How to Make Green Sauce (Vegan, Gluten Free
This clean-out-the-fridge green sauce is the perfect way to use up leftover herbs! The recipe is more of a technique than an exact formula. You can use any leafy green herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, basil and/or mint (use just one or a mix!). Feel free to also throw in a few teaspoons of stronger herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, tarragon and/or chives. Garlic first gets blitzed in the food processor, then the herbs are added along with toasted nuts or seeds for body, and acid (in the form of lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar) for brightness. Don't skimp on the nuts, as they're essential for flavor and texture. Olive oil turns the ingredients into a lovely, spoonable sauce. For a lighter version, add a tablespoon or two of water before drizzling in the oil. Be sure to season the sauce well with salt and pepper, and aim for a good balance between the acid and the oil. The sauce is delicious as-is, but definitely check out the variations in the notes below! Spoon green sauce over meats or fish, toss it with pasta, slather it on sandwiches or drizzle it over roasted veggies or grain bowls. If you only have 1/2 cup of herbs or less, you can adapt the recipe using a mini food processor. *Check out my video above to see my herb storage tips!
Prep Time10 mins
Total Time10 mins
- 1-2 garlic cloves
- 1-3 cups lightly packed parsley, cilantro, mint and/or basil
- 2-4 tablespoons (or more to taste!) toasted nuts or seeds, such as pine nuts, almonds, walnuts or pumpkin seeds
- Fresh lemon juice, lime juice, red wine or sherry vinegar (*see note below)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional add-ins (see the notes below!):
- 1-2 anchovy fillets
- 1/2-1 small shallot, chopped
- 1/2-1 seeded jalapeño pepper
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or Aleppo style pepper
- 1/2-1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2-1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1-2 teaspoons honey
- 2-4 tablespoons grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 1-2 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1-2 tablespoons water (optional)
- Extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor with the blade running, drop the garlic through the feed tube to chop. Add the herbs (whatever you have—feel free to use a mix!) and nuts or seeds. Process until finely chopped.
Add a splash of lemon juice, lime juice or red wine vinegar. I usually squeeze in the juice of a 1/2 small lemon or lime, or start with about 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar (remember, you can always add more but you can’t take it out!). Season with salt and pepper. If using any add-ins, add them now and puree until finely chopped.
If you prefer a lighter sauce, add a tablespoon or two of water. With the motor running, drizzle in extra virgin olive oil until you get a spoonable, pesto-ish consistency.
This is the most important step: taste the sauce! This is your time to adjust the seasonings as desired. More nuts will thicken up the sauce, a splash more acid will give the sauce more spunk, and another drizzle of olive oil will round things out. There should be a good balance of flavors, and the final result should taste good to you. If you have the time, let the sauce sit, covered, for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld before serving.
Storage: Store the green sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. If you use basil or mint in the sauce, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to help prevent browning.
Green Sauce Variations:
- This is more of a technique than a recipe. You can use a handful or two (or three) of any leafy green herbs you have on hand (parsley, cilantro, basil and/or mint). You can also throw in a few teaspoons of stronger herbs if you have them, such as rosemary, thyme, tarragon or chives. From there, taste as you go! This is your sauce, so it should taste good to you. Don’t be afraid to splash in a bit more lemon juice, lime juice or vinegar (taste first though, because once it’s in it can’t come out), or add more nuts to taste. Also, be sure to season well with salt and pepper. The key is to find a balance of flavors.
- Use fresh lemon or lime juice, not bottled, in this recipe. Start with the juice from half of a small lemon or lime, and add more as desired after tasting.
- Feel free to use the tender upper stems of cilantro and parsley, which are perfectly edible. For basil and mint (and any of the woody herbs, like rosemary and thyme), use only the leaves.
- You will need a food processor to make this sauce. I use a 14-cup model, which can handle anywhere from 1 to 3 or 4 cups of herbs. If you only have about 1/2 cup of herbs or less, you'll need a mini food processor. (I use both models all the time, and you can find a ton of other food processor recipes in The Food Processor Family Cookbook).
- For more one-bowl meal ideas that are perfect for this sauce, check out my book Build-a-Bowl.
- Pesto Basil: mint and/or parsley (you can use just one or do a mix!), pine nuts, lemon juice. Add-ins: grated Parmesan and/or Pecorino
- Italian Salsa Verde: parsley, walnuts, red wine vinegar. Add-ins: anchovy, oregano, grated Parmesan (if you have any hardy fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, you could add a teaspoon as well!)
- Chimichurri: cilantro and parsley, red wine vinegar (no nuts). Add-ins: jalapeño pepper, shallot, oregano
- Chermoula: cilantro and parsley, lemon juice (no nuts). Add-ins: red pepper flakes, cumin
- Coconut Chile: cilantro and mint, pumpkin seeds, lime juice. Add-ins: jalapeño pepper, shredded coconut, honey