Make your own pesto, it’s cheap and easy (hint: you don’t need pine nuts)

I remember the first time I set out to make my own pesto. I had seen TV chefs make it for years, and it seemed pretty simple. Plus, pesto is yum, and I wanted to eat more of it.

I headed to the store and grabbed a bunch of basil and a hunk of parmesan. Two pricey items if you’re not at Trader Joe’s. Then I set out to search for pine nuts. My hand reached for the tiny bag and instantly recoiled as my eyes took in the price. Holy cow, pine nuts are expensive!

But come on, I love pesto. I need pesto in my life.

That’s when I learned a very valuable lesson. Greens + nuts + oil + parmesan (or nutritional yeast now that I’m dairy-free) = pesto. Any greens and nuts combo will work. Oh thank goodness!

Now I make pesto out of whatever greens I’m overloaded with in the garden, or whatever sounds good when basil isn’t in season. And I grab whatever nuts I have in the cupboard whether it be pecans, walnuts, pistachios or almonds. And sometimes, sometimes I’ll splurge for pine nuts.

Nutritional yeast substitutes well for parmesan cheese. I get the nutty flavor without the dairy (plus some B vitamins).

Lately we’ve been a little overloaded in the beet department. If you’re able to buy beets with the greens still attached, DO IT. The greens are delicious in many ways whether you saute them, chop them up for salad, or make pesto.

I’ve found when I make pesto with a veggie top (beet greens, carrot tops), it turns out a bit spicy with deep flavor. I ended up tossing this beet greens and pecan pesto with some gluten-free pasta, and Joe absolutely gobbled it up. The next day, we dunked cold leftover chicken into the leftover pesto, and YUM.

So make your own pesto. Get creative and crazy with it. It’s easier, and cheaper than you think.

Beet Greens & Pecan Pesto via

Beet Greens and Pecan Pesto

Pesto is easy to make, and can be inexpensive too!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 8 minutes
Course Appetizer, Dip


  • 4 cups beet greens stems removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • 3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast or parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil


  • Place beet greens, garlic, pecans, and salt & pepper in a food processor. Pulse until well combined. With the processor running, stream in olive oil until pesto thoroughly pureed. Add nutritional yeast (or parmesan) and puree for 30 seconds. Serve immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.

Have you ever made your own pesto? Β What’s your favorite combination?

  • Amber Keinath May 2, 2013 at 8:01 am

    I have not tried to make my own from scratch. Like you, I was turned off by how expensive it can be! Now that I am dairy-free I didn’t think there was much hope in making it to where it actually tasted edible. Thanks for sharing your recipe! I will have to try it out πŸ™‚

  • dixya| Food, Pleasure, and Health May 2, 2013 at 8:02 am

    this is just geniusssss – lately I have fallen in love with nutritional yeast and making pesto with it sounds delicious πŸ™‚

  • Emily May 2, 2013 at 8:43 am

    I love pesto!!! I make it often with arugula or basil from the garden. I have found the flavor to be a little dimmed compared to bottled/ restaurant pesto. Any suggestions? Toast the nuts? More garlic? Let it sit?

  • Kim May 2, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    What a great idea to use any greens and any nut! Kind of a “duh” moment – I feel like I should have thought of that. I only have a small one cup food processor though. Any ideas without buying a new piece of equipment that I have no room for? Blender doesn’t seem like it would work, not enough liquid.

    • inspiredrd May 2, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      Could you maybe make smaller batches?

  • Gina Rau May 2, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Yum! Love these alternatives. We’ve used pine nuts, and haven’t other times and I can’t say that anyone really noticed a difference, so now we do without. We’ve used all kinds of greens in ours – pretty much whatever I have on hand!

    For Dr Seuss’ birthday, we made green pasta (with pesto), (poached) eggs and (proscuitto) ham – my kids loved it and ask for it weekly now!

  • Zo May 15, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Carrot greens and almond pesto!! I adore the bitter flavor of carrot greens I can’t believe so many people throw them out! Arugula also makes a delightfully spicy pesto that is enchanting!

  • Jackie July 4, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Carrot greens, kale, mustard greens, beet greens, basically any green in my CSA. I use sharp cheddar (less expensive than Parmesan), and almonds, walnuts or pumpkin seeds (cheaper than pine nuts), garlic and olive oil. Thanks! Love pesto and always looking for new ideas.

  • Tamo July 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Anyone done this with spinach? I always have spinach and almonds handy

    • inspiredrd July 8, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      Yes, spinach works great! Try toasting the almonds for more flavor.

  • Jackie April 22, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    I’ve been hoping to find a recipe to use up all of my beet greens – we just harvested a bunch this weekend πŸ™‚ And I happen to have all the ingredients in your recipe -woohoo!- thanks!

    • InspiredRD April 23, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Yay! Perfect timing πŸ™‚

  • Chelsey Benzel August 6, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Love this! Sounds delicious, plus I have all the ingredients on hand (and a ton of beet greens to use up!) Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