Don’t throw away those carrot tops! Here’s a quick 5-minute recipe for Carrot Greens Pesto that’s super delish and packed with nutrition from the leaves of the carrots. This dairy-free carrot top pesto is the tastiest recipe to use carrot greens.
This post has been updated from the original posted March9, 2021.
In my house, vegan basil pesto is a crowd favorite. BUT…I don’t always have enough fresh basil in my garden to make traditional pesto. Plus buying enough basil for pesto can get expensive….but using carrot greens to make pesto is super economical.
Carrot greens pesto is the perfect recipe to make, any time you have fresh carrots. Really, EVERY time you buy fresh carrots you should be setting aside the carrot greens to make this carrot top pesto recipe. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. It’s so delicious, you won’t need a reminder.
Whether you’re making whole roasted carrots, moroccan spiced carrots honey roasted carrots, or you’re just cutting up carrots to dip into your vegan caesar dressing...this carrot top recipe is THE BEST.
Plus, there’s no reason to waste the carrot greens by sending them your compost pile…because this easy recipe uses just 7 ingredients and takes literally 5 minutes to make.
Why you’ll love this Carrot Top Pesto
- OMG….so delicious.
- Easy to make with just 7 ingredients and it takes less than 5 minutes.
- NO WASTE: I HATE wasting food. With this recipe you finally have a use for all parts of the carrots.
- No basil, no problem….and you still can enjoy pesto!
- Perfect for zoodles, or mixed into cauli-rice, as a dip for raw veggies or used to flavor soups, stews, stir fry or sauces.
- NUTRIENT DENSE: This recipe is loaded with vitamins and minerals.
- Diversify your gut flora….variety is the spice of life. Bitter greens add so much diversity to your gut microbiome.
- Super tasty….oh, did I already mention that. Well, it’s true. Totally scrumptious.
- Anytime you buy carrots to make a recipe and you’re wondering what to do with carrot greens, now you have the answer. Quick and easy carrot top pesto!
Health benefits of carrot greens
- They’re actually MORE nutritious than the carrots themselves!
- Carrot greens are considered bitter greens….which are good for digestion.
- Carrot greens add a depth of flavor and a diverse nutritional profile that is good for the gut flora
- They’re rich in nutrients: they contain 6 times more vitamin C than the root…plus Vitamin A, fiber, iron, potassium, calcium and phytonutrients.
- Carrot greens have a good amount of chlorophyll which is a natural diuretic and detoxifier.
- Why waste them? Seriously…..they’re easy to use in myriad ways.
What to do with carrot tops?
- Chop them up and add into salad. The carrot greens will blend right in on this easy green salad, or my Tuscan Kale Chopped Salad. Really, any salad you made will be enhanced by adding carrot greens.
- Sprinkle on top of carrot soup as a garnish.
- Add the carrot tops to your favorite green smoothie. Oh, wait, that is MY favorite smoothie recipe. You might prefer to disguise your greens as a chocolate shake.
- Carrot greens make a wonderful garnish to cooked recipes too like this easy stir fry recipe or these Dijon Lentils with Roasted Veggies.
- You get the idea. Substitute carrot tops for any green or herb in any recipe. I’ve even added them to guacamole when I didn’t have cilantro.
How to store carrot tops
- It’s best to store carrot greens separately from the carrots. The greens will lead to condensation, making the carrots spoil more quickly.
- Wash and dry carrot tops the same way you would any leafy green.
- Place them in a dry plastic bag or airtight container, lined with a paper towel to absorb any moisture.
- Carrot greens will stay good in the fridge for about 5 days.
What’s in Pesto?
Classic pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese and olive oil. But, why stop there? Think outside the box a bit and you’ll see that you’re only a few steps away from my carrot top pesto recipe.
