Radish Greens Pesto, a simple food waste recovery recipe using radish leaves in place of basil in pesto sauce. Easy, tasty, and so versatile!
Not sure what to do with radish greens? Make radish top pesto! We love switching up our pesto ingredients for a fun twist on the Italian classic, and reusing radish greens in pesto is a great way to reduce food waste.
Here’s why you should be using radish greens in pesto sauce:
- It’s tasty! First and foremost, radish greens are delicious in pestos and give a hearty, earthy flavor that compliments well with the cheese (or nutritional yeast), garlic, and salt in pesto sauce.
- It reduces food waste. Unfortunately, radish greens 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 blend the greens with nuts or seeds, cheese (or cheese alternative to keep it vegan), garlic, salt, and pepper and you have yourself a flavorful sauce that’s great on pizzas, vegetables, soups, and pastas.
Ready to learn how to make easy pesto with radish greens? Let’s do this!
🥣 How to make (step-by-step)
1️⃣ Step One: Wash and prep radish greens
First, wash the radish greens by cutting them from the stem and then soaking in a bowl of water.
Toss them around a bit to remove excess dirt, then remove them and lay then flat on a plate or kitchen towel or spin them in a salad spinner to dry. Then remove any remaining hard stems from the greens before making the pesto.
2️⃣ Step Two: Blend the greens, nuts or seeds, garlic, and oil
Next, add the cleaned dried radish tops to a blender. Add 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).
3️⃣ Step Three: Add cheese, spices, and lemon juice to taste
The final step is to add parmesan cheese (we typically use vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast to keep it plant-based), salt, and pepper slowly, tasting and adding more until you reach your desired taste.
Pesto tip: Cheese and cheese alternatives are naturally salty, so go slow on the salt with pesto 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 fridge until ready to use!
💡 How to serve radish top pesto
Use this radish pesto in place of anything you typically enjoy with 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 Rainbow Cauliflower or Roasted Green Beans and Carrots.
- In pasta: Nothing is better than an easy pesto pasta, so replace the carrot greens with radish greens in this Carrot Top Pasta recipe.
❓ Recipe + radish greens questions
Radish greens are not toxic. The green leaves on radishes are edible and are in the same family as kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. Radish leaves can be cooked like any other leafy greens, such as sauteed, in soups, in salads, and in smoothies.
Radish leaves and stems are edible, however the stems can be tough so it’s best to trim the leaves from the stem before cooking and eating. Save the radish stems to use to flavor soup stocks like our food scrap vegetable broth.
Radish greens are a healthy leafy green that has 20 calories per serving and is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium (USDA Food Nutrient Database).
Pesto can be made vegan by omitting traditional parmesan cheese and instead using a dairy-free vegan cheese alternative, or nutritional yeast.
Pesto can be made nut-free by omitting the traditional pine nuts and substituting with seeds like sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.
♻️ Sustainable kitchen tips + tricks
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 radish season! Here in California radishes are in season all year round, however you can check where radishes are in season in your area using Seasonal Food Guide’s seasonality chart.
Use radish stem scraps. Don’t throw out the radish stem after cutting the leaves from the roots, instead radish scraps 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.
🌱 More recipes using radish greens
Look no further! See our other radish leaves recipes below or substitute them for carrot greens where noted:
- Sautéed Radish Greens
- Radish Greens Pesto Pasta
- Radish Greens Chimichurri
- Baked Radish Leaves Chips
- Radish Greens Smoothie
- Radish Greens Soup
Looking for more outside-the-box pesto recipes? We’ve got you covered. We love using carrot greens in pesto, beet leaves in pesto, basil pesto with broccoli stems, plant-based pesto made with arugula, vegan pesto with fresh parsley, pesto made with kale, pesto made with cilantro, pesto made from celery leaves, and also making a nut-free pesto with chickpeas, pesto with sunflower seeds, or pesto with pumpkin seeds. The pesto possibilities are truly endless!
Radish Greens Pesto Sauce Recipe
- 2 cups radish tops chopped (from about 1 bunch)
- ⅓ cup pine nuts or sunflower seeds if nut-free
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup parmesan cheese vegan if dairy-free
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- Optional: squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- Wash radish tops: First, wash radish greens by cutting them from the stem and then soaking in a bowl of water. Remove from water and either dry by laying out flat or using a salad spinner.
- Blend ingredients: Add washed and dried radish tops, 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.
- Add cheese and spices to taste: Next, add cheese, salt, and pepper and pulse a few more times until combined. Taste the pesto and add more if needed to desired taste.
- 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.
- Nuts and seeds? Traditional pesto sauce uses pine nuts, but any nut or seeds will be delicious in this pesto. We used pumpkin 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, salad spinner
- 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.