Friday, February 17, 2017

Vegetarian henbit, macadamia, and asiago pesto recipe. Keto, gluten-free, foraging recipe made with edible "weeds" of early spring

Pesto is one of the easiest and most common ways to prepare wild greens. But just because it's been done with some plants, doesn't mean it's the right way to prepare them.

I've seen, and tried, pesto for greens like chickweed, and I've been a bit disappointed. To me, chickweed tastes like a refreshing Boston or bibb lettuce. It's delicious, but would you make a lettuce pesto? Probably not. The taste of chickweed gets totally lost with spices and cheese and nuts.

Henbit, however, is perfect for pesto. It's like it wants to be pesto. It's rich, intense, herbal. . . the strong flavors really hold their own when blended with others. I feel like this pesto really hits the balance right. I opted for macadamia nuts, with their buttery creaminess to balance the punch of the henbit, and a small amount of sweet white onion -- instead of garlic -- to offset the slight bitterness of the greens.

I hope you try it and agree!

As prepared, the pesto recipe is vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb, keto,  and low in sugar. You can omit the cheese, or use vegan cheese for vegan. Purple flowering henbit is an invasive weed across North America, it originates in the Mediterranean, so feel free to harvest as much as you like. "Invasivore" eating (the eating of invasive species) is one of the most sustainable, and local ways to chow down. Perhaps best of all, this pesto is sooo versatile: try it on pasta, vegetables or meat!

Henbit, macadamia and asiago pesto

Makes 5 cups, can be doubled or halved

5 cups of tightly packed henbit: leaves, flowers and stems*
Juice and zest of one medium lemon
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 medium sweet white onion, roughly chopped
1 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more
3 oz. asiago cheese, roughly chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. truffle or other mushroom powder, optional
freshly ground black pepper

Start by giving your henbit a go in the food processor until shredded. You may have to work in batches. Scrape out as much as you can from the food processor (it's ok if you miss some).

Next add the macadamia nuts a toss in the food processor until very finely chopped/pureed.  Add in the onion, the shredded henbit, cheese, lemon and zest, olive oil, mushroom powder and seasonings, and continue to process. You may need to mix or push everything together, every so often.

Test for flavor and consistency, and feel free to add extra olive oil, cheese, salt or mushroom powder to taste. Serve it up with pasta, meat, chicken or veggies, or even just on crackers or chips.

* For this recipe, the henbit is raw, so it's best if you are sure that it's free of biological contamination. If you think your henbit may have been peed on by dogs (I tend to find it by trails), you can blanch it first. Always make sure that you harvest away from chemical contamination, as boiling cannot help with pollution and heavy metals. 

Looking to learn how to identify henbit for yourself? Check out my post!


  1. I tasted Henbit a couple of years ago and found it too "green" to use in place of most other leafy greens. But as pesto, I can see it working. It's everywhere at the moment, so I'll have to try it next time I buy nuts.

  2. When you try it let me know how you like it, and what other ingredients you chose.

    I know what you mean about the taste, it's definitely strong and herby. Plus the texture is rather firm, and can be stringy, instead of leafy, so it's another reason why pesto works: you blend it all in the food processor, and don't have to worry about texture issues.

  3. Would you consider henbit and Deadnettle recipes to be interchangeable? Wanting to use Deadnettle stems as you highlight for henbit, but unable to find any Deadnettle recipes that use the stems? Would love to use the whole plant, but maybe something is strange about Deadnettle stems and not for henbit? Thanks!

    1. You can totally use them interchangeably! Both are completely edible and are about the same texture for each part of each plant.