When you have a bag of spinach about to go bad, just whip up a batch of spinach pesto in just 5 minutes. It’s frugal, healthy, and fast! Add it to sandwiches or fresh pasta for an easy meal. Drizzle over homemade zoodles or homemade pizza!
If you were to open my fridge on any given day, you’ll find a very large bag of spinach. From green smoothies to chicken enchiladas to autumn rice pilaf, we eat spinach pretty regularly.
And now that I have this 5-minute spinach pesto recipe, I’ll never have to throw away a slimy piece of spinach again…
Because that’s what usually ends up happening, right? You buy a bag of spinach, use it for one or two recipes, and then it sits in a drawer in the fridge getting nice and slimy and gross and entirely inedible.
Let’s stop this madness, okay? Making spinach pesto is a super-easy way to reduce food waste while feeding your family, very similar to the thought process behind carrot top pesto.
Anytime you make a meal plan that includes spinach, just write “spinach pesto” at the end and not a single slimy leaf will end up in the trash can.
Traditional pesto is quite savory and is made with…
- fresh herbs (usually basil)
- pine nuts
- Parmesan cheese
Unfortunately, it’s also these same ingredients that make pesto a bit on the expensive side.
Instead of whining and complaining about it though, I made a few budget-friendly substitutions so that pesto isn’t something reserved only for special occasions. Oh no! This 5-minute spinach pesto is officially part of our meal plan rotation!
Spinach Pesto Ingredients
- Fresh Spinach. As much as I love fresh herbs, we’ve got that bag of spinach to use up, remember?
- Cashews. Move over pine nuts, my budget ain’t got room for you. Cashews have moved in and are saving me money. Plus I can snack on them as I make this recipe.
- Lemon Juice and Zest. Because not using lemon juice and zest makes a boring pesto. And life is too short for boring food.
- Olive Oil. Healthy for the heart and tastes good? Yes, please.
- Parmesan Cheese. Although it can’t (and really shouldn’t) be omitted entirely, we can scale it back to keep the costs down. Nothing beats the flavor of fresh Parmesan!
- Garlic + Salt + Pepper. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single pesto recipe that didn’t include these amazing flavors, and rightfully so. These ingredients alone can make or break your spinach pesto. Use them. Don’t be a rebel.
How to Make Spinach Pesto
Step 1. In a food processor or in a blender (I used the Twister Jar in my Blendtec), add the olive oil and two handfuls of the spinach and blend. Add additional spinach in subsequent batches, blending after each addition.
Step 2. Add the cashews, garlic cloves, the juice and zest of one lemon, salt, andpepper. Blend.
Step 3. Add the Parmesan cheese and blend. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, lemon juice, and/or lemon zest as desired. I personally like the lemon flavor, so I end up adding the full amount of lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
Step 4. Blend until all ingredients are incorporated well. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
I personally have not tried it, but it should work in theory. If you attempt to substitute frozen spinach for fresh spinach, make sure it’s completely drained first AND that it was fresh spinach when it was frozen.
If you bought a box of spinach from the store, you’re probably fine here. However, if you stuck a bag of almost slimy spinach in the freezer in order to save it from the trash can, it’s a no-go. Slimy spinach simply tastes bad and I don’t want you to waste your other ingredients.
If by grated you mean a small container of freshly grated Parmesan cheese you found in the deli section of your grocery store, by all means, yes!
If by grated you mean those green shakers found on a pantry shelf, no. Please, no. You might be partial to it, and that green container might even remind you of childhood spaghetti nights, but my foodie self wants to come over and confiscate it. Besides, according to CBS News, it likely contains wood pulp.
If you don’t buy Parmesan very often, shred whatever is left of the wedge and freeze it. Then you can pull out what you need when you need it, and you won’t throw any of it away.
Yes! This trick has been tested and approved and is – if I say so myself – a brilliant way to save money. The rind avoids the trash can and you save the delicious Parmesan cheese for a purpose when the cheese is actually needed. Like on top of a cracker. Can I come over?
Oh, you rebel you… yes, you can, if you must.
Fresh lemon is ideal because you get the zest (notice I used a knife and NOT a zester), and the zest makes this spinach pesto taste like spring in your mouth. BUT I understand if you don’t have lemons and have a big bag of spinach that’s about to go bad. Priorities.
Don’t run out for just a lemon. But do make a mental note the next time you buy spinach and put spinach pesto on your meal plan to buy 2 lemons too.
Absolutely. This too has been tested and approved!
Spinach Pesto Meal Ideas
Oh goodness, I thought you’d never ask!
Since pesto is a condiment, we often use it on sandwiches (grilled and cold). My husband made a moaning sound when I made him a grilled pesto chicken club sandwich one weekend, so I’d say that’s definitely a winner.
- You can use it on top of soups to add flavor, mixed in with roasted vegetables, or with rice to make pesto risotto.
- You can use it as the sauce for homemade pizza, mixed in with mashed potatoes, or added to homemade Caesar dressing for a fun new flavor on salads.
- In lieu of mayo, spinach pesto would be delicious in potato salad, egg salad, or chicken salad too.
- My favorite way to use spinach pesto though is as a sauce for pasta. Thinned with just a little bit of pasta cooking water and it’s like eating a bowl of spring and it’s utterly amazing.
