Lemony Garlic Scape Pesto. The ONLY Pesto You Need.

Garlic scape pesto is the talk of the town and now you can actually buy garlic scapes at markets. So I thought it was about time to remind you about this swirly, magical offshoot of garlic.

A twirl of linguine dressed with garlic scape pesto on a black plate set on a rough wood table.

The year was 2013.  I had written a post about how to make garlic scape pesto, the best pesto you’ll ever eat.  The kind of pesto that will ruin you for regular pesto for the rest of your life. At that time garlic scapes were still a bit of an anomaly. The kind of thing weirdos and food hustlers were trying to get you to eat. 

Like corn smut. Which I was gullible enough to eat last summer when I found the fungus growing on my corn.

Back then, in 2013, Garlic scapes were what the underground cool kids were cooking.

Now garlic scapes have made their way to farmer’s markets and people actually know what they are even if they still aren’t quite sure what to do with them.

Coils of garlic scapes laid on a rough wood table, tied up with string. A black handled knife set off to the side.

I’ve tried scapes many ways including sautéed, grilled and as a fashion accessory.  But really the only thing you should do with them is make garlic scape pesto.  I make 3 or 4 batches of this, freeze it in ice cube trays and then throw them all into a big freezer bag and pull them out as I need them.

Garlic Scape Pesto on linguine in an antique ironstone bowl, topped with shavings of parmesan, basil leaves and a wedge of lemon.

To make garlic scape pesto you only need a few ingredients, and really only a few scapes.

10 scapes will get you a batch of pesto that will serve 8 people.


Side view of garlic scape pesto on linguine in an antique ironstone bowl. Topped with shaved parmesan, basil leaves and lemon.

Before I give you the recipe here’s a refresher of what a garlic scape is (a lot of people missed out on the entire year of 2013 on account of the Candy Crush addiction epidemic.)

What is a garlic scape?

  • A garlic scape is the round stem that grows out of the centre of the garlic plant in late June.
  • That stem eventually turns into the flower head of the garlic and will produce seeds.
  • Scapes need to be cut off of growing garlic to allow the garlic plant to push its energy towards growing the garlic bulb, not the garlic flower.
  •  They’re a delicacy that only comes once a year for a very short period of time.  Like fiddleheads or ramps.  Or a really funny Saturday Night Live skit.

This is a “brighter” version of pesto from the addition of lemon juice.  You can add more or less lemon juice as you like but the amount in the recipe below is the amount I use in all my batches.

Ingredients for garlic scape pesto laid out on rough wood table. Pine nuts in cast iron pan, lemon juicer and lemon, rasp with lemon zest, grated parmesan cheese in small black bowl, chopped scapes on small wood cutting board and full scapes swirling around.

You just whizz everything together in a blender or food processor and you’re done.

Bright green garlic scape pesto in blender. on a rough wood table with a squeezed lemon half off to the side and garlic scapes coil on the other side.

There’s no cooking.

No heating.

No nothing.

You blend, and then serve or freeze.  

Garlic Scape Pesto

A summery version of pesto made with garlic scapes and lemon juice.
4.5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8
Calories: 358kcal
Author: Karen


  • 1 cup rough chopped garlic scapes apx. 10 scapes
  • 1/2 cup basil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 lemon juice & zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil


  • Toast pine nuts in a dry pan over medium/low heat for a few minutes.  Toss them and turn them until they just start to brown.
  • Pulse first 7 ingredients in food processor or blender (everything but the oil) until everything is chopped up.
  • Slowly drizzle in oil with processor or blender running.
  • Serve over linguine. (you can heat your pesto in a pan first if you like)


If you want a brighter more citrusy pesto, use a whole lemon.
Leftover pesto can be frozen in an ice cube tray then transferred to a freezer bag and saved for a taste of summer in the middle of a frosty winter.
Pine nuts too expensive?  You can get a very similar result by substituting with walnuts. 


Serving: 1g | Calories: 358kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 391mg | Potassium: 72mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 135IU | Vitamin C: 11.1mg | Calcium: 118mg | Iron: 1mg

I do 3 things with this pesto: put it on linguine, give it away, and make pizza.  My killer recipe for pesto pizza will be coming soon. 

There isn’t much time left so if you want to make this head to a farmer’s market immediately or find someone who’s growing garlic and beg for a few scapes. Don’t give them the recipe though because they’ll never give you any scapes then.  They’ll keep them all for themselves.  That’s an insider tip right there.


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Lemony Garlic Scape Pesto. The ONLY Pesto You Need.


  1. Cherie says:

    This is, bar none, the best pesto recipe I have ever used. I did, however, make a slight change. Instead of 1 cup of olive oil, I used just 3/4 cup and rather than freeze in ice cube trays, I froze them in small Rubbermaid containers. There are just enough scapes left in my fridge to make another batch later this week. I’m finishing off a batch of your recipe combined with Chef John’s recipe of Bread and Butter Pickles. Cherie

    • Karen says:

      Thanks so much for coming back and leaving a comment. :) I’m glad you loved it. Next step for you? Trying it on pizza with pecans, goat cheese, basil leaves and honey! (recipe coming up in a couple of weeks) ~ karen!

  2. Manisha says:

    This is really the only pesto I like (actually I also really love pea vine shoots pesto too) and I’ve been making this for years. But have never added lemon, so of course, I will try your tip and probably love it. I go nuts over this pesto in the middle of winter! So wonderful to make naan pizza with this pesto. Can’t wait to make mine this weekend!

