Broccoli Stem Pesto, a simple food waste recovery recipe using broccoli stalks and leaves in pesto sauce. Easy, tasty, and so versatile!

pesto made from broccoli stems in a white bowl with a gold fork

Yes, you heard that right: pesto can be made from broccoli stems and leaves, the parts of broccoli that you usually throw out.

👉 Not sure how you feel about broccoli stalks in your pesto sauce? Here are three reasons you should be saving those stalks for sauce:

  • It’s tasty! First and foremost, broccoli stems and leaves are delicious in pestos and give a hearty, earthy flavor that compliments well with the cheese, garlic, and salt in pesto sauce.
  • It reduces food waste. Unfortunately, broccoli stalks are often thrown out because people don’t realize they're edible, so this recipe save them from the compost (or worse, the trash can!).
  • It’s super easy and very versatile. Simply chop and blend the stems of broccoli with nuts or seeds, cheese (or cheese alternative if you're vegan), garlic, salt, pepper, and a little lemon and you have yourself a flavorful sauce that’s great on pizzas, vegetables, soups, and pastas.

Ready to learn how to make pesto with broccoli stems? Let’s do it!

broccoli stems, basil leaves, and bowls of nuts, cheese, oil, salt, pepper, and garlic on a white table
Ingredients: broccoli stems, basil, garlic, cheese, nuts or seeds, salt, pepper, and oil

🥦 How to make pesto from broccoli stalks (step-by-step photos)

1️⃣ Step One: Wash and prep broccoli stems

First, wash the broccoli and cut the florets from the stalks (save and roast them!).

The entire stalk is edible, however the very end where the broccoli stem was cut from the plant is usually hard. Cut the hard bottom, usually 1 inch from the bottom of the stem (and save to use in a food scrap broth!).

a hand cutting the florets off broccoli stalks
Cut broccoli stem from the florets

Finally, cut the broccoli stems into slices and then chop into small pieces. Alternatively you can throw the slices into a food processor and pulse to mince the stems into small pieces that will mix well with the other sauce ingredients.

cut broccoli stems from stalks on a white marble table with a knife
Slice broccoli stems

2️⃣ Step Two: Blend the stems, nuts or seeds, garlic, and oil

Next, add the broccoli stems to a food processor (or blender). Add basil, pine nuts — or sunflower or pumpkin seeds for a nut-free pesto — and garlic cloves and pulse until finely chopped.

As you’re pulsing the ingredients, drizzle in olive oil and continue to pulse until the chopped ingredients are well coated in oil but not completely smooth (the best pestos are a bit chunky).

broccoli stems, basil, nuts, and garlic in a food processor
Add ingredients to food processor

3️⃣ Step Three: Add cheese, spices, and lemon juice to taste

The final step is to add parmesan cheese (we used vegan parmesan, or nutritional yeast), salt, and pepper slowly, tasting and adding more until you reach your desired taste. Cheese is naturally salty, so go slow on the salt so you don’t overdo it (you can always add more, but not take any away!).

We finish off our pestos with a bit of lemon juice, but this is optional. Store the pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use!

blended pesto with broccoli in a food processor
Pulse until blended

💡 Ideas for serving

Use this broccoli stalk pesto in place of anything you typically enjoy with traditional pesto. Some of our favorites are:

  • On top of pizzas: Use pesto as a base instead of tomato sauce or olive oil.
  • In soups: Stir a dollop of pesto into soups like our Carrot Greens Soup or White Bean Quinoa Soup.
  • On roasted vegetables: We love drizzling a bit of pesto on top of simply roasted vegetables like Roasted Carrots and Broccoli (broccoli pesto on broccoli, so meta!).
  • In pasta: Nothing is better than an easy pesto pasta, so replace the radish greens pesto with this broccoli pesto in this Radish Greens Pasta recipe.
a bowl of broccoli stem pesto on a white table

❓ Recipe + broccoli stalk questions

Are broccoli stalks edible?

