Make Ahead

Swiss Chard Stalk Pesto with Pepitas

August 24, 2015
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes one pint
Author Notes

I love Swiss chard, but I hate the stalks...don't we all? But when one buys two pounds of chard, one inevitably inherits about 12 ounces of stalks, and that is a lot of food to be wasted. And although the stalks do not belong in a bowl of creamed chard, they make for a really tasty and sustainable pesto. (I did not forget the cheese in this recipe, but I found the pesto tasty enough without it. But if you really would like to maintain the integrity of the dish called pesto, about 3 ounces of Pecorino Romano will not hurt.) —QueenSashy

What You'll Need
  • 6 ounces Swiss chard stalks (from about 1 pound of Swiss chard)
  • 1 cup pepitas
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 3 to 4 medium garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup packed parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
  • zest of 1/2 lemon, grated on a Microplane
  • 3-4 ounces Pecorino Romano (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Cut off the very end of the stalks, as the ends tend to be dry. If your Swiss chard is fairly young and tender, the stalks will be tender too. The stalks of mature chard can be a bit stringy, and you may want to blanch them for a minute. The best way to determine is to snap a piece of stalk from the very end (the toughest part) and take a bite. If it has the consistency of raw celery, you are good to go. If it is tougher and stringier, you may want to blanch the stalks (but only for a minute).
  2. To blanch the stalks, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the stalks and blanch for 1 minute. Remove the stalks from the pot and put them in a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. Cool the stalks completely before proceeding with the recipe.
  3. In a food processor, process the pepitas with the fennel seed and garlic. Add the stalks and parsley and continue to process. Add the cheese, if using. Add the olive oil, cumin, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and process until smooth. (If the pesto is too thick, add a drop of water.) Taste, and adjust the acidity and seasoning. Store the pesto in the fridge and use it with pasta, sandwiches, or as a dip.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • QueenSashy
  • Hilary
  • Mike
  • Linda Evans
    Linda Evans
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.

7 Reviews

Hilary October 5, 2020
What a delightful recipe! I happened to have everything on hand so that was convenient; I upped the lemon juice a bit and did not add the Pecorino. Can't wait to toss it with a hardy grain like barley, I think it will go deliciously!
Mike May 20, 2019
After I try the original recipe, I am going to try variations using beet greens. I think I’ll need to up the lemons.
Linda E. July 13, 2016
Thanks for remark, Queen Sashy. I haven't tried using the stalks raw at all -- all the versions I mentioned have cooked stalks. But I have had rainbow chard, with thin stems, and with these it is difficult to use the stems as separate veg. I have tried ways of cooking stalks briefly and then adding leaves, to get mixed dish, but I don't like these dishes nearly as much as the ones with 2 separate veg from 1 buy. So now I only buy the chard with large white stems. I used to grow, but have given up veg growing with age.
Linda E. July 13, 2016
The Swiss chard I grow and buy in England has stalks that need peeling, both sides. There is a very thin skin which will come off in quite large pieces. That gone, they don.t need blanching.
My husband preferred stalks to leaves with chard. With tahina sauce; with Cheese sauce; blue cheese sauce, tomato sauce -- more. I hate to think of wasting all those stems, too
QueenSashy July 13, 2016
The stalks I get are usually thin and small, so cannot do much with them but process, but wonder have you tried chopping them finely (I am thinking like bulgur) or shredding them into slaw? Would love to know...
salena October 15, 2015
An ingenious way to use some of the Swiss chard growing in my early fall garden. It was delicious served over grilled tuna. The flavor is quite nice. I will add some to salad dressings and use it as a condiment. I will probably be adding more oil to it as I use it. It's not pesto as we usually think of it; but it is very nice.
QueenSashy October 15, 2015
Salena, thank you, I am very glad you liked the "pesto". I have not tried it in a dressing, that is a great tip! Like you, I love to add more olive oil to this pesto -- we are big olive oil users. When I use it as a dip I drizzle quite a bit of extra on top.