutritional boost, as well as reduce food waste.
They are really versatile too - you don't just have to use them in pesto. You can use them in the same way that you would parsley (although I wouldn't substitute parsley totally in recipes as it does have a stronger flavour) and they make a delicious chimichurri.
Read more about the health benefits of carrot tops.
The great thing about pesto is that it has so many uses. Whilst the classic way is to simply stir it through some pasta, there are so many other ways you can use it too.
Pasta - This is the classic way to use pesto and our carrot top pesto is no different. Simple stir it into your favourite cooked pasta shapes or make our Chicken Pesto Pasta.
Pizza - We love little dots of pesto on top of a pizza, like our Aubergine Pizza. You could even use it as the base sauce.
Sauce - It also makes a really good sauce, especially on our Pesto Chicken Sandwich or Chicken Pesto Burgers. You can also make an incredible salad dressing with it. Try our Pesto Salad Dressing on your favourite salad.
Topper - Add loads of flavour to salmon or chicken by spreading some pesto on it before putting it in the oven. Follow the recipe for our Pesto Salmon. You can also put it on top of soup like our Easy Tomato Soup or Creamy Vegetable Soup.
Garlic - Everything is better with garlic right? You can blend a couple of cloves of fresh garlic into this for a flavour booster.
Herbs - Whilst basil is the traditional herb to use in homemade pesto, other herbs work well too. Why not try our Mixed Herb Pesto, which is a great way to use up a little bit of a few different herbs you might have left in your fridge.
Bitterness - Carrot tops do have a slight bitter flavour, so if you want less bitterness, then you can swap some of the carrot tops for spinach or kale, which will still give a vibrant green colour and nutritional benefits.
Spice - For an extra flavour punch, you can add some cumin, paprika or red chilli flakes to the carrot top pesto.
Store: To keep your pesto fresh, fill a jar almost to the top and then drizzle over a small amount of oil over the top and seal. This can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 weeks if you keep covering the pesto with a little oil each time.
Freeze: You can freeze carrot top pesto by putting it into ice cube trays and putting in the freezer.
Defrost: To defrost, you should ideally remove from the freezer and defrost in the fridge for a couple of hours. If you need it defrosted quicker, put a pesto cube in a small bowl or cup and then put that into a larger bowl of hot water. Make sure the hot water doesn't spill into the container with the pesto cube. When the pesto starts to soften, you can cut it into smaller pieces to speed up the defrosting process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, just swap the Parmesan for nutritional yeast. You won't need quite as much though, as it has a strong flavour, but I know some people love that. So it really is a judgement call.
You can crush everything up in a pestle and mortar before adding the oil and then add the oil a little bit at a time until it is the desired consistency. It won't be as smooth, but we kind of like the texture of it this way.
More sauce recipes
Carrot Top Pesto
- 100 g (4 cups) Carrot tops
- 10 g (0.5 cups) Fresh basil
- 30 g (0.25 cups) Pine nuts
- 20 g (0.25 cups) Parmesan - grated
- 60 ml (0.25 cups) Olive oil - extra virgin
- 1 pinch Sea salt
- 1 pinch Black pepper
- Add 100 g Carrot tops, 10 g Fresh basil, 20 g Parmesan, 30 g Pine nuts, 1 pinch Sea salt and 1 pinch Black pepper to a food processor.
- Blitz everything together. Continue blitzing while adding 60 ml Olive oil until you reach your desired consistency.
- You can use a variety of different types of herbs to make pesto and reduce food waste. Just make sure it is leafy herbs and not woody ones.
- You don't have to use pine nuts to make pesto. You can make this by using seeds like sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
- To reduce the bitterness of the carrot tops, you can blanch them first, but we don't think this step is necessary.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.