Vegan Broccoli Pesto
First published in August 2013, revised and updated in September 2021.
Have you ever made pesto using fresh vegetables? It was quite a revelation when I discovered it. I’ve found that I can make something that I like to call pesto (Italians wouldn’t!) with more or less any hard vegetable.
Use lots of basil and it will taste pesto like and can be used in all the usual ways with the advantage of getting a bit more vegetable down those you are feeding.
I’ve also found that I didn’t need to use wonderful, but expensive, pine nuts; or equally wonderful, but difficult to fit into a budget meal plan, parmesan. The latter has the advantage of making the pesto vegan, and so open for vegan readers to enjoy.
How to make Broccoli Pesto
Use a standard sized head of broccoli, not an enormous one, or a teeny tiny one. Trim off a tiny sliver from the stalk and discard, then chop all of the rest up into florets.
Toast the hazelnuts to bring out their flavour. You can do this in a dry frying pan, under the grill or in the oven. Which ever way you toast them, you need to keep a close eye on them. No walking out of the kitchen, they burn as soon as you turn your back!
Get the food processor out and bung all the broccoli pesto ingredients into it. Now whizz for a couple of minutes, you may need to scrape the sides down.
The finished pesto. Gorgeous, fragrant and just waiting to show you how wonderful it is!
What is broccoli pesto like?
The taste is vibrant, bright and light from the lemon, deep from the garlic, with a faint taste of the hazelnuts coming through at the end.
What changes can I make to this broccoli pesto recipe?
One of the big advantages of cooking from scratch is the control it gives you. Got allergies, or dietary preferences? You can work around them. Haven’t got one of the ingredients? You can usually find a substitution.
The kids don’t like broccoli? Try it with cauliflower, carrots, peas, celery or mushrooms. I would use them raw rather than cooked, although do feel free to try them cooked if you want to. You can also try a mixture of any vegetables.
If you don’t have a fresh lemon, juice from a bottle can be substituted. Best with the lemon zest if you can get it, or try it with limes if that is what you have.
I’ve used both rapeseed oil and olive oil for this. Both good in their different ways. Any fairly neutral vegetable oil would also work.
I like pesto very garlicky, so tend to add a bit more. Use garlic from a jar for the cheapest option. The big jars from Asian shops are best value. Or use fresh, from a tube, whatever you have in.
I’ve found fresh packs of basil reduced to not very much, but usually, the cheapest way to get basil is to get a supermarket plant, put it into a much bigger pot and feed and water it like crazy. You’ll get lots and lots of basil this way. You could even grow some from seed for maximum economy, although, obviously, this will take a lot longer to get a usable amount.
Rosemary grows easily in the garden or a pot. Swap the basil for rosemary, (I would chop some up fine and add it a teaspoon at a time, it has a strong flavour) or try sage, dill or mint.
Adjust the lemon, garlic and basil to however much you like it.
Swap the hazelnuts for walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pine nuts, almonds or anything else you have in.
How do I store broccoli pesto?
This time, I am taking half the batch when I go and visit my sister. She is a vegan and I like to take her tasty things.
Previously, I have put my remaining pesto in little pots that come with takeaways, and put them in the freezer for another day. These pictures are from a previous batch, which looks quite different!
This pesto features in meal plan 2, where it is used for pasta pesto, in a pitta and on toast for breakfast.
I tried some on a little piece of french stick and it was lovely, so would make a delicious (cheap!) sandwich, with or without soft cheese as used in Mackerel Pate
Want some more ideas for pesto? Try some of these
- 300 g broccoli a head of broccoli
- 2 stems fresh basil I used some from the greenhouse, so free, if you have to buy it, get a £1 plant and use half of it, 50p
- ½ lemon zest and juice
- 50 g hazelnuts
- 1 tsp garlic from jar or a crushed clove or two
- 125 ml rape seed oil
- 1 tsp salt, black pepper
- Toast the hazelnuts to bring out their flavour
- Chop the broccoli up a little, especially the hard stems (include everything, don’t throw any of it away, except perhaps a tiny slice off the very end of the stem).
- Pile everything into a food processor and give it all a good pulse until everything is chopped finely. Take the lid off the processor and breathe in the utterly delectable aroma, put the lid back on again
- If it needs it, add a little water, or a bit more oil and mix well again. Taste, add more salt and pepper if it needs it. It needs to taste quite salty at this stage. This makes enough to dress 10 portions of pasta.