{recipe} Pistachio Parsley Pesto

I live in San Francisco, so it shouldn’t surprise you that I have a fair number of vegan friends. I used to dread coming up with a vegan meal that everyone would enjoy, but now I try to view it as a fun challenge and an opportunity to experiment with constraints I’m not used to. That’s how this pistachio parsley pesto was born–and to be honest, I don’t even miss the cheese. Plus, it’s fun to say “pistachio parsley pesto.”

Pesto is all about balance. You can make it with almost anything, as long as you balance the vegetal, the salty, the creamy, and the acidic. Blending toasted nuts into the mixture while they’re still warm makes the mixture more creamy than using room temperature or cold nuts, which helps when you can’t use cheese or cream. And lemon plays perfectly with parsley and pistachios.

I like to add a bit of spiciness with chili flakes, too, but that’s up to you. You can spread this pesto on bread or toss with hot pasta (and a bit of the pasta water). See if your guests notice there is something missing! I bet they won’t.

RECIPE: Pistachio Parsley Pesto 
makes about 1 1/2 cups


  • 1 bunch Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, peeled
  • zest and juice of 1 large lemon (Meyer or other)
  • large pinch chili flakes or cayenne pepper
  • about 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt


  • Grasp the parsley leaves in your non-dominant hand with the stems facing your dominant hand. Using scissors, cut the stems just below the lowest leaves. Discard stems and rinse and dry the leafy stems thoroughly. Set aside.
  • Put pistachios in a dry saute pan and toast over medium heat until fragrant and warm, about 5 minutes. Set aside. 
  • In a food processor or blender, combine garlic, lemon zest and juice, and chili flakes. Add a few large pinches of salt. Pulse mixture a few times.
  • Add parsley and pulse until finely chopped.
  • Add 1/4 cup olive oil and warm nuts and pulse until well mixed. Add more olive oil, a Tablespoon at a time, until mixture has a creamy texture but is not oily. Taste and add more salt or chili flakes.
  • This will keep in the fridge for a few days. It won’t brown like basil pesto.

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1 Response

  1. Dana says:

    As an ex-vegan I generally feel pretty comfortable cooking for my vegan friends. A certain one has recently decided that she’s also going to try phase out gluten… she’s a little bit more difficult to cook for.

    I love a good pesto, and pistachios as well. This sounds great!