Recipe: Spinach Herb Pistachio Pesto

Summer is winding down. Already I’m feeling blue! I’m a summer girl, so it’s hard for me to say farewell to the warm weather – SUNSHINE (vitamin D!) – abundant summer fruits and vegetables – and herbs. One of my cold-weather coping mechanisms is to batch and freeze pesto at the end of summer… for a burst of warm weather memories in the dark of winter. Gosh, is this depressing or what? Let’s move on to the food – and quick!

Since we were talking about fresh herbs all month with the Vegan Mainstream cookbook club, I thought I’d share this new Spinach Herb Pistachio Pesto recipe. It’s actually from LTEV, but new to those of you that don’t yet have LTEV… or maybe flipped past the recipe (we all do it)!

Spinach Herb Pistachio Pesto from "Let Them Eat Vegan"

This pesto is a special because it includes some ingredients that you might never think to add to pesto. Like parsley. And spinach. And pistachios! For a very long time I was devout to basil in pesto. Basil and only basil. Yet basil isn’t plentiful most of the year. You may find it year-round, but in small amounts. And I love my pesto, people! So this recipe combines just a little basil, enough to imbue its peppery-anise essence, with other greens that are more abundant during basil “off-season”.

Before I get to the recipe, let’s quickly talk about freezing. I am asked about freezing recipes all the time. Almost every day! I freeze a lot of things in portions, like hummus, muffins, cocoa cookie dough balls, snackles, hummus, more hummus. #hummusisafoodgroup 😉 And pesto.

When I make pesto, I at least double the batch. Sometimes triple it (my food processor is a 16-cup). Then, I portion out about 1 to 2 cup batches and freeze. Yes, it tastes a little better freshly-made. But, when October rolls around and it is dark and dreary, pulling out a container of hummus is like a quick burst of summer in your kitchen. Totally worth it! So, freeze some up, and then just thaw in the fridge overnight to use the next day. You can thank me later. 😉

For this pesto, I thought I’d show you something different than its usual pasta-counterpart. I love using pesto in many more ways than tossed through cooked pasta. For instance:

– It’s stellar as a pizza base. Top with juicy sliced summer tomatoes, a few olives, and black pepper… outstanding!

– As a spread for sandwiches. I pack hubby’s lunches everyday, and in the summer this is such a quick sandwich fix. Add some sliced red peppers, tomatoes, or leftover grilled veggies… done!

– In green wraps. I need to do a collard wrap post, because I LOVE lunch collard wraps. So versatile, easy, nutritious. Smear some pesto love on that collard leaf, and your wrap will sing!

Baked Spuds and Sweet Spuds: Instead of adding a vegan margarine to your spuds, try a dollop of pesto. This is especially good on sweet potatoes with the contrast of the salty, punchy pesto against the creamy sweet potato. Just amazing. Try it.

Bean and Grain Salads. You have plain brown rice. Or quinoa. Or plain white beans. How to jazz them up? Thin out a little pesto with some water and/or lemon juice, and work into salads with beans and veg, or grain and veg – or both. Satisfying, a meal in a bowl.

See? Many ways you can use pesto. And here’s another: cucumber rolls!

Cucumber Rolls with Spinach Herb Pistachio Pesto

This idea comes from my friend Tess Masters (aka The Blender Girl). We’ve been ‘twitter friends’ for a little while and I met her in person at VVC. A couple of months ago we joined a twitter chat and she mentioned cucumber pesto rolls. So, I had to try them! Brilliant! Here was my experimentation with making the rolls:

Using a peeler, the cucumber ribbons were a little too thin and did not peel evenly through the length. I got very thin slices, but not consistent…

cucumber peeling

With a sharp knife, I could slice evenly through the full cuke length. The slices were thicker, and only the thinnest slices worked well for rolls. But, they did work well…

Cucumber Slices

I popped a few toothpicks in the rolls and they were ready to serve! If you make these, do not make them ahead of time. You can slice the cucumber in strips ahead, but don’t roll until ready to serve. The salt and acid from the pesto will draw moisture from the cucumber – so keep them fresh and make when ready to eat! Afterwards, I thought I probably could have used my food processor, because it has ninja assortment of blades. Are there any raw gadgets that would also do this job well?

Other fresh and raw ideas for using pesto include stuffing mini-bell peppers, rolling in lettuce leaves, scooping into endive leaves, tossing into zucchini noodles, or simply working the pesto through a chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, spinach – whatever you like!

Spinach Herb Pistachio Pesto from Let Them Eat Vegan

Spinach Herb Pistachio Pesto soy-free, gluten-free, oil-free option 

RECIPAGE link to print/share

1 cup raw pistachios (not salted)

2 tbsp pine nuts (optional, can use more pistachios)

1 – 2 medium-large cloves garlic, quartered (see note)

1 ½ – 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (optional, helps keep pesto fresh, but can omit for oil-free)

1/2 tsp sea salt (see note)

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 – 3 tbsp water (or more as desired, see note)

3 ½ cups (loosely packed) baby spinach leaves

¾ – 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves

¼ cup (packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves

crushed pistachios for serving

In a food processor, combine the nuts, garlic, 11⁄2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, olive oil (if using) salt, pepper to taste, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the water, and the spinach, basil, and parsley. Puree until fairly smooth, less for a chunkier consistency or longer for a smoother one. Add and blend in additional water if you need to, for the consistency you desire.  At this point, you may refrigerate the pesto in a covered container until ready to use it.