(And calling it “green spaghetti” helps kids get beyond the green factor.)
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5 Minute Spinach Pesto
When you have a bag of spinach about to go bad, whip up a batch of spinach pesto in just 5 minutes. Add it to sandwiches or fresh pasta for an easy meal.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: about 20 ounces 1x
- Category: Sauces & Condiments
- Method: Blender
- Cuisine: American
- In a food processor or in a blender (I used the Twister Jar in my Blendtec), add the olive oil and two handfuls of the spinach and blend. Add additional spinach in subsequent batches, blending after each addition.
- Add the cashews, garlic cloves, the juice and zest of one lemon, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Blend.
- Add the Parmesan cheese and blend. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, lemon juice and/or lemon zest as desired. I personally like the lemon flavor, so I end up adding the full amount of lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
- Blend until all ingredients are incorporated well. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
- If you attempt to substitute frozen spinach for fresh spinach, make sure it’s completely drained first AND that it was fresh spinach when it was frozen.
- If you bought a box of spinach from the store, you’re probably fine here. However, if you stuck a bag of almost slimy spinach in the freezer in order to save it from the trash can, it’s a no-go.
- You can use Parmesan rind instead of actual Parmesan cheese.
- If you don’t buy Parmesan very often, shred whatever is left of the wedge and freeze it. Then you can pull out what you need when you need it, and you won’t throw any of it away.
- Calories: 176
Keywords: spinach pesto, pesto recipe spinach, pesto recipe with spinach, pesto sauce with spinach, pesto spinach recipe, pesto with spinach, recipe for spinach pesto, spinach with pesto
Maureen C Gavin
I want to make large batches of heart-healthy spinach/walnut pesto , so I always have some in freezer to use on Naan pizza , white fish and more. Since fresh produce spoils quickly in my house, I want to use canned spinach, but I cannot find equivalents of fresh packed cups to canned amounts to use. Can you help?
Heather @ Team Crumbs
Hi Maureen! I don’t have a conversion on fresh spinach to canned spinach. I would not recommend canned for this recipe though. Canned spinach is cooked and it will not give you the same results. If you plan to freeze the pesto after making it, you should be able to purchase enough fresh spinach and plan to make your pesto within a day or two. I hope that helps!
If I need to use up cilantro, do I just substitute it for the spinach?
Karen @ Team Crumbs
Yes. You can do that if you’d like to have a cilantro pesto. Let us know how it goes!
I love pesto, and I love this idea! Though it doesn’t happen often, I hate ever throwing away those greens that need to be used up. Have some in the fridge right now, and I can’t wait to try this! Thank you, thank you!
Kyare - Team Crumbs
So glad you are happy with this post!
Just a question….is this recipe using fresh spinach or frozen?
Tiffany, I love spinach and was AMAZED when my husband noy only liked this but loved it! He ate it every day on his sandwiches, then I used the rest on a pasta salad with chickpeas and veggies. We scarfed down every bite. I think the cashews were the kicker. Yum! I used some salted roasted ones I had and they were delicious in the pesto! Making again today! Thanks for a new take on spinach pesto.
You’re so very welcome Gina!
I have sooo much basil in my herb garden…this is probably silly..but I can use that right?? 🙂 or mix it with spinach?
Oh yes, you can definitely use basil!!
Hi. I love the hacks you shared. Would avocado oil be good as replacement for the evoo?
I haven’t made this with avocado oil before Gayle, but it should be fine!
Planning to make this tonight. We have so much spinach to harvest before the heat. Wondering if I can freeze this pesto, with all your recommended ingredients in it?!
I have not tried freezing this pesto, but I would assume it would work! I’ve seen hacks on freezing herbs in oil in ice cube trays. And pesto is a lot of herb and oil.
I freeze spinach pesto and it’s always ready for a quick easy meal. It works extremely well!
This is so tasty! Thanks for the recipe. I never knew I could make a pesto without the pine nuts.
Glad you liked it Tabitha!
I use walnuts in my pesto and they work perfectly-
SJ - Team Crumbs
So glad to hear Lorrie, thank you! 🙂
Thank you very much for this recipe Tiffany! I am newer to your blog and tried this one tonight. I served it on top of spaghetti squash as a side for our baked chicken…it was soooo flavorful (and I only used 1 lemon and the lesser quantity of all the ingredients). I love having another use for healthy spinach!
Have a blessed weekend! 🙂
You’re so welcome Laura! I’m glad you guys liked it – what a great way to enjoy spaghetti squash!
I’ve managed to get away with a little avocado in either spinach or basil pesto – another great way to use up a little leftover from the back of the fridge!
Ooh – fantastic tip Eilidh. Thank you for sharing!
Katie Mae @ Nourishing Simplicity
I’ve been using cashews in my pesto as well. 🙂 I love the texture and the savings!
Hi Katie Mae! I love how you think sweet friend. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!
Two questions. I don’t eat Parmesan. Can I use, say, Mexican cheese or cheddar or… Also, school doesn’t allow nuts. What can I substitute? Thanks!
Hi Sangeetha! The nuts are for texture, so a mild seed would work well. As for the cheese, I’d try Romano. 🙂
SANGEETHA, I use a small tomato to replace the cheese. I have successfully used seeds instead of nuts.