Lemon Tarragon Pesto

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of too much [insert green here] must be in want of a pesto—or, at least, that’s how this recipe was born, as a response to too much tarragon in the fridge.

Now, I realize I won’t be telling you anything you don’t know when I say making pesto is easy but, it is. Pesto is a basic formula: greens plus nuts plus oil plus cheese plus salt (and plus garlic! and probably lemon!, at least if you’re asking me). Pesto is a basic process: combine ingredients in a blender or food processor and spin! But in return for your short ingredients list and easy preparation method, pesto gives you a killer pizza sauce, fantastic toast topper, the kind of thing to make eating a bowl of pasta a special treat. Sometimes, especially when it’s a pesto like the one in this post, I eat pesto all on its own, spooning a bite of it to my mouth, smacking my lips together in sheer delight once I do.

But, here’s a bonus trick I only learned last summer, one that’s taken the ways pesto improves my life up one more notch: Up the oil, and you get one of the finest salad dressings known to mankind.

Lemon Tarragon Pesto

Does calling pesto salad dressing the “finest known to mankind” seem an overreach? Maybe. But I’m doing it anyway because, people, this dressing!

How can I explain? OK, picture pesto. Taste it in your mouth. Feel that cheesy, nutty spread hit your tastebuds, at once creamy and salty and slightly coarse. Remember it on the pizza you had last summer, the one with tomatoes and mozzarella and that thick slab of pesto layered on top. Now, take that idea—that wonderful idea—and thin it out with oil to toss it with greens. Whatever else is in your salad is irrelevant, so just imagining the greens will do. Picture every leaf, every ribboned strand, coated with olive oil married with the pesto you love. Listen to me, pesto is making that salad sing like a creamy bowl of comfort. Pesto is turning salad into a decadent event. Pesto is returning salad to its former glory!

Lemon Tarragon Pesto

I feel so sure of this truth, in fact, that I have nothing else I want to say today but, Eat Salad! Make Pesto! Then Rejoice!


Lemon Tarragon Pesto Dressing
Makes about 12 ounces

As shared in the above post, you don’t have to use this particular pesto recipe to make your salad dressing; take whatever greens or herbs you like; swap the nuts with walnuts or pine nuts or pistachios; use your favorite pesto recipe that you always like to make. All you need to remember, when you make it, is to keep adding olive oil until the pesto thins into a sauce. That said, however, this particular salad dressing, which blends parsley and tarragon with almonds and the bright kick of lemon has made me slap our kitchen counters more than once over the last week, so it’s not a bad one to try.

1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped tarragon
2 garlic cloves
1/4 to 1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup grated Pecorino
Juice of one large lemon
1 to 1 1/2 cups of olive oil
Salt, to taste

Combine parsley, tarragon, cloves, almonds, Pecorino, lemon juice and about 1/2 cup of olive oil in a Vitamix or a food processor, until fully blended. Keep adding olive oil until you get the consistency of a salad dressing. Taste and add salt to your liking. Enjoy on toast, on salad, tossed with pasta, etc.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 40 Comments

  1. Jacqui

    This post is making me long for summer, when I hope to grow enough fresh herbs to be swimming in pesto for months. But mostly it’s making me realize I need to make/eat more pesto, period. And pesto dressing!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Girl, EVERYTHING is making me long for summer these days. And the mere thought of your fresh herb garden is such a beautiful one that I’m longing for it even more now.

  2. Nicole

    I love the idea of pesto dressing and I am really craving pesto pizza now! A tarragon version sounds like a fun new take.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Nicole! Pesto pizza! I’m craving it, too!

  3. ami@naivecookcooks

    I need to try this pesto, Shanna!!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Please do, Ami, and then please tell me if you like it as much as we do! : )

  4. Marie @ Little Kitchie

    Love this! There are really few things more wonderful than freshly made pesto in the spring. Love the tarragon in this one!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thanks, Marie! ; )

  5. Felicia @ Dish by Dish

    I loved how you described the taste and feel of pesto! you make me yearn for pesto pasta, and maybe I’ll pour some pesto over leftover greens and restore them back to their former glory! And I’m rejoicing! Happy Easter dear Shanna!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      : ) Thanks, Felicia!

