In lieu of ‘trimming and tossing,’ turn edible and incredibly nutritious carrot tops into a gourmet ingredient in fewer than 5 minutes!
Carrot tops are 100% edible and entirely nutritious. Tossing them out after trimming my carrots seemed criminal once I learned how to use the tops to assemble pesto.
A small jar of this homemade pesto enhances dishes I turn out of my kitchen for a solid week.
I add a biggie spoonful when stirring into pasta, or a dollop plopped right on top of a thick and creamy soup. I also smear it on sourdough for an intense grilled cheese sammie, and garnish heavily atop my Goat Cheese and Chive Grits Souffles.
Do You Have What’s Needed to Make This Creamy Carrot Green Pesto Sauce Recipe? Check The List!
- carrot top greens, between 2 1/2 and 3 cups loosely packed
- fresh parsley
- extra virgin olive oil
- coconut milk
- a lemon
- fresh garlic cloves
- sunflower kernels (sunflower seeds)
- pignoli nuts (use walnuts if preferred)
- Kosher salt
- black pepper
- Parmesan cheese
- red pepper flakes
How This Recipe Came About…
One of the first things I learned to make when I moved out on my own was a straightforward pesto sauce. Basil, olive oil, and a mess of Parmesan cheese. Yeah, pretty basic alright.
Pasta is a college students bestie when money is tight. It sort of spills over when you graduate and get your own place.
When I moved into my first home, my grocery budget was seriously unforgiving. I would make special trips home to visit my parents and raid their garden for anything and everything I could manage.
One day I had an idea. Despite being in a second-floor walkup, why not plant my own vegetables in patio containers? I mean, could this work?
I started small with tomatoes and lots of varieties of herbs. In no time flat, I was harvesting handfuls of tiny tomatoes and basil leaves and the like.
My basic pesto method worked well in those early days as I essentially used it whenever I made pasta. I also tried it out when I experimented with making my own pizza dough.
Things got really serious the day I planted carrots and garlic in my flower boxes. In a few short weeks, I had frilly green tops poking in and among my petunias.
My command in the kitchen was bar none and I leveled up my pesto because I was too cheap to toss the tops from my flourishing carrot ‘crop.’
What Is the Difference Between Traditional Pesto and Carrot Top Pesto?
The answer is basil leaves versus carrot green leaves. Both are their own flavor profile, and both are exceedingly delicious.
So, which one to use? If you have a need to purchase carrots or better yet, grow your own, consider using the carrot tops the same way in which you’d use basil leaves.
Tossing the tops as if they were scraps is a shame given how magnificent a fresh and flavorful creamy sauce they can be whirled up into. Some of my favorite recipes for when I’m entertaining include this Creamy Carrot Green Pesto Sauce Recipe.
As a base for crostini, an addition to heavy cream to create a creamy pasta sauce, or just as a dip for homemade bread sticks, this Creamy Carrot Green Pesto Sauce Recipe is not a trick I can live without.
How to Make This Creamy Carrot Green Pesto Sauce Recipe?
Hit a grocery store that you know offer carrots with their tops intact. If you’re wondering why you’d go out of your way to do this, consider this KNOCK-YOUR -SOCKS-OFF (KYSO) carrot recipe, and carry on.
Also consider that while prepping the KYSO recipe over your weekend, you could easily assemble this creamy pesto sauce recipe while the carrots are roasting.
Five minutes on a Saturday will inevitably save you time on busy weeknights when a handful of simple ingredients combined with this creamy pesto sauce recipe will yield a fabulous creamy pesto pasta recipe in not so many steps. Less time in the kitchen, and a giant round of applause for an easy recipe.
To Prep the Carrot Tops
The very first thing to do is to wash the carrot tops thoroughly. I find a great way to do this is to run cold tap water into a large bowl or your sink basin.
Carrot greens generally have a good amount of dirt and grit that needs to be removed. I float the tops in the water for 15 minutes while I’m doing other things and find most of it lifts and sinks to the bottom on its own.
I still however, ensure I’ve made attempts to rid them of unwanted extras by using my fingers to gently rub every branch. Your fingers are the best way to loosen grit.
