Packed with lemon zest, raw pumpkin seeds, and a handful of carrot tops (you can’t taste them — promise!), this dairy-free pesto is a fridge staple. Delicious on top of roasted carrots, it’s also a satisfying pasta sauce and sandwich spread.
This recipe was originally posted in July 2019.
Summer Road trip
Happy July. Summer is in full swing. Although nothing screams summer quite like an epic cold, right? Ha — yes, I’m currently dealing with a cold to rival all colds. Between our road trip through Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, as well as my brother-in-law’s wedding in San Diego last weekend, my immune system took a hit. Truthfully, it’s been the perfect excuse to tune in and slow down.
Two weeks ago, my husband and I road tripped through Arches National Park, Moab, and a few other extraordinary landscapes. About 1,200 miles and many car snacks later, we ended up in San Diego. After a family wedding, we drove up the coast and inland, through Bakersfield and Gilroy, to the Bay Area where my parents live. We took a handful of photos and videos during the trip, so I’ll be recapping our drive in the coming weeks. It was truly unforgettable. For the last week, we’ve been in Northern California, working remotely, recouping (I have, anyway), and spending time with my family. Although our trip is unfortunately coming to a close, I’m looking forward to getting back to Denver.
Before we left, I took inventory of our fridge — in hopes of incorporating the last of our fresh produce. I knew my indoor basil plant wasn’t going to survive for a few weeks, and I had carrot tops that had seen better days. Et voila, this recipe was born. This carrot top pesto came together in no time. And yes, you can totally add carrot top greens, radish greens, etc. to your pesto. It’s a great way to reduce food waste, slightly elevate the flavor profile, and pack in a few extra nutrients. This recipe is gluten-free and vegan and can be served as a hearty side dish, an afternoon snack, or the focal point of a veggie-centric dinner.
How to make Delicious pesto
While using a mortar and pestle is honorable — and is the traditional way to make pesto — a food processor or blender also does the trick. Plus, it’s much faster. For deep flavor and a beautiful texture, be sure to use fresh basil (ideally, in season) and Pecorino Fiore Sardo (a slightly milder sheep’s milk cheese), and smooth extra-virgin olive oil, like Brightland.
While the recipe I’m sharing is vegan (dairy-free), most pesto recipes call for parmesan cheese. I’ve made pesto with and without cheese, and both are delicious. In additional to fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper are all you need. As you’ll see below, I’ve modified my pesto version based on ingredients I had on hand. You can swap pine nuts for walnuts or pumpkin seeds, use nutritional yeast instead of parm, and add in red chili flakes for added spice.
Ways to use pesto
Beyond pasta, there are numerous ways to use pesto: use it as an appetizer (burrata and pesto crostinis), dip (crudité platter), sandwich spread (turkey + pesto or veg-heavy), marinade, pizza sauce, or an herby avocado toast. To make pesto nut free, use pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts. To make it vegan, swap the traditional parm for a parmesan alternative, like Violife. Traditionally, though, pesto comes together in a paste by crushing garlic, salt, cheese, herbs, olive oil, and vinegar — and sometimes pine nuts — together.
Sweet Potato Fries with Vegan Carrot Top Pesto
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup loosely packed basil
- 1 cup carrot tops (the greens from approx. 4-5 carrots)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or sub grated parmesan cheese)
- 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
- sea salt, to taste
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Cut sweet potato into wedges, place on baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil and seasonings.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes (or until the sweet potatoes are browned).
- While the sweet potatoes are baking, add all pesto ingredients to your food processor. Process until well-combined. Let sit on the counter.
- Remove fries from the oven, let cool for 5-7 minutes, then generously spoon pesto across the sweet potatoes.
- Store any remaining pesto in an air-tight container in the fridge. This pesto will stay fresh in the fridge for up to one week (pro tip: drizzle remaining pesto with a bit more olive oil to keep the pesto green).