  6. Kelley

    Austen!! :) And the pesto sounds great, too … I’ve never tried to make it, but you sure make it sound easy.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Trust me when I say it’s easy…. I am the girl who makes grating cheese difficult, haha! : )

  7. Holly

    haha, I love this post. “Whatever else is in your salad is irrelevant.” “Listen to me..” so much passion! go eat salad, people!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Ha! When it comes to pesto, I get bossy!

  8. sarah kate branine

    Oh boy! See? I totally didn’t know that pesto was this easy. You are so inspiring on so many levels. The pesto level not the least of them! : )

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Right back at you, friend!

  9. Ashley

    haha i love the visual of you slapping the counter. i have a happy food dance, too.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      : ) My eyes might have watered from sheer joy, too… only to be topped by the euphoria of Tim’s homemade vanilla bean ice cream a few days later. That guy!

  10. Kathryn

    Ah yes, I love using a pesto-esque salad dressing on a pasta salad in the warmer months with some fresh cherry tomatoes and a handful of bocconcini. I would say that it has me yearning for summer but as I’m sat outside in the sunshine and it’s 70 degrees here, I probably can’t complain too much can I? 😉

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Kathryn! Living the dream! I love this!

  11. Paula @ Vintage Kitchen

    The first paragraph is absolutely true, for me at least. I use pesto in everything, even soups. Everything is a little better with some pesto. But this recipe is very interesting because it uses a lot of lemon, which makes it great for salad, and I always pass up the fresh tarragon due to a lack of good recipes to use it in.
    Love this one Shanna!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Mmmm pesto in soup! Love this idea!

  12. Jessie V

    oh, we need green. i am SO tired of snow. YEP. thank you!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      preach it, Jessie!

  13. J.S. @ Sun Diego Eats

    Tarragon is such a underutilized herb! This sounds like it would be lovely served in a salad with roast chicken and green grapes…

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Yum, YES.

  14. sarah

    I love pesto. I read somewhere recently that pesto is ‘so 90’s’, but I think it will always be in style at my house. This sounds delicious!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      haha! let me tell you, pesto was so not 90s in my house growing up… : )

  15. thelittleloaf

    I love how infinitely adaptable pesto is – so many different herbs and leaves you can use, nuts, cheeses and about a million uses from dips to salad dressings. The addition of tarragon here is lovely and that vibrant green colour makes me want to dive into a salad right now.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Me too!

  16. Kathryne

    Yes! I love pesto. On everything. Everything!!!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Girl after my own heart!

  17. Helene @ French Foodie Baby

    I have a big smile on my face after reading this post (obviously catching up on some FLW reading). Loving pesto play by play! I’m rejoicing already and I haven’t even had the dressing yet. It’s really a great idea, the pesto turned dressing thing. It shall make its way into our salads in the coming weeks :-)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      It’s such a simple, wonderful delight — I hope you think so, too! : )

  18. Kim

    I just might have to try this little idea with my next batch of parsley pesto! Have I mentioned that our parsley plant has turned into a bit of a bush? I’m guessing I could pull 8-12 cups of parsley out of there, and still not leave it barren.

    1. Shanna Mallon


  19. Pingback: Found | Inspiration : by Food | LimeBlog

  20. Sheena

    Yummy pesto – I made with walnuts instead of almonds, and was fantastic. A really zingy, fresh pesto. Thanks!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for coming back to say so.

  21. Jenn

    I found this recipe while searching for ways to use up all the tarragon and parsley in my garden before the temps dip to freezing tonight. Thanks for a great way to use last herbs of the summer! I’m also going to make a chive pesto with the last of my chives and some tarragon vinegar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>