Raw Nettle or Spinach Pesto Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, and Cheap

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Nettle pesto on spiralized zucchini
I almost feel silly sharing a recipe for pesto here made with wild greens, because it seems like, other than scrambled or in a salad, pesto is just about the most common way that people prepare wild greens. But the thing is, pesto is yummy when made right, but if not made correctly, with the right proportions, can taste bad. For that reason, I wanted to share this recipe for homemade pesto, without any parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast, that tastes great, and works for both paleo and vegan diets and anything else in between.

Feel free to use this pesto as you would a standard pesto recipe, on pizza, pasta, as a sandwich spread, on fish or chicken, on spiralized veggies, as a topping on potatoes or sweet potatoes, or anything else that comes to mind. (For more ideas, see this post on 50 things to do with pesto.) I just went simple and put it on gluten free spaghetti for my family, and on spiralized zucchini and baked sweet potato wedges for myself.

While I make this with nettles, it also works well with spinach leaves, lambsquarters, chickweed, or any other non bitter leaf with a relatively mild flavor.

If you're concerned about making this pesto with raw nettles, as they have stingers that can hurt you, note that while cooking gets rid of the stingers, blending up the nettle has the same affect and you don't have to worry about getting stung from the finished product. Handle the leaves carefully (gloves help) before putting in the food processor to avoid the sting.

Raw Nettle or Spinach Pesto Recipe- Vegan, Paleo, and Cheap

4 cups loosely packed raw nettle leaves (and tender tips), lambsquarters leaves, chickweed, or spinach, loosely packed
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup oil (olive is best, but any is fine)
1/3 cup cashews or sunflower seeds or pine nuts
1/2-1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice (or to taste)

1. Put your leaves, garlic, and nuts/seeds in the food processor, and process until as smooth as possible. Stop periodically to scrape down the sides as necessary.

2. Add oil and process more.

3. Add salt and lemon juice and adjust to taste.


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Nettle pesto on gluten free pasta

Are you a fan of pesto? What is your favorite way to eat it? Do you make it at home? If so, do you make it the standard way with basil and parmesan cheese, or with different greens, without cheese, etc? How do you make it? 
Does this look like a recipe you'd try?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I made some chickweed pesto last fall, and it was SO yummy!

  2. Not related to pesto, but my toddler got stung by nettles this afternoon and it was thanks to your post that I was able to identify the plant right away and not freak out and rush to the doctor over the welts on her arm. :) so thanks for that!

  3. Sounds awesome! I have a bunch of weeds in the yard that I could pesto up!

  4. How do you pick up nettle? With gloves?

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