Vegan Garlic Scapes Pesto

Here is the inevitable post about garlic scapes pesto! For any of you that have a CSA, you are familiar with the garlic scape. If not, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Garlic scapes are the stems from which garlic bulbs grow. Most people don’t know that you can eat other parts of the garlic plant. In fact, I just learned about them myself last Spring! They have an amazing garlicky flavor that is nowhere near as pungent as regular garlic which makes for phenomenal taste minus the dragon-breath factor. They are the beautiful smooth long green stems pictured here.

I experimented with the scapes in a few ways, including stir fries and flavoring greens, but my ultimate goal was to master a batch of garlic scape pesto, which I’m proud to say, I did! My only challenge was making it dairy free. I looked up a few recipes but did not want to use nutritional yeast or processed rice cheese so I substituted salted roasted cashews in for a rich, creamy, salty base. I’ve seen cashews used in other vegan pestos and they really do the trick!

Due to an unfortunate experience with too much raw garlic in a basil pesto I made earlier this summer, I decided to sautee the garlic scapes before anything else to stay on the safe side.

As soon as they started crackling and popping in the olive oil, the room filled with an amazing herbal garlicky smell that made our mouths water. I was cooking for my mom, her boyfriend, my sister, and Anel, and they all started inching towards the kitchen as soon as the scent hit their noses, asking questions and trying to get a sneak peek.

I mixed the scapes with all of my pesto ingredients: cashews, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, and lots of fresh basil from a local farm in New Hampshire, where I was visiting my family. After tasting it a few times, there was something missng. My mom thought it was the lack of parmesean because that extra bite was gone. She was right, it needed some umf. I chopped up a few cloves of garlic and cooked them in olive oil for two minutes. Hesitant to use it in the pesto (raw garlic pesto fest 2010 was seriously a bigger disaster than you can ever imagine), I took the oil that I cooked them in, and poured it over the pesto. Suddenly, it was perfect! Everyone was dipping pieces of bread in the bowl before I could even bring it to the table or spoon it out over pasta.

Here is the recipe. And if you can find garlic scapes, enjoy!
– 4 garlic scapes, chopped and sauteed in olive oil
– 1 cup of olive oil
– small handful of pine nuts
– big handful of cashews
– juice from half of a lemon
– 1 cup (or more) of basil
– salt to taste (it will need way more than regular pesto given the lack of salty cheese)
– garlicky olive oil (see above for instructions)

You can serve it over pasta, fish, burgers, or salad. It’s also great as a dipping sauce for bread, crackers, or crudite.

A big thank you to my boyfriend, Anel, who took pictures as I was cooking. You can see more of his amazing photography at

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  1. Laurie said:

    Looks yummy. I can't wait to try it.

    6.28.10 · Reply
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