Pasta Note: If you are serving this immediately with pasta, set the pesto aside and cook the pasta (using about 3/4 – 1 lb dry pasta) according to the package directions.  Just before draining the pasta, remove and reserve about 1⁄2 cup of its cooking water. Drain the pasta (don’t rinse it!) and toss with the pesto, using as much or as little pesto as you like. If the pasta is a little dry, add more pesto plus a tablespoon at a time of the reserved cooking water.  Season to taste with additional salt, black pepper, and fresh lemon juice, as desired. Serve garnished with a sprinkle of crushed pistachios.

Adult-Minded: I typically use one clove of garlic, because when the pesto is warmed by the pasta rather than cooked, the garlic maintains a raw taste. If you like a stronger garlic flavor, by all means, add another clove!

Seasoning Note: You may want to add more salt to this pesto after tossing with the pasta. The seasoning depends very much on how you use this pesto, and also how much of it you use! For instance, if you like just a light coating of pesto with your pasta, you may find the seasoning a touch bland, and in that case you can add a touch more salt to your pasta, to taste. If you like a thick, generous coating of pesto on those noodles (as I do!), then adding extra salt will be just too much. Also, if you like using pesto as a spread for breads or vegetables, this amount of salt is just right.

Have you ever made pesto cucumber rolls? Do you freeze pesto? What ways do you enjoy pesto the most?


  1. Paula says

    Pistachio pesto is very popular in Sicily, especially in the area near Mt Etna, where the pistachio trees like the volcanic soil. They use it in many ways in place of basil pesto.

  2. Alexa says

    I love pesto made with parsley and sunflower seeds, but spinach? and pistachios? Pistachios are so lovely, creamy, almost so creamy as cashews… I need to try this!

  3. Susan says

    I can’t wait to try this. I LOVE pistachios, but HATE basil, which I will leave out. I already make a pesto with walnuts and spinach, so this will give a different spin to the recipe. Thanks.

  4. Rebecca Stucki says

    Dreena, you don’t mention a mandolin slicer – did you try that? I have great luck slicing vegetables with mine – just watch your fingers!

    • Dreena says

      Rebecca, good idea. I don’t have one, I’ve always been terribly nervous about using one, but that would be the tool for the job – most definitely now that you mention it! TY!

      • Rebecca Stucki says

        OMD! I don’t know how you live without one! Absolutely one of my favorite kitchen tools! This is the one I have and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! In fact, I would love to gift you with it, so if you want to send me your email address via Facebook, I’ll get you an Amazon gift certificate. But then, of course, you will have to credit me in all your recipes you create with the mandoline! 😉

        • Dreena says

          LOL, you are adorable Rebecca, that is incredibly sweet but I am not letting you buy me a mondoline!! But, I do need to get one, clearly. 😉 xo

          • Rebecca Stucki says

            Well, you have done so much for me, creating recipes that make me an awesome vegan chef :-) And, besides, you have to save up for a dehydrator! I need to send you photos of my zucchini jerky – sliced on the mandoline, marinated and then dehydrated – yummy!

            • Dreena says

              I DO need to save for a dehydrator! lol! You are cute. That zuke jerky sounds so good Rebecca. I quite love zukes too. Going to start filling my piggy bank. 😉

              You are a darling, thank you for saying that. xx

  5. says

    Mmmmm…pesto….I’ve been on a pesto kick this summer, making it just about once a week. I love it mostly on pasta but it’s fabulous on pizza! This recipe is delicious (as you said) when basil is not as plentiful as we’d like. :) I’ve never frozen pesto, I must try that this year! It’s been about a week since I’ve made pesto and I have fresh and local basil in the fridge…what am I waiting for? :)
    Christine Magiera recently posted..summer fun and challenge hilightsMy Profile

    • Dreena says

      oh, good for you Christine! One year we had a bumper crop of basil – one year only – and I made so much that year. Until I got pregnant and was so sick I had give away all my basil, the smell did me in. Funny now, not so funny then! No more waiting for you… get going!! 😉

  6. Tiffany says

    What a coincidence, I was just thinking if trying this recipe!! Can’t wait!
    Do you know when you will be posting about your exercise routine? I’m so interested in this as I loved your beauty post!!

    By the way made your zucchini bread and it was amazing!! Can’t get enough of it :)

    • Dreena says

      We are on a pistachio wavelength Tiffany! I hope to get my exercise post up next week (thanks for the reminder, I meant to add that note to my post, but forgot – will edit). Having some video editing issues that have set me back. If only I had a crew. 😉 I’m so pleased you enjoyed the beauty post – thanks much!

      • Tiffany says

        Dreena, I made your Apricot-Almond Loaf from Vive Le Vegan today. The loaf was absolutely delicious and beautiful too! I couldn’t believe how much the loaf rose! Everyone truly loved it with a cup of tea :) Thank you so much for all these wonderful and tasty recipes!

  7. Katerina says

    I’ve tried this one last week. It was really easy to make and very delicious. I loved it )) Thank you.

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