Mint Pesto

CondimentSauceVegetarianPesto

Bring a little flavor into your life with this zippy, bright, and fresh mint pesto. It's made with loads of fresh mint, parsley, and almonds. Use it on everything from salad to pasta to toast!

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Veering off the well-trodden path of classic basil pesto, this delicate mint pesto is both zesty and bright.

When I first made it, I thought the mint flavor would hit me hard in the face. But in fact, combined here with parsley, it has a subtle freshness that makes it versatile. Tiny bits of chopped almonds give it texture, too.

Mint Pesto Sauce - a bowl of ice water next to bowl of recently cooked peas and beans. Vegetables are being transferred to the bowl of ice

HOW TO KEEP PESTO BRIGHT GREEN

Another alluring quality to this pesto is its bright green color. To keep it bright for a few days, blanch the mint and parsley briefly in boiling water, and then shock them in an ice water bath. The boiling water kills the browning enzymes that quickly cause the leaves—and the resulting pesto—to turn a drab olive color.

A trace amount of the flavor leeches out in the process, but this is also what makes the mint mellow instead of overpowering. Plus, we eat with our eyes, so I vote for blanching. You can also use this method for basil pesto or any other green herb you use in pesto.

TO ADD OR NOT TO ADD GARLIC

I tried making this pesto with and without garlic. I liked it without, but full disclosure, I am not a rabid garlic fan, especially raw garlic which, to me, can overpower other flavors.

But don’t let that stop you! If you love garlic, you will love this pesto with a clove of it in the mix.

Parsley Mint Pesto - just mixed pesto in a food processor

BLENDER VS FOOD PROCESSOR

My first choice for making this pesto is with a food processor. It makes easy work and pulls everything together quickly. If you don’t have a food processor then all is not lost. You can make pesto in a blender, it just takes a little extra work.

To make this pesto in a blender, pack about half the mint and parsley leaves in the bottom of the blender pitcher and add the water. Keep blending, stopping, stirring, and scraping until they are well chopped. Add more leaves and the olive oil, repeating the stopping and stirring until chopped. Add the nuts last, and be patient!

Mint Pesto Sauce - jar of mint pesto on white counter with almonds scattered about and a spoonful of pesto sitting next to the jar

HOW TO USE MINT PESTO!

That versatility I just mentioned? Here are a few ideas!

  • Use it in in this knockout Spring Vegetable Salad with Mint Pesto.
  • Serve it with lamb (step away from the wobbly mint jelly).
  • Drizzle it over spring vegetables.
  • Toss it with pasta.
  • Smear it on a baguette with goat cheese for a sandwich.
  • Swirl it into yogurt for a tasty dipping sauce for vegetables.
  • Place a slice of feta on a cracker and dollop a little mint pesto on top.
  • Mix mint pesto and feta into ground lamb for a tasty lamb burger.
  • Toss it with warm small red or b-sized potatoes.
  • Spread some over broiled or grilled fish.

YES, YOU CAN FREEZE PESTO!

If you have a backyard mint patch, you will surely want to make a double or triple batch of this pesto. Freeze it in ice cube trays, and once it’s frozen, transfer the cubes to a zip-top bag or other container so you don’t tie up your ice trays. The pesto will keep in the freezer for up to 12 months.

LOOKING FOR MORE PESTO RECIPES?

Mint Pesto Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup whole raw, unsalted almonds with skins
  • 2 cups packed mint leaves, thick stems removed
  • 1 cup packed flat leaf parsley leaves, thick stems removed
  • 1/3 cup hot tap water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, finely sliced (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper

Special equipment:

Method

1 Toast the almonds: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool while you blanch the mint and parsley.

Almond Mint Pesto - almonds on baking sheet

2 Blanch the mint and parsley: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water next to the stove.

Add the mint and parsley to the boiling water and leave it for 5 to 10 seconds, or just until they wilt. With a slotted spoon, transfer the herbs to the bowl of ice water. Swish them around for 30 seconds.

Drain into a colander, and with your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Mint Pesto Sauce - a bowl of ice water next to bowl of recently cooked peas and beans. Vegetables are being transferred to the bowl of ice

3 Finish the pesto: In a food processor, combine the almonds, mint, parsley, hot tap water, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic (optional), salt, and pepper. Pulse until finely chopped.

Then, set the processor on continuous speed, and puree until creamy. If you like a slightly chunky pesto, stop the machine before it becomes smooth. (See note in post if using a blender.)

Parsley Mint Pesto - ingredients for pesto in a food processor waiting to be pulverizedParsley Mint Pesto - just mixed pesto in a food processor

4 Season and store: Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like. Transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze in ice cube trays for up to 12 months.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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One Comment

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  1. Carol

    I, like you, do not like the taste of raw garlic, so I infuse the garlic in the oil for an hour or so
    then strain it before using it in the pesto. Or if I have some I use confit garlic which is much
    mellower. Love mint, so will be making this soon, maybe at Easter on a nice salad.
    Thanks Carol.

Mint and Almond Pesto - jar of mint pesto on white counterMint Pesto