Broccoli Rabe Pesto

What was my inspiration for creating this vegan broccoli rabe pesto? Well, we have a very prolific crop of broccoli rabe, AKA rapini, in our greenhouse that we didn’t even plant; it’s a “gift” crop from seeds and roots of past years. This happens most springs and it’s wonderful (I posted some photos of this early spring magic for your viewing delight). So needless to say we’re knee deep in rabe, and it’s going to be like this for awhile since my husband also planted a fresh bed, which will be ready late April!

Early Spring Garden Delights

I’ve been cooking and serving the broccoli rabe in our usual ways; sautéd with garlic, served with beans, in wraps, as a pizza topping, served with pasta/rice/quinoa, and as a side dish. My husband loves broccoli rabe, but he’s been grumbling at how often it’s gracing our table lately, so I decided it was time to prepare it in a novel way. That’s when it hit me – broccoli rabe pesto – so I got busy creating this new recipe! I decided to add cannellini beans; they are so darn good when served with rabe so I figured it would be a good addition, and I was right. I find that when I add cannellini beans to pesto, I can cut back on the oil.

The rabe gets blanched quickly in boiling water; if you lift the rabe from the water with a slotted spoon, instead of draining it, you can use the same water to cook the pasta. You’ll notice I blanch the garlic with the rabe to soften the sharpness, which means you can add more cloves than you normally would when making a raw pesto.

The first time I made it the flavors didn’t pop as well as I wanted, but I soon realized it just needed more salt. Add more or less garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt to suite your tastes. Omnivores in the family? There is an “omnivore variation” described at the very bottom.

Bowl of Broccoli rabe with a small bunch or rabe arranged to the side

Method Overview

  • Blanch broccoli rabe and garlic
  • Blend all of the ingredients together
Bowl of Broccoli rabe with a small bunch or rabe arranged to the side
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Broccoli Rabe Pesto

Course: dip, dressing
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 1/4 cup servings
Calories: 81kcal


  • large pot with lid
  • food processor (or full size blender if necessary)


  • 1 lb broccoli rabe, washed and cut in half (discard large stalks)
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, sliced in half
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or other nuts of your choice, pan toasting optional
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup cannellini beans, mostly drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt


  • Add the broccoli rabe and garlic to a large pot of rapidly boiling water. Boil for 3 minutes.
  • Place the rabe, garlic, and the rest of the ingredients into a food processor (or blender if necessary). Blend until it's at the desired consistency.
    Alternatively, stir the olive oil into the finished pesto instead of blending it.


  • If making pasta, reserve the water the broccoli rabe and garlic were blanched in, so you can cook the pasta in the same water.
  • In addition to making a great pasta pesto – this recipe is also delicious served as a dip for veggies or crackers, as a pizza topping, over crusty Italian bread, mixed with quinoa or rice, in wraps, and more. 
  • Leftover pesto? My experience is that all pestos freeze well. I freeze several pint and half-pint jars each year of various pesto recipes. I place a small piece of parchment paper on the top of the pesto to keep the top layer from getting freezer burn. Be sure to leave space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion.


Calories: 81kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 164mg | Potassium: 137mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1525IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 2mg
Three varieties of homemade pesto in pint-sized jars lined up
Different varieties of pesto in half pint jars, ready for the freezer

If you like this broccoli rabe pesto recipe, you may also enjoy my Oil-Free Vegan Pesto, Vegan Garlic Scape Pesto, and Vegan Nut-Free Pesto recipes.

Omnivore’s Variation

Mix grated pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese into the omnivore’s portion of pesto before serving.


  • Angel Mancini
    March 31, 2022 at 4:43 pm

    Judy, this is genius and looks amazing! We are big rabe eaters here and I can’t wait to try this! Thanks for sharing!

    • Judy DeLorenzo
      March 31, 2022 at 4:54 pm

      Hi Angel! Let us know what you think after you try it 🤗

  • SJ
    November 2, 2023 at 5:33 am

    5 stars
    Can this be made a day or two in advance, prior to serving?

    • Judy DeLorenzo
      November 3, 2023 at 10:41 am

      Hi SJ. Pesto is generally better eaten right away. The broccoli rabe flavor will probably get stronger and the top layer exposed to air will probably darken if you refrigerate it for a few days. A solution may be to freeze it, I do this all the time. Put the pesto in a small jar, place a piece of parchment paper right on top of the pesto (cut into a circle to fit), screw on the lid, and freeze.


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