Each spring and summer, folks line up at their local farmers markets to grab the first haul of garlic scapes and for good reason! At the front of everyone’s mind? Garlic scape pesto!
Garlic scape pesto is just as simple to make as traditional basil or arugula pesto, but features a more intense garlic flavor. The garlic scapes are chopped, then puled into a food processor along with other traditional pesto ingredients, such as fresh basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, and lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
You can use this pesto in all the same ways you would use other varieties, but you will notice it has a garlic-forward flavor that gives it its edge. Make a big batch today, then cook with and enjoy all summer long!
Ingredients For Garlic Scape And Basil Pesto
The ingredients for garlic scape pesto are naturally gluten free!
- Garlic scapes: Trimmed and chopped into bite size pieces — the food processor will take care of the rest!
- Toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds: You can skip toasting if you want, but we love the nuttiness from toasting nuts. Feel free to substitute with other nuts!
- Basil leaves: The fresh basil helps to smooth out the bold taste of the garlic scapes.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Use an extra virgin olive oil you love that is full of flavor. We tend to prefer more robust oils that are nutty, but since pesto is raw, you’ll want something with a really great taste.
- Grated Parmesan cheese: Lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano! You could also use grated Pecorino Romano.
- Lemon zest and lemon juice: Trust us, you’ll want that fresh, bright lemon juice to round out the pungent garlic flavor of this pesto recipe
- Pinch of Kosher salt: To season everything!
Equipment: food processor fitted with blade attachment and a rubber spatula
How To Make Garlic Scape Pesto
If you’ve got a food processor, you’re in luck! Simply chop the fresh garlic scapes into bite size pieces (you can use the bulbs or discard them, they tend to have a tougher texture, but if your food pro is powerful, this won’t be a problem), then place them in the food processor along with fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Pulse until very fine (this could take 1-2 minutes if the scapes are tough), then scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add fresh lemon zest and juice, then with the motor running, slowly stream in the olive oil.
Transfer the garlic scape pesto to a bowl or small dish, then stir in the grated Parmesan cheese. Taste, adjust seasoning as needed, then add more cheese or olive oil until it tastes just right to you.
Garlic scape pesto differs from traditional pesto in that the intensity of scapes can vary dramatically. If the pesto ends up being a bit too pungent, try adding more lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, or additional olive oil to loosen up the texture. Pesto is very forgiving in that way!
We recommend taking a small bite of a raw garlic scape prior to making the pesto. If it is incredibly pungent, you may want to pour some boiling or hot water over them to temper and mellow out the flavor. This is not mandatory.
What Are Garlic Scapes?
Garlic scapes are the long, thin, curly stem and flower bud of a hardneck garlic plant, native to the northeastern US (New England area), as well as Canada. So growing up in Florida, we never saw these at local farmers markets. They kind of look like curly scallions, though they are much firmer in texture than a green onion. In fact, their texture is more similar to green beans.
When Are Garlic Scapes In Season?
Look for garlic scapes to begin popping up in late spring or early summer. They’re sold in bunches. It’s a short season!
How Do You Clean Garlic Scapes?
Trim and discard the tip of the scape (where the flower would bloom), then cut or slice the thin stalks however you like. We’re making this garlic scape pesto entirely in the bowl of a food processor, so no need to do too much chopping.
What Do They Taste Like?
More or less, garlic scapes taste like garlic. They’ve got a less intense, fiery taste than raw garlic cloves, but still offer a unique blend of garlic, shallot, scallion, and onion.
While garlic scapes can be eaten raw, they can have a tough texture. Make sure to thinly slice unless you’re chopping them in a food processor. Garlic scapes can also be sautéed, giving them a much milder, sweeter flavor (similar to roasted garlic) and taking off some of the edge.
How Long Will Pesto Keep?
Pesto will keep for 7-10 days when stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator. Alternatively, you can place in ice-cube trays to freeze for later use in individual portions!
How To Use Leftover Pesto
The possibilities are endless! Use as a spread on sandwiches or homemade pizza. Stir with Greek yogurt or mayonnaise to use as a dip for fries or roasted vegetables. For that matter, you could mix it with room temperature butter to make a super flavorful garlic compound butter. Stir into warm grain salads! Toss with your favorite stir-fry or use as a condiment for grilled chicken, steak, or salmon. We could go on and on…
Our Favorite Pesto Recipes
- Pesto Gnocchi
- Trenette al Pesto
- Pesto Zoodles With Salmon
- Chicken Pesto Panini
- Breakfast Polenta with Pesto
- Braided Pesto Bread
- Chicken Pesto Pasta
With a deep, intense garlic-forward flavor, this pesto is sure to please all garlic lovers!
If you make this Garlic Scape Pesto recipe, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
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More Pesto Recipes To Try!
Garlic Scape Pesto Recipe
- ½ cup garlic scapes ends trimmed and discarded, then stalks cut into small, 1-inch pieces
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup pine nuts or almonds, toasted
- 1 medium lemon zested and juiced
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan
- Pinch of Kosher salt
- Test the garlic scape. We recommend starting by taking a small bite of a raw garlic scape. If it is extremely pungent, consider the following first step: Place chopped garlic scapes in a colander, then pour a few cups of boiling water on top to help mellow and temper their intense flavor. If you find the flavor of the raw garlic scape fine as is, feel free to skip this step.
- Pulse the ingredients together. Place the chopped (blanched) garlic scapes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade attachment. Add ½ cup fresh basil leaves and ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, then seal the lid on and pulse until very finely chopped. This could take 1-2 minutes if the scapes are tough.
- Season the pesto. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the lemon zest (about 1 heaping teaspoon) and lemon juice (about 2-3 Tbsp). Return the lid, then process again. With the motor running, slowly stream in ½ cup extra virgin olive oil. Scrape down the sides, as needed, then process again until very smooth.
- Stir in the Parmesan. Transfer the pesto to a small dish or bowl, then stir in ⅓ cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Taste and season with a pinch of Kosher salt, if desired. Store until needed! See notes below!
- Note: We recommend taking a small bite of a raw garlic scape prior to making the pesto. If it is incredibly pungent, you may want to pour some boiling or hot water over them to temper and mellow out the flavor. This is not mandatory.
- Intense flavor: There’s a lot of variation in the intensity of the garlic flavor of garlic scapes. If you find the pesto too pungent, try stirring a little into Greek yogurt or sour cream to take away some of the heat and add a creamy texture.
- Pesto will keep for 7-10 days when stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator. Alternatively, you can place in ice-cube trays to freeze for later use in individual portions!
- Garlic scape pesto can be used for crostini, stirred into pasta, as a base for pizza or sandwiches (on its own or mixed with Greek yogurt, mayo, sour cream, etc.), tossed with roasted veggies or stir-fries.
Let us know your thoughts!