In my book, pesto is made from some kind of green (maybe herbs, maybe not), some seeds or nuts (pine nuts are expensive, so I often use walnuts or pistachios), fresh lemon and garlic…maybe some oil…or maybe tahini instead…and some spices. I like vegan pesto, so I don’t use parmesan cheese. Sometimes I use nutritional yeast instead, but I don’t find it necessary. See what I mean about flexibility. Resourceful comes in, when you don’t have EXACTLY the ingredients called for.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Carrot Greens: If you don’t have carrot tops and still want to make pesto, that’s cool….but it won’t be a carrot top pesto. Maybe you want to make arugula spinach pesto with walnuts or kale cashew pesto, if that’s what you have on hand. Classic Pesto with basil and pine nuts is also delish. If you have any type of greens, you can make pesto.
- Arugula: I absolutely LOVE the peppery flavor of arugula, but if you don’t have any, you can still make carrot top pesto. Substitute a green or an herb that you do have. Good choices are parsley, spinach, basil, baby kale or oregano leaves.
- Hemp seeds: Any nut or seed would work well here, but keep in mind, they won’t all grind up as easily in your food processor. If you don’t want chunks of nuts in your pesto, either use a high speed blender to puree, OR soak your nuts in hot water for about 30 minutes before blending. Use pine nuts as you would the hemp seeds. They’re soft. Good subs, that need soaking: cashews, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. If you’re making this as a passover recipe, sub with cashews…YUM.
- Lemon: Use the zest and the juice for the best flavor (and the least waste). No fresh lemons? Opt for bottled lemon juice, and be sure to buy organic. Lemons are a heavily sprayed crop. You can also substitute fresh lime zest and juice in this recipe…I’ve tried it, and it’s GOOD!
- Garlic: I like to use a microplane zester for the garlic in this recipe. It’s easy to use and cuts down on waste. You can also use a garlic press or mince the whole clove before using. If you don’t have fresh garlic, use ½ teaspoon garlic powder….NOT garlic salt.
- Oil: I used ⅓ cup olive oil in this recipe. If you want to make this without oil, use ¼ cup tahini and then add 1 Tablespoon at a time of water until you reach desired consistency.
- Spices: If you like more spice, I recommend adding ¼-1/2 teaspoon white pepper. You could also up the amount of crushed red pepper.
How to make Pesto with Carrot Greens:
- First you’ll want to wash the carrots. You can also scrub them with a vegetable brush, or peel them, depending on how you’ll use the carrots.
2. Next, separate the carrots from the thicker stems and the leafy tops. Use the carrots in your favorite carrot recipe. I save the thick stems in a zip top bag in my freezer and throw them in the pot when I next make veggie stock. Put aside the leafy tops to uses in this recipe.
3. Place all ingredients, except for oil, in the bowl of a food processor. It doesn’t matter if the carrot greens are still damp. If you’re making this as a Passover Recipe, substitute cashews or another nut for the seeds.
4. Process until everything is completely broken down. You may need to scrape down the sides a couple of times to be sure that everything is finely chopped.
5. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil. Continue to process until the oil is fully incorporated and the pesto sauce is emulsified. You may need to scrape down the sides once or twice in between.
6. That’s it! Your pesto is ready to use. Sprinkle with additional hemp seeds to add texture or crushed red pepper to add some zing. Enjoy your pesto right away, or store in the fridge for up to a week.
YES! Carrot top pesto can be frozen for up to 6 months. You can freeze in ice cube trays, pop them out and store in zip top bags. This way you can just add one or two cubes to sauces and dips to liven up their flavor. OR, store in larger quantities in air tight containers.
Yes. Separate the carrot greens from the carrot stems. Wash well. Use a salad spinner to make sure leaves are totally dry and then freeze. You can put carrot tops directly from the freezer into the food processor to make pesto.
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Carrot Top Pesto
- 1 bunch carrot tops* tough stems removed. About 2 cups chopped.
- 1 cup arugula*
- ½ cup hemp seeds*
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- 2 cloves garlic zested or pressed
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ⅓ cup olive oil*
- Separate the leaves from the tough stems. Wash the leaves well.
- Place carrot tops, arugula, hemp seeds, zest and juice of lemon, garlic, S+P in the bowl of food processor and pulse. Scrape down the sides and continue to process until everything is uniformly chopped.
- With the motor running, slowly stream in. the olive oil. Stop to scrape down the side and process again until all the oil is fully incorporated and emulsified.
- Store pesto in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for up to three months.