How to Make Stinging Nettle Pesto – Wild Edibles

Learn how to make stinging nettle pesto with step by step instructions and tips for how to safely harvest and prepare stinging nettles.

nettle pesto l
Stinging nettle pesto made with Parmesan, garlic, walnuts, olive oil and lemon juice.

Also Read: How to Harvest Stinging Nettle, Quick and Easy Pesto Pasta, Creamy Chicken & Stinging Nettle Pasta

What is Stinging Nettle Pesto

Stinging nettle pesto is a green sauce/condiment/paste made with garlic, salt, Parmesan, walnuts, oil and blanched stinging nettle. Sounds a lot like basil pesto, doesn’t it? That’s because it is very much like basil pesto, you basically just replace the basil with blanched stinging nettle (blanching it removes the stinging). Just like basil pesto, you can use stinging nettle pesto with pasta, on sandwiches, mixed with dips, as a pizza sauce, baked into things (I think it would be a great filling in these Cheddar Chive Rolls), etc.

basket of stinging nettle
An abundance of nutritious stinging nettle ready to be enjoyed.

Why use stinging nettle?

Stinging nettle is a great alternative to basil because it is affordable, available at a different time than basil and is incredibly nutritious. Stinging nettle is rich in Vitamin A, C, D, K, iron, calcium (29 times more than spinach) and protein (2.7g/100g).  If you think spinach and kale are nutrition super stars, you’ll love stinging nettle!

ingredients for stinging nettle pesto
Walnuts, garlic, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper blended with blanched stinging nettle.

The flavor of stinging nettle pesto, thanks to the nuts, oil, Parmesan and garlic is very similar to basil pesto. In fact, I bet many people wouldn’t even notice a difference.

I like using stinging nettle in this recipe because I have access to a huge patch of nettle that I can harvest every spring. Free, nutritious food tastes great! If you have access to stinging nettle, give this recipe a try.

stinging nettle pesto on blender
Glorious green pesto! This time I tried the immersion blender – works just fine.

Recipe for Stinging Nettle Pesto

nettle pesto on spoon
Print Recipe
4.67 from 6 votes

Stinging Nettle Pesto

A delicious green paste perfect for mixing with pasta, topping veggies, using as a pizza sauce, or enjoying as a spread on fancy sandwiches. Blanching the nettle is key to removing the sting.
Prep : 20 mins
Servings: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 6 cups raw nettle leaves
  • 2/3 cup walnuts or pine nuts, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Instructions

Nettle Prep

  • Wearing latex or rubber gloves, remove leaves from stems (use stems for tea). Wash leaves and drain.
  • In large saucepan, over medium high heat, add half the leaves and 2 Tbsp of water. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook until all leaves have wilted and turned dark green, about 2 minutes. Remove cooked nettle and repeat with remaining leaves.
  • Drain nettle leaves and squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Set aside.

Pesto

  • In blender or food processor, coarsely chop walnuts, garlic and Parmesan cheese.
  • Add cooked nettles, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until well blended.
  • With processor running, pour in oil to make a paste.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
  • Enjoy on pasta, pizza, sandwiches or mixed into sauces or dips.
  • Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks in well sealed jar. Or freeze in convenient portion size – consider freezing in ice cube trays for small, easy to use portion sizes. Store in freezer for up to 6 months.
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Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories: 866kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 66g | Sodium: 885mg | Fiber: 18g | Sugar: 5g | Iron: 14mg
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: alfredo, bacon, chicken, chicken pasta sauce, creamy pasta sauce, creamy sauce, nettle, Parmesan, pesto, pine nuts, stinging nettle, walnuts

How to Use Stinging Nettle Pesto

This pesto can be used hot or cold in all the same ways you would use basil pesto or other great sauces that double as condiments.

Try nettle pesto on eggs, pizza, sandwiches or pasta.

nettle pesto pasta with tomatoes

Mix it into dips or dressings. Add it to baking – pesto sourdough, focaccia or buns. Use it as a tasty topping for cooked veggies or baked potatoes. Use it like chimichurri to top grilled meat.

More About Stinging Nettle

How to Pick It

Concerned about the whole STINGING thing? Don’t be, with a little care, you can safely and easily harvest the nettle so that it is perfectly harmless.

Here’s an article I wrote about how, when and where to pick stinging nettle safely.

Getty in the nettle patch
Here’s me picking stinging nettle. Notice the gloves, close toed shoes, long pants and sleeves.

How to Prepare It

The stinging part of nettle (a combination of prickly barbs and release of chemicals) is neutralized when you cook or dry/dehydrate stinging nettle.

Never eat raw stinging nettle. I just needed to say that in case there was any doubt.

For this recipe, blanching is the best way to prepare the stinging nettle.

For a small batch like this recipe, I do this in a large frying pan. I combine two tablespoons of water with about 3 cups of leaves in the pan. As the leaves heat up they wilt and turn dark green. Within a couple of minutes, when all the leaves are cooked and wilted,  you’re done. No more sting!

pan blanching nettle
Pan blanching nettle.

For a large batch, you can bring a large pot of water to boil. Add stinging nettle and boil for 2 minutes. Drain. And done!

blanching nettle
Blanching in boiling water will neutralize sting.

Additional Recipes

If you have a great patch of stinging nettle, take advantage and try some of these recipes as well:

Stinging Nettle and Cheese Biscuits

Stinging Nettle and Potato Soup

Sauteed Stinging Nettle with Garlic

Creamy Chicken and Stinging Nettle Pasta

Have you cooked with stinging nettle before? Think you’d be willing to try it?

If you do, I’d love to hear what you think and what you make. Tag your photos on Instagram with @getgettys so I can see them and like ’em!

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

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