raw walnut nettle pesto

walnut nettle pesto by Salt Fat Whiskey

With a seemingly ferocious nature, Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) hasn’t quite caught on around the country as the gourmet wild wonder it truly is. Here in the Northwest, it’s a beloved harbinger of spring, arriving on market shelves and restaurant menus each April in many delicious incarnations.

My kitchen is no exception. As soon as the plants are ready, I carefully clip the tender tops (no more than 6 inches from the top or roughly the first 2 sets of leaves) into my basket to make infused vinegar, frittatas, biscuits, curries, pizza, smoothies, soups, and of course, nettle pesto with a twist. When harvested this way, the nettles will continue to leaf out and provide food for many months, so expect more nettle recipes to come!


Such a vibrant glowing green. And look at those spiked trichomes. Delicate, yet absolutely effective. Go ahead…touch it!

Brave herbie people (aka crazies like me) will often pick a leaf bare-handed, fold it just so, and munch on it straight raw. The exquisite nutrient power hits immediately as I savor the mild flavor which is bright grassy and slightly nutty. But, really, it’s totally unnecessary to risk stung lips to enjoy nettles. The spines surrender their power quickly when exposed to either heat or pressure, making cooking or processing good options.

Most nettle pesto recipes out there call for blanching the fresh nettle leaves first. I like to make mine with raw leaves instead, since the food processor will take care of those stingers. This way, you get the maximum nutritive value of the raw greens.

I also like to use sweet and fatty local walnuts from Grateful Harvest Farm, mixed with some deep green organic pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts from the store. Most pine nuts you buy these days are imported from China –  and that’s a long way to travel just to make some pesto. Most any oily nut will work well here.

I dream of collecting Piñon Pine nuts from the Southwest someday for this recipe. Oh, the decadence! My friend Heron gifted me a jar full of them last year and they were the most delicious, sweet, buttery treasures. Truly little nuggets of perfection. Until I can get my own, I’m sticking with these…




walnut nettle pesto

4 cups nettle leaves

1 cup basil leaves

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1 cup organic virgin olive oil

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated

5 cloves garlic

1.5 tsp pink salt

Wearing gloves, snip the tender nettle tops into a paper bag. Remove the leaves from the stems and rinse well in cool water. Blend the first four ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and process until well incorporated.

The consistency should look something like this…


Spread generously on toasted baguette, pizza, sandwiches, use to grill meat, whisk in scrambles, add to vinaigrette, garnish soups, mix in mashed potatoes, toss with roasted vegetables, eat by the spoonful, and definitely make some pesto pasta. Any leftover pesto will freeze nicely for an easy future meal.

This batch was used to make some super tasty pesto chicken and sun-dried tomato fettuccine…



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One Thought on “raw walnut nettle pesto

  1. YES.

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