This broccoli pesto has to be the sneakiest way to incorporate broccoli into something that everyone loves. Don't get me wrong, I love broccoli. But if you have a kid (or a partner, no judgment) who doesn't share that love, sneak a generous helping of this nutritious vegetable into your pesto for a delicious meal that everyone will love!
The post contains helpful tips and tricks to make sure you're successful in your first attempt. But if you're in a rush, please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end!
💭 Why you'll love this recipe
- Simple, 15 minute pesto: This is a really convenient recipe and comes together in no time so it's perfect for a quick weeknight meal.
- Super customizable: I've included vegan and vegetarian variations here, and tips on how you can make broccoli pesto without basil or without pine nuts. Lots of useful substitutions in the ingredients section!
- Sneakily healthy: My fiancé hates broccoli but loves this pesto. It tastes so vibrant and delicious but also super healthy thanks to the broccoli, which adds a ton of vitamins, minerals and fiber to your diet.
📋 Ingredients and notes
To make this recipe, you'll need: a cup of broccoli florets (blanched), a cup of fresh herbs of your choice (I use basil), a cup of nuts of choice (I use pine nuts), garlic cloves, lemon juice, and olive oil. See below for variations.
Notes and Variations
- Vegan vs. vegetarian: The recipe as written is vegan. If you want more umami flavors, you can add vegetarian parmesan or nutritional yeast.
- Using frozen broccoli: Frozen broccoli works just fine in this pesto!
- Pine nuts vs. other nuts: I like pine nuts because it brings a really traditional pesto flavor to this dish. You can substitute with walnuts, cashew nuts, or almonds depending on what you have on hand. To make it nut-free, swap with sunflower or pumpkin seeds instead.
- Basil vs. other herbs: Again, I stuck with the traditional pesto route. But I've used parsley, arugula, pea shoots, and many other fresh and light leafy greens in this recipe (occasionally even kale!)
- Roasted broccoli: One fun way to take this recipe up a notch is to roast the broccoli in the oven at 400F for 30 minutes before adding to the food processor. It brings out more complex flavors and tastes delicious (but is optional!)
📖 Step-by-step instructions
There are four key steps to this recipe, but it literally takes 15 minutes.
- Prepare and blanch the broccoli florets: First, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil as you break up the broccoli florets. Drop the florets into the water to blanch them for about 30 seconds. Then, remove and run them under ice cold water (or have a mixing bowl with ice cubes) to stop the cooking process. This softens them a bit and keeps the color vibrant!
- Toast the pine nuts: I love to quickly toast my pine nuts on the stove. Pop them on a skillet or non-stick pan and just toast for 2 minutes (nice and toasty but not burnt!)
- Add all ingredients (except olive oil) to a food processor and pulse: Throw the blanched broccoli florets, garlic cloves, and fresh herbs into a food processor and pulse until you get a coarse paste of sorts. If you're using nutritional yeast
- Now, add olive oil slowly and continue pulsing to emulsify: If your food processor has a chute, add olive oil as you pulse so it turns into a creamy pesto like consistency. If your food processor doesn't have a chute, add a tablespoon at a time to get to the desired consistency. Add some salt and pepper to taste, and your broccoli pesto is all done!
Serve this broccoli pesto on literally everything and enjoy the sneakily healthy sauce!
👩🏽🍳Top tips and FAQs
This recipe is vegan as written! You could add nutritional yeast if you prefer to give it a kick!
Yes! Just make sure to buy vegetarian parmesan and add it along with the rest of the ingredients the food processor.
You can use frozen broccoli! But in this case, I suggest not blanching it and instead allowing it to thaw to room temperature first.
You can substitute with sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or honestly, just leave out pine nuts!) You can also roast the broccoli at 400F for 30 minutes and use that instead of nuts!
No, you don't! I find that it helps keep a traditional flavor profile. You can substitute with other herbs or leafy greens, or leave it out.
🍴 Serving and storage suggestions
When stored in an airtight container in the fridge, this pesto stays fresh for 3 to 5 days. You can also freeze it in single-use portions (I love using silicon ice cube trays for this!) and keep it for 1-2 months that way.
You can use this pesto on any pasta (for instance, use this instead of pea shoot pesto in my spring pasta or check out my broccoli pesto pasta with cherry tomatoes!). You can slather it on sandwiches. You can use it as a dip for the next time you need a healthy snack!
If you like this recipe, don't forget to try out my other sauce recipes:
- Food Processor / Blender
- 1 cup broccoli florets, blanched
- 1 cup fresh basil, see notes for substitutions
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, prepare a mixing bowl with some ice cubes. Add a cup of broccoli florets into the water and blanch them for 30 seconds. Then transfer immediately to the mixing bowl with ice cubes (or run under ice cold water) to stop cooking. Note: If you're using a full head of broccoli, triple the other ingredients (medium head of broccoli yields ~3 cups of broccoli florets!)
- Add ¼ cup of pine nuts to a skillet and toast them over medium flame for about 1 to 2 minutes until it smells nutty (it'll brown slightly but make sure to not burn it!)
- Add a cup of blanched broccoli florets, a cup of fresh basil leaves, ½ cup of toasted pine nuts, and 2 to 3 garlic cloves to a food processor and pulse until it forms a coarse mixture. Check notes for nut-free options!
- Add ¼ cup of olive oil slowly through the chute of the food processor to emulsify the pesto. If your food processor doesn't have a chute, add the olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches desired consistency. Stir in a teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper and your pesto is ready! You can also garnish with some fresh lemon juice (optional!)
- The recipe as written is vegan. If you want more umami flavors, you can add vegetarian parmesan or nutritional yeast.
- You can use frozen broccoli - if you use that, no need to blanch. Just thaw to room temperature before pulsing.
- I like pine nuts because it brings a really traditional pesto flavor to this dish. You can substitute with walnuts, cashew nuts, or almonds depending on what you have on hand. To make it nut-free, swap with sunflower or pumpkin seeds instead.
- Another nut-free option is to roast the broccoli for 30 minutes at 400F before you pulse the pesto. You can also do this in addition to the pine nuts if you want! Adds a really nice umami flavor.
- I stuck with the traditional pesto route here, but I've used parsley, arugula, pea shoots, and many other fresh and light leafy greens in this recipe (occasionally even kale!)