Mint Pesto

Mint pesto is a fresh take on the classic. Mint leaves, peanuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and lemon are blitzed in a food processor. It’s great on lamb, chicken, salmon, and pasta.

A stone bowl of mint pesto with a knife on top on a metal sheet pan

Mint pesto. It’s a truly unexpected but not unwelcome combo of mint, Parmesan, and peanuts (yes, peanuts) that works so dang well, you’ll wonder why you never thought to try it before. Dollop it atop lamb or fish, schmear it on naan, or eat it straight from the spoon. We won’t judge.–Angie Zoobkoff

Mint Pesto Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 20 M
  • Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches mint (5 1/2 oz | 155 g)
  • 5 1/2 ounces unsalted roasted peanuts (155 g | 1 cup)
  • 2 3/4 ounces Parmesan cheese (80 g), grated
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons juice and 1 tablespoon zest)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt , plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil (237 ml), plus extra for covering the pesto

Directions

  • 1. In a medium bowl filled with cold water, submerge the mint and give it a good wash. Blot the mint dry and pick off the leaves, discarding the woody stalks.
  • 2. Toss the mint leaves in a food processor along with the peanuts, Parmesan, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil, blending until the pesto comes together but is still a bit chunky and not too smooth, 1 to 3 minutes. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.
  • 3. Using a spatula, scrape down the bowl and then spoon the pesto into a sterilized jar. Pour a little more olive oil over the top to help preserve it. Screw on the lid and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld and for up to 1 month. Each time you use the mint pesto, always top it with fresh olive oil to cover the pesto.)
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Recipe Testers Reviews

What a tremendous surprise this mint pesto was. The ingredients fooled me. When I read mint, peanuts, and cheese, I didn't think it would work. But it does! The ingredients came together to form a pesto that’s hard to describe but yummy to eat. It’s mighty tasty on naan bread and we look forward to eating it with some grilled lamb. It took 15 minutes to make but most of that was picking mint leaves off the woody stems.

I’ve made pesto with various combinations of greenery and nuts (and i mean those terms really loosely construed) but had never made it using either peanuts or mint before. It turned out well and I would not have known there were peanuts in it.

With the mint and the kick of garlic, this produces an excellent pesto for serving with lamb. It has a bit of acidity from the lemon, but far less than a traditional vinegar-based mint sauce, and a rustic texture. This was also wonderful paired with small Armenian cumin lamb meatballs, served at room temperature. It struck me as something that would be good on a holiday buffet, served with toothpicks for dipping little meatballs into pesto.

This really requires refrigeration for at least several hours after making to get the flavors to meld. There was a distinctive difference in taste between the pesto right when it had been made and when I served it about half a dozen hours later.

The peanuts I had were unsalted and had been roasted in the shell but didn’t have a strong roasted flavor. So I shelled and skinned them and toasted 10 minutes in a 375°F oven which brought out some of their oil and gave them a deeper flavor. It wasn’t exactly chunky but wasn’t smooth either. The texture was coarse and sort of grainy. Once the pesto had chilled for about 6 hours, the garlic became stronger but in a good way. The flavors of the pesto really melded over time.

This mint pesto was a nice variation on traditional basil pesto. The mint had a brightness that basil pesto sometimes lacks. I liked that I could taste the cheese more than I usually can in basil pesto. The pesto added a fresh, green note and some richness to the tilapia we served it with. I can also imagine stirring it into pasta for a lighter tasting alternative to traditional basil pesto.

I didn’t have any peanuts so I took the author’s suggestion to substitute another nut, and used almonds. The almonds were a neutral flavor that didn’t compete with the delicate flavor of the mint. I would also recommend using a small clove of garlic, or only part of one, if you don’t like a strong garlic flavor, or if you want the mint to really stand out.

I tried spreading fish with some of the pesto before baking. The cooked pesto had a more muted flavor and a darker color. We preferred the raw pesto. I made a half recipe, and I’m glad I did. A little of the pesto goes a long way. I ground my pesto more finely than the picture – it was uniformly light green with no puddles of olive oil.

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