At this point, I make a point of getting rid of the big stems. Smaller stems are okay, but big stems tend to be slightly bitter and a bit too woody for my taste. So, small stems and lots and lots of leaves for me.
Next, I pop them into a salad spinner. Removing as much excess water as possible is integral. You want a delicious pesto that is a thick sauce, not a slimy thinner sauce.
If you do not have a salad spinner, wrap several branches at a time in a kitchen towel and roll to absorb the moisture. Do this several times with all of the branches until they are largely dry.
How Do I Preserve Carrot Tops to Use at a Later Date?
My favorite way to preserve their freshness for use at a later date is to begin by washing and drying them. Then wrap in damp paper toweling and place into a zippered plastic bag or airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
The moisture in the toweling and cold refrigeration will help the leaves to stay crisp, but remember – damp, not wet.
Assembling Creamy Pesto Sauce
Ready for this? Place all ingredients in the recipe card in the barrel of your food processor or blender and let ‘er rip. If you enjoy a thicker sauce, do nothing.
If however you prefer a thinner sauce to use as a salad dressing say, slowly drizzle olive oil (only about a tablespoon of olive oil) in from the top of your machine as the sauce processes.
Take a minute to taste the pesto. Assess what’s needed, if anything, in terms of seasoning. Salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, additional garlic? Season to taste, and your lovely Creamy Carrot Green Pesto Sauce recipe is complete and ready for use.
Scrape the pulpy sauce into a bowl or container or even ice cube trays for freezing for later use. Depending on the amount of carrot tops you used, you will have 1 cup of sauce more or less.
What Can I Use This Creamy Pesto Sauce Recipe For?
Pasta lovers rejoice! Grab a favorite pasta (any type of pasta noodle) and cook it according to the package directions. Once the pasta cooks, toss and coat with a homemade pesto cream sauce incorporating this gorgeous creamy pesto pasta sauce recipe. Garnish with fresh basil leaves or a few toasted carrot curls.
Halve cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes) and place them in a bowl. Stir in a heaping spoonful of this creamy pesto sauce recipe and top rustic toasted bread slices with the mixture. Finish by plating and sprinkling with pecorino Romano cheese for a side dish reminiscent of old Italian favorites.
Spoon some of this creamy pesto sauce recipe into a small saucepan over medium low heat and thin using a wee bit of chicken broth. Melt a tablespoon of cream cheese into the mixture and stir until very creamy, then swirl into hot tomato or lentil soup for an exciting hot meal that is a long way from typical or boring.
Modifying the Norm to Make It Not Entirely Average…
The use of nuts and seeds in this method are intentional. Not only do they offer a buttery texture to the finished pesto, but also take the place of dairy.
Once ground, nut and seed butters offer the creaminess found in dairy without spoiling it for those with dietary restrictions.
This? This is a good thing. So next time you find yourself with carrot tops, whirl them up with these simple ingredients and give my Creamy Carrot Green Pesto Sauce recipe a try.
Can’t eat pignoli nuts? Use walnuts in lieu of pignolis in equal measure.
Don’t have fresh parsley? Use fresh baby spinach leaves or basil leaves or a combination of both.
Don’t really care if you have dairy? Skip the coconut milk and go heavy cream.
All of these ingredients make sense together, so there’s nothing weird about experimenting.
Creamy Carrot Green Pesto Sauce Recipe
- jar with tight-fitting lid
Ingredients for Creamy Carrot Green Pesto Sauce Recipe
- 2 bunches carrot greens fresh; about 2 – 3 cups loosely packed, big stems removed
- 1 cup parsley fresh
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 tablespoons full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 large lemon, juiced
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 tablespoon sunflower kernels
- 1 tablespoon pignoli nuts
- 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt or more to taste
- black pepper freshly cracked
- red pepper flakes
- Parmesan cheese freshly grated
- To the barrel of a food processor, add all of the ingredients pulse until to desired consistency. Taste and season if necessary. Add additional coconut milk or olive oil to thin the sauce or additional nuts or sunflower kernels to thicken it.
- Scrape the pesto into a lidded jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Store refrigerated for up to 7 days.
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