This fresh zingy spinach pesto is just happiness in a jar. I love the combination of raw garlic, lemon juice and the umami flavor that miso brings. And it can go on SO MANY things. Try it on 30-Minute Pesto Butter Salmon, zoodles, pesto chicken salad… the possibilities are endless…
Normally, pesto includes copious amounts of parmesan cheese, but seeing as how dairy is not good for PCOS, I’ve swapped it out for miso. It’s a very subtle flavor but it’s there. I like to think of it as the bass line in a piece of music. The garlic and lemon are taking center stage but the miso grounds it.
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Tips for making Spinach Pesto
I know that traditionally pesto is made with basil in a pestle and mortar. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to enough fresh basil to make pesto so I use spinach to bulk it up instead. As for the pestle and mortar… as a wise woman once said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
Use a Blender
If you have a food processor you can probably just put all the ingredients in at once and whizz it up. With a blender or smoothie maker (hey we use what we have) it’s a little more time consuming. Add the olive oil in first and then gradually add the spinach. The liquid helps it blend more easily. Chopping the spinach before adding it can also help.
Store Spinach Pesto in an Airtight Container
Store the pesto in a glass jar not a plastic container. The pesto can turn the plastic green and plastic is generally more difficult to clean.
Spinach pesto will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. It also freezes well. Freeze it in ice cube trays to make small portions that you can use as needed.
Notes on the Ingredients
Pro tip: it’s in the refrigerator section! I wasted a lot of time wandering the aisles looking for miso paste in my local Asian supermarket. It should also be kept in the fridge when you get home.
I use white miso paste for this recipe because it has the mildest flavor. There are other types of miso, but because of their stronger flavor (due to longer fermentation times, different ingredients etc.) I don’t think they would fit well.
Make sure the brand you’re using is gluten-free. Some miso pastes have grains like wheat, barley or rye which are not suitable for a gluten-free diet.
Miso has lots of health benefits. It is a complete source of protein, it has a wide range of nutrients and it promotes gut health with good bacteria. That said, it can contain a high level of salt. Therefore I recommend adding salt to this pesto after tasting it.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The olive oil carries the flavor for this sauce, so it’s important to use the best quality oil that you can. Olive oil should come in a dark bottle to protect it from heat and light. Cold-pressed is ideal because heat can destroy the nutrients and flavor in the oil.
Pop Eye has of course informed us all that spinach is good for us. In addition to high iron content, it has high levels of vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin C. Interestingly, iron absorption is enhanced by vitamin C and spinach provides both!
Spinach also has the advantage of being available all year around, although it’s in season in March.
I love the smell of fresh basil. I would make this pesto entirely of basil if I could. Unfortunately, the only time I can do that is at the end of summer when the garden is full of it. In the meantime though, I am restricted to the little pot of basil on my window sill.
Fresh basil can be purchased in small containers at the supermarket but in New York it can cost $3 for a few leaves. If possible, I would buy a plant which keeps longer and has more leaves on it.
Dried basil cannot be substituted for fresh basil in this recipe.
Lemon adds such wonderful brightness to this pesto. I like to serve the pesto over zoodles with extra lemon as a garnish. Lemons are a great source of vitamin C which aids in the absorption of iron in the spinach.
The miso paste is quite salty already, so hold off on adding more salt until you’ve tasted the pesto.
Using freshly cracked black pepper makes such difference in the flavor. In addition to tasting great, it’s high in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Fresh Spinach Pesto with Miso
- Chopping board
- ½ cup olive oil extra virgin
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach
- ¼ cup fresh basil
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tsp white miso paste
- juice of half a lemon
- ¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- salt to taste
- Add the olive oil to the blender first. Then add a handful of the spinach and process. Continue adding the spinach gradually until it has all been blended.
- Add the fresh basil, chopped garlic, miso paste, lemon juice, and pepper and process until smooth. Taste and add salt if necessary. The miso is quite salty so you may not need to add much.
- Store in a glass container.