Broccoli stalks and leaves are edible and not toxic. Broccoli leaves are great in salads, sauces, and soups and the softer broccoli stems are great cut or shaved in salads or sauces. The harder bottom parts of broccoli stems are tougher to consume, so stick to the softer parts that are closer to the florets.

Should I trim broccoli stems?

Broccoli stems are edible, however it's easiest to eat the softer parts of the stems that are closest to the broccoli florets. The stems get harder at the base of the broccoli plant and are tougher to eat.

Are broccoli stems healthy?

Broccoli leaves and stems are a healthy vegetable edible plant part that has 20 calories per serving and is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.

How do you make pesto vegan?

Pesto can be made vegan by omitting traditional parmesan cheese and instead using a dairy-free vegan cheese alternative, or nutritional yeast.

How do you make pesto nut-free?

Pesto can be made nut-free by omitting the traditional pine nuts and instead using seeds like sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.

broccoli pesto on a white serving plate with broccoli heads in the background

♻️ Sustainable kitchen tips + tools

This recipe is inherently a food waste recovery recipe, but here are a few tips and tricks for making this pesto even more sustainable:

Take advantage of broccoli season! Here in California broccoli is in season all year round, however they are in-season May through November in most other parts of the United States.

Use broccoli stem scraps: Don’t throw out the unused parts of the broccoli stems after cutting, instead use them to flavor soup stocks. No vegetable goes to waste!

Make ahead to save time: Make a double or triple batch of this pesto and freeze for later to have a simple sauce for pasta or pizza when you’re low on dinner prep time in the future.

a bowl of pesto with broccoli on a white countertop

🥣 More broccoli stem + alternative pesto recipes

Look no further! See our other broccoli stalk and non-traditional pesto recipes:

Yield: 8 servings

Broccoli Stem Pesto Recipe

a bowl of broccoli stem pesto on a white table

Broccoli Stem Pesto, a simple food waste recovery recipe using broccoli stalks and leaves in pesto sauce. Easy, tasty, and so versatile!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups broccoli stems, chopped (from about 2 broccoli heads)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, or sunflower seeds if nut-free
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, vegan if dairy-free
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
  • Optional: squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Wash and prep broccoli stems: First, wash the broccoli and cut the florets from the stalks (save and roast them!). Remove the hard bottom, usually 1 inch from the bottom of the stem. Cut the broccoli stems into slices and then chop into small pieces. Alternatively you can throw the slices into a food processor and pulse to mince the stems into small pieces that will mix well with the other sauce ingredients.
  2. Blend ingredients: Add broccoli stems, fresh basil, pine nuts or seeds, and garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Slowly add in oil and continue pulsing until well combined, but not completely smooth.
  3. Add cheese and spices to taste: Next, add cheese (or vegan alternative), salt, and pepper and pulse a few more times until combined. Taste the pesto and add more if needed to desired taste.
  4. How to serve: Use pesto as a sauce with your favorite pasta, mixed into your favorite vegetable soup, or even as a dip with fresh vegetable crudités.

Notes

  • Make it nut-free: Traditional pesto sauce uses pine nuts, but any nut or seeds will be delicious in this pesto. We used sunflower seeds in this recipe (as shown in the accompanying photos) to make this pesto nut-free.
  • Make it vegan: Make this pesto recipe vegan by using dairy-free parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast.
  • Tools Needed: food processor or blender, knife set, cutting board
  • Prep Ahead: Make this simple pesto up to 2-3 days before serving, or freeze until ready to use.
  • Leftovers and Storage: Leftover pesto should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days, and in the freezer for up to 2 months (possibly longer).
  • Nutrition notes: This recipe made as written (with vegan cheese and seeds) is plant-based, gluten-free, and nut-free. It is a good source of vitamin C, plant-based protein, and fiber.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 202Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 1132mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 8g