Don’t throw those carrot tops away. They’re full of flavour and they make a fantastic pesto. This recipe for carrot top pesto with basil and lemon is a delicious variation on the pesto we all know and love. Use it just as you would any other.
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British carrots are just coming into season. If you grow your own, get a veg box or have a good farmer’s market near you, you’re likely to have a whole load of feathery carrot tops to contend with. Don’t discard them. Use them to cook with instead. It’s a great way to prevent food waste.
Before launching into the recipe for carrot top pesto, here’s a bit of useful information about carrot tops.
Can You Eat Carrot Tops?
Carrot tops are perfectly safe to eat. I wouldn’t make carrot top pesto if they weren’t. You can eat them in both their raw form or cooked.
To eat them raw or to make this carrot leaf pesto, make sure the tops are fresh and green. If some of the leaves have turned yellow or brown, they’re really past their best. Cook any leaves that are salvageable along with other greens or add to a curry or stew. Alternatively chuck onto the compost heap.
See my list of good things to eat with carrot top pesto further down this post.
What Do Carrot Tops Taste Like?
Carrot tops taste a little like parsley, but with a mild carroty flavour. Like most green leaves, they have a slight bitter quality so are generally nicer when mixed with other ingredients.
Carrot Top Pesto
Carrot top pesto is really delicious. It’s also incredibly easy to make if you have a food processor or blender. It takes about ten minutes from start to finish.
Personally I prefer to use a food processor for this as it’s much nicer with a bit of texture. My Froothie Evolve power blender* would pulverise it into a fine paste. This suits some pestos such as my watercress one, but not all of them.
I actually prefer to use a mini food processor* for this. It gives a chunkier and more interesting consistency.
Anyway, it’s just a simple process of adding all the ingredients, bar the olive oil to your chosen piece of equipment and pulsing until you have the texture more or less as you like it. Add the olive oil and pulse again until everything is thoroughly mixed.
Before starting, make sure to give the carrot tops a good wash. Mud and grit may be trapped in the leaves. Give them a good shake to dry. Or better still, use a salad spinner. You’ll need to wash the basil too, but it’s generally less of an issue.
Remove any tough stems from the carrot greens and roughly chop them before pulverising. It’s also a good idea to roughly chop the cheese and garlic too.
Before removing, try the pesto. If you feel it needs a little more salt or a little more lemon juice, add them and briefly pulse again.
Once you have the carrot top pesto to your liking, scrape it into sterilised glass jars. Use straight away or pop them into the fridge.
Carrot Top Pesto: Top Tips
You don’t have to use basil for this recipe, but it makes a nice addition. I mostly make it without as, unless it’s high summer, I’m unlikely to have any basil around. But I always enjoy it when I make it with both.
Although, as I’ve already said, you don’t need to use any additional herbs with the carrot leaves, I sometimes add a little parsley instead of basil.
Parmesan or pecorino are the traditional cheeses used to make pesto. Neither of these are vegetarian, so look out for similar Italian hard cheeses that are vegetarian friendly. Most supermarkets stock these nowadays.
Use a good quality flavoursome extra virgin olive oil for this recipe. As there are so few ingredients in this carrot top pesto, every one of them counts. I use cold pressed olive oil.
For additional sumptuousness, try toasting the nuts before adding to the mix. It’s a bit of extra faff, but toasting really brings out the flavour of the nuts. Just make sure they’ve cooled down before you add them to the other ingredients.
If you’d prefer not to use a food processor or don’t have one, make your pesto the traditional Italian way and grind it by hand in a pestle and mortar. Pound the nuts, garlic and cheese first, then add the leaves. Finish by stirring in the olive oil.
For a lighter, nut-free and non-dairy version, try my carrot top pistou recipe.
What To Eat Carrot Top Pesto With
You can use carrot top pesto in exactly the same way you would any other pesto.
- Stir into pasta
- Spoon over boiled or roasted veg. It’s especially good with carrots. You can see how I’ve done this in my recipe for chilli roasted oca.
- Layer it in a pastry tart such as these asparagus tarts or this tomato galette.
- Use as a dip.
- Cook in a risotto, as I have in this recipe for asparagus risotto with peas.
- Add to salad dressings. Or make a salad dressing from it by adding extra lemon and olive oil.
- Drop a spoonful into a bowl of soup as in this green summer soup.
- Spread on crackers, bread or toast.
If you prefer a looser sauce for drizzling over vegetables, for example, add a little more olive oil. Stir in a tablespoonful first and take it from there.
How Long Will Carrot Top Pesto Keep?
Carrot top pesto will keep for at least three days in the fridge.
If you want to keep it for longer, however, seal the top with a layer of olive oil before closing the lid. If properly sealed, this will keep for at least two weeks in the fridge. Alternatively you can freeze it. Head over to my wild garlic pesto post to see how.
Other Pesto Recipes You Might Like
- Basil & walnut pesto
- Fat hen & chickweed pesto
- Parsley & almond pesto
- Wild garlic pesto two ways
- Watercress pesto
Keep in Touch
Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you make this carrot top pesto, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. And do please rate the recipe. Have you any top tips? Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.
If you’d like more carrot recipes, follow the link and you’ll find I have quite a lot of them. All delicious and nutritious, of course.
Carrot Top Pesto. PIN IT.
Carrot Top Pesto – The Recipe
Carrot Top Pesto
- tops from a medium bunch of carrots tough stems discarded
- small handful of basil
- 50 g Italian vegetarian hard cheese roughly chopped
- 50 g pine nuts, cashews or almonds
- 75 ml cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 fat clove garlic quartered
- 1 pinch sea salt
- Wash the basil and feathery carrot top leaves, then shake well to dry or use a salad spinner if you have one. Roughly chop the carrot tops.
- Place all of the ingredients, bar the olive oil into a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get a coarse paste.
- Add the olive oil and pulse again until everything is well combined, but there's still a bit of texture.
- Scoop into small sterilised jars and seal. Will keep well in the fridge for three days.
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