This vegan nettle pesto recipe is the ultimate stinging nettle recipe. Nettles!?… I hear you ask – yes nettles. Stinging nettles are quite possible one of my favourite foraged wild greens.
Nettles have somewhat of an image problem, probably caused by their irritating and painful stinging qualities. However, they are delicious and this nettle pesto will show you how great they can be.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with the rampant weed the stinging nettle. This perennial plant is long known for lining suburban walkways and forgotten garden corners. But it’s not often that it lines a dinner plate. Indeed when I heard that nettles could be used in cooking I was sceptical. I was convinced it was some elaborate prank made up by my friends in order to get me to sting the inside of my mouth.
Fortunately it was not and I found nettles to be absolutely delicious. Their flavour profile and texture is very similar to baby spinach. They have a wonderful irony zing which works wonders in salty and savoury dishes.
In my humble opinion this nettle pesto is possibly the best way to enjoy them. The pesto that is produced is a wonderful emerald green and tastes absolutely fabulous. These days I rarely make a basil pesto – why would I? I have tons of free and abundant nettles in my garden and around the country lanes.
Nettle are plenty nutritious too. They are chock full of iron, calcium and magnesium. Who knew that a superfood was growing out of your garden driveway!… So here’s to stinging nettles. I hope this recipe convinces you to try more nettle recipes. I’ve got some further suggestions later down in the post – see “other stinging nettle recipe ideas”.
How to make vegan nettle pesto
The best thing about nettle pesto is it’s so damn easy to make. Most people think you need witchcraft and sorcery to remove the sting from nettles. Not so – all you have to do is pour a kettle of boiling water on them and let them sit for a minute. That’s it!
Once wilted these nettles are stingless and almost indistinguishable from spinach. After wilting all that’s needed to do is combine with a few ingredients in a small food processor. You’ll need 30g of cooked nettles, 60ml of olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, the juice of half a lemon, 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast and 1 garlic clove minced.
Then all you need to do is whizz this into a smooth pesto. This pesto is so gorgeous looking and tastes amazing. You can keep the nettle pesto in the fridge for up to a week. But, honestly, you’ll most likely eat the whole thing in one go because it’s so damn delicious.
Breadcrumbs – the solution for what to do with stale bread
The other part of this recipe is the crunchy breadcrumb topping. I have a tupperware full of crispy breadcrumbs in my kitchen at all times. Breadcrumbs are a super ingredient – I add them to everything to take a boring and bland dish to the next level. Add them to soups, pasta and salads to give added texture and flavour. Breadcrumbs are one simple way to use up old stale bread and not waste it – which is a massive positive in my book.
Making breadcrumbs couldn’t be simpler. All you need to do is chop up your bread into thumb sized or smaller chunks and whizz in a food processor until they resemble crumbs. Then tip onto a baking tray and cover with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Toss all the ingredients to combine well and bake in a 200c oven for 10 minutes until crisp.
My final tip is to not eat the breadcrumbs as soo as they come out the oven. You want them to cool in the tray and further dry out, becoming super crispy and delicious!
Other stinging nettle recipe ideas
I hope you’ve understood by now that I’m bonkers for stinging nettles. I want you to be too, so here’s a few suggestions of quick and simple nettle recipes.
- Nettle soup – A classic among nettle aficionados. I like this vegan take which is easy and flavourful.
- Nettle pesto with walnuts – You can substitute the pine nuts in my nettle pesto recipe for walnuts. This give a nuttier and more rustic taste. Be sure to chop the walnuts into smaller pieces before toasting.
- Nettle saag – I like to substitute nettles in my dishes wherever a recipe calls for spinach. Why not try my spinach and kale saag with nettles instead!
If you loved this nettle pesto you’ll love these:
Enjoyed this foraged feast? You’ll love these similar recipes:
This meal is around 90% less polluting than the average UK meal.
- Eating this recipe will save around 2.65 KG CO2e per person.
- That’s equivalent to the emissions produced driving 21.91 KM in a modern car.
- 500 g Linguine Or Pasta Of Choice (cooked to packet instructions)
- 10 g Fresh Parsley (finely chopped)
- 30 g Freshly Picked Nettle Leaves
- 50 g Pine Nuts
- 60 ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 Clove Garlic (minced)
- 3 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
- 1/2 Lemon (juiced)
- 200 g Crusty Bread (loosely chopped into 2 cm chunks)
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Preheat your oven to 200c (fan oven)
- Place your 200g of chopped bread into a food processor and blitz into rough breadcrumbs.
- Pour the breadcrumbs onto a large baking tray and cover with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss the breadcrumbs in the oil until evenly covered. Then season with salt and cracked black pepper.
- Place the breadcrumbs into the oven and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool on the side for at least 10 minutes. This will dry the breadcrumbs out further and get them super crispy.
- Whilst the breadcrumbs are cooking. Pour the 50g of pine nuts into a frying pan and heat over a medium-high heat. Toast the pine nuts for 2-3 minutes, moving often, until they start to turn golden brown on some edges. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the pine nuts to cool.
- Place the 30g of nettle leaves into a small mixing bowl and cover with 1 1/2 litres of freshly boiled water. Stir the nettles so that they are fully submerged and leave to sit for a minute.
- Drain the nettles and allow to cool. Then squeeze all the excess moisture out of the cooked leaves. (Don't worry about getting stung by the nettles – cooking removes the stinging properties of the nettles).
- Place the cooked nettles into a small food processor or blender along with the toasted pine nuts and 60ml of olive oil, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Whiz the ingredients into a chunky green pesto.
- Combine the pesto and your cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl. Plate your pasta in individual bowls with the breadcrumbs and chopped parsley heaped over the top.