Vegan Nettle & Carrot-top Pesto

Photo: Tess Post

Almost everyone I know throws them away, but the green tops of carrots are perfectly edible! You can eat them raw or cooked (no, they are not poisonous), throw them in a salad or make salsa’s and chimichurris out of them. I usually make a pesto with them. Ever since I discovered that you can make pesto with anything, not just basil, I have been experimenting with all kinds of greens. Carrot tops do not have a very distinct taste, they taste kind of nutty and leafy to me. That is why I decided to mix this pesto with stinging nettles. Another green which everyone forgets about, but which literally grow everywhere and are completely free. So let’s get into the recipe!

Ingredients & utensils

  • Carrot tops of one bunch of carrots
  • Stinging nettles: about the same amount as your carrot tops
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Nuts and seeds of your choice (I used a combination of pistachios, cashews
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt & Pepper
  • One big garlic clove
  • Chickpeas or white beans/butter beans (optional)
  • Blender, kitchen machine, pestle and mortar, whatever floats your goat and pumpkin seeds)

Note: I did not add specific measurements as it all depends on how much carrot tops you have, and on your taste of course. I just add everything together, taste it, and adjust. The chickpeas or beans are great to add some creaminess to the pesto, which would otherwise be given from the cheese or extreme amounts of oil. I prefer to add less oil and more chickpeas, but you can omit them and just add lots of oil. Also, pistachios are so great in this as they have a slight cheesy flavor!

Oh and if you can, use organic carrot tops! These are completely pesticide free, unlike the ‘common’ ones. Personally, I don’t care and still use the common ones, but I thought I would just share if you are looking out for pesticides…

Photo: Tess Post


  1. Pick your nettles: You can do this bare-handed if you are a tough bear but really I would say just use some gloves. I used leather ones so I looked extra creepy while picking nettles. Look for the tops of the nettle, these are the freshest, and gather them in a big bowl. Make sure to check for insects, dog pee (or human pee), and lice holes. Then wash the nettles multiple times in cold water to get rid of any dirt (I kept my gloves on while doing this, but you can just strain them a few times in a colander using some tongs).
  2. Get your carrot tops ready: The stems of the carrot tops are quite hard so it is best to remove the bigger ones, which you can do by simply ripping off the smaller leaves with your hand. Wash them thoroughly, they are often quite sandy, and then chop them into slightly smaller bits.
  3. Boil some water in a big pot and put both the nettles and carrot tops in. Blanch them for about a minute, until they have wilted down (just like spinach!). Then, remove them from the water and drain them. Rinse with cold water again so they cool down, and then you can take the whole bunch of wilted leaves and just press all the water out with your hands! Don’t be scared, the nettles won’t sting anymore.
  4. Transfer the squeezed greens and all the other ingredients into whatever you are using to mix it. And mix.
  5. Besides lemon juice you can also add the zest for that extra zestiness. Adjust salt and oil and when you have found the right taste, you are done!
Photo: Tess Post

Photo: Tess Post

I use this on everything. Pasta, bread, crisps, pizza, wraps, salad, sandwiches. It’s super delicious and packed with nutrients, enjoy! The pesto will stay for at least a week, the more oil you put the longer. If you know you won’t use it for a while just pour a layer of olive oil on top to cover and put it in the fridge, and this can then last for weeks.

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