Cooking with Scraps

Buying Artichokes Only for the Hearts? Don't Toss the Leaves

April  2, 2017

My husband introduced me to fresh artichokes when we were first dating. Growing up, his mother would occasionally get them as a treat for him and his sister, steam them, and serve them with melted butter for dipping the leaves (officially called the bracts). So we did the same. After we polished off each and every leaf—scraping away the tender ends with our teeth—he taught me how to remove the fuzzy choke with a knife. We’d then divvy up the heart into four chunks, dunk them in any remaining melted butter, and savor our final two pieces of the artichoke each.

Given my introduction to them, this is how I almost always eat artichokes. It feels wrong somehow to buy them with the sole intention of getting at their hearts, stripping away their leaves and discarding them without any intention of nibbling on them. But today's recipe assuages any lingering guilt for making recipes that use only the artichokes' hearts, by making sure those leaves get put to good use and won’t head straight for the compost bin.

Nacho average nachos. Photo by James Ransom

Years ago, Tara Duggan mentioned roasting artichoke leaves and the idea stuck in my subconscious until recently, when I had a dream about artichoke leaf nachos and woke up determined to make them. (Tell me this happens to you, too, so that I don't feel so weird!)

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These aren’t true nachos of course: There are no chips to be found, nor traditional nacho toppings, but they aren’t all that far off. After boiling, artichoke leaves are spread out in a single layer on a sheet pan (I have never understood the logic behind making nachos mounded up in a pile), sprinkled with cheese and other toppings, and sent for a spin in the oven to let the cheese get soft and slumpy. I topped mine with feta, black olives, and a quick aioli sauce, but you could take this idea in a lot of different directions. Once summer comes, I plan to try them again with chopped fresh tomatoes and a basil- or tarragon-laden aioli.

Know of a great recipe hiding in the Food52 archives that uses an overlooked kitchen scrap? Tell me about it! Send me an email ([email protected]) or tell all in the comments: I want to know how you're turning what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Italian
  • Julie
  • Kayleigh
  • Connor Bower
    Connor Bower
  • Cherrie Ward-Barber
    Cherrie Ward-Barber
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Italian April 20, 2020
Can you eat the huge leaves from the artichoke plant? ... not just the artichoke
Julie April 3, 2017
When I was younger, I didn't realize you were only supposed to eat the bottom part of the leaves--I ate the entire thing. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy them very much. These days, I know better, and I often use them as an excuse to eat as much melted butter and aioli as possible! I'll have to try this recipe, it sounds like a wonderful excuse to eat all these extra toppings.

P.S. I just had a dream last night about making passion fruit mousse with lemon curd and chantilly cream puffs--totally normal to dream about this stuff. ;)
Lindsay-Jean H. April 5, 2017
Further confirmation that Food52 people are my people! :)
Kayleigh April 3, 2017
Whenever I hear of people discarding artichoke leaves because they only use the hearts, my own heart breaks a little. It boggles the mind. The "meat" of the leaves can be so delicious! When I lived in California, in a town VERY close to the "artichoke capital of the world," every restaurant had some sort of roasted/steamed/boiled artichoke appetizer. Usually you'd get one or two steamed artichoke halves, sprinkled with salt and a few delicious herbs/spices, and some manner of aioli to dip them in... now that brings back some amazing memories. I'll have to try this new method of preparing them, too, now that I'm on the opposite side of the country and only able to get them from my own kitchen.
Connor B. April 3, 2017
LJ— those artichoke leaves were so delicious when they were up for grabs in the team kitchen! Can't wait to make them on my own.
Lindsay-Jean H. April 3, 2017
Yay, so excited to hear that, thanks Connor!
Cherrie W. April 3, 2017
Thank you Linseay-Jean Hard! Found it! YAY!
Nancy April 3, 2017
Great idea! The volume of discarded artichoke leaves always struck me as such a waste for the few bites off the brachts and the tiny heart...
Cherrie W. April 2, 2017
Oh, also..."a spin in the oven". What temp, how long?
Lindsay-Jean H. April 2, 2017
Hey Cherrie, once you click the link to get to the full recipe (here: you'll see the full instructions as well as a print button!
Cherrie W. April 2, 2017
I would love to try this. I always resist artichokes because of the expense and waste. I need more of an idea about the "after boiling" in the directions. What are the instructions for properly boiling artichokes? Also, a print version/button of recipes on this site would be super appreciated. Thanks! Great idea! I want to try it.
tamater S. April 2, 2017
I love it. I'm keeping our carbs low as possible, and this will be perfect for us when the others have nice big piles of carb-y things! Saved in my LCHF file. (I've never bought an artichoke before, only had the jarred ones, which I love in dips.)

No, don't feel so weird; I do invent recipes in my dreams. Let's see who else does!
Lindsay-Jean H. April 2, 2017
Thanks for confirming that I'm not crazy! :)