  3. Marna says:

    Thanks will have to try this. My family loves garlic. I have grown garlic chives for 40 years for that reason. I wish I had known about this when I grew garlic, might have to do grow it again. I like the walnut idea too! :)

  4. Andrea says:

    I have everything I need to make this delicious sounding pesto but I did substitute walnuts for pine nuts which are quite expensive here. One question, should I toast the walnuts or would that only apply to pine nuts?

  5. Nora Crane says:

    I made this recipe Friday night & served with lightly breaded & fried haddock. It was superb! Thank you for providing us with one of those recipes that is a life-long keeper. The lemon is perfect.

    • Stephanie says:

      I seem to recall somewhere a recipe for pesto that used less oil but used chicken stock…?It may have been in an old Marcela Hazan book or something. I don’t remember. Too many pesto recipes are dancing in my head.

  6. Karen Jeanne says:

    Please don’t chase me away from your blog with a pitchfork for asking this: in the unfortunate case of someone who cannot eat high fat foods, is there another way to prepare this recipe that doesn’t include the cup of olive oil? I understand fat = flavor, but it can also lead to pain for me. If you know of a way to modify the recipe so I can eat it, that would be lovely. I have figured out how to modify baked goods, but I’m not sure how to alter savory foods that call for this much oil. Could I just leave that ingredient out? Thanks in advance!

    • Stephanie says:

      deeply buried in my memory is a pesto recipe that used less oil but added chicken stock…maybe an old Marcella Hazan book? Cooks Illustrated?

  7. Laura Bee says:

    I have wanted to try garlic scapes sinve you first posted about them. And yesterday my sister gave me her last 4 scapes as I was leaving her place.
    Going to make a small batch of this later today.

  8. Lianne says:

    Oooh! Just cut my scales off yesterday! Last year I made the pesto and added a some to a mix of cream cheese & sour cream to make a delicious dip!

    I always cut the flower “bud” part off and discard it, is it edible?

  9. Carol says:

    Very good. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Jan in Waterdown says:

    The best place imo to buy pine nuts is Costco. I can’t remember the price difference cuz I’m getting old and stupid but it was worth buying that big honkin’ bag to stuff in the frig (otherwise they’ll go rancid like walnuts do) then scoop out handfuls as needed. It seems to last forever.

    • Karen says:

      Yeah, I’ve bought bags there in the past and kept them in the freezer but I didn’t want to drive there just for pine nuts. :/ ~ karen!

  11. Glenda says:

    I’ll have to get a 2nd mortgage so I can afford pine nuts. Scratch!

    • Karen says:

      Just use walnuts. They taste not exactly the same, but similar. When I paid for my pine nuts I could choke it down by figuring well, it’s about $8 for the amount I need for the recipe and it serves 8. So $1 a serving isn’t so bad. ~ karen!

      • Lauren says:

        Wow! In our neck of the woods Pine Nuts are MUCH cheaper than walnuts. I nearly fell over when you suggested the substitution. I got 1/2 cup for $2. Of course I keep burning them….

  12. Idaho Girl says:

    Perfect timing as always! I was eyeballing my garlic scapes this morning when I was watering the raised beds next to the garlic before work this morning, and making a mental post-it to harvest them this weekend. In fact, I wasn’t able to install one of the raised beds from Christmas because I already had my garlic planted there and didn’t want to sacrifice it. I’m anxiously waiting until the bulbs are ready to harvest so I can get that last bed erected and put it to use. I’m hosting a bridal shower in a few months with kind of a lemonade theme (bridesmaid’s idea), so I’m thinking Garlic Scape Pesto w/Lemon is now being added to the lunch menu – thanks Karen!

  13. Kitty McCarty says:

    This sounds wonderful. Problem is I have no garden & haven’t seen them for sale here (too new of an idea?). However, I have a ton of wild garlic in my yard. Any chance they would work? Please say yes, then I can stop cursing them.

  14. Mary W says:

    HELP: I don’t have garlic scapes, but have a pot full of chive scapes that I want desperately for you to say will work the same. They are bending over in a marvelous curtsy to me the queen of my garden. Actually I’m more like the sub-servant of my garden with Henry VIII grasshoppers and Count Dracula aphids the true royalty.

    • Brenda says:

      try it – I bet it will taste amazing!!!
      … you could toss in a clove or two of garlic for good measure!

      Garlic scape pesto is my favourite but I never thought of putting lemon + zest in it – that I’ve got to try now!

  15. Suz says:

    Perfect timing! We got scapes with our CSA share last night!

  16. LISA STEELE says:

    Would love to stay and chat, but I have scapes to pick and pesto to make! Can’t wait to try your recipe!

  17. Darlene says:

    Fantastic to get this recipe Karen. I purchased garlic scapes at our local once a few years ago. I attacked one raw found it to be like chewing on tree bark so gave the rest to my friend. He was excited to my surprise. Obviously he knew something I didn’t. I have garlic in my garden so will make your pesto Karen. Thanks kindly.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Darlene! The scapes you bought might have been left on the plant too long. They do get woody or … tough and splintery. So if you have some on your garlic, make sure you cut them to use before they get that way! They should form one loop (or circle) and that’s when to cut them off. ~ karen!

  18. Sabina says:

    Harvested my scapes last week and made a double batch, then found more! This is my favorite summer recipe!

  19. Emie says:

    We’ve been long time growers of garlic… 30 years or so. About 10 years ago we were at a garlic festival at a local winery and they had garlic scape pesto samples with a recipe. I’ve been making some version of it ever since. They are the unsung hero of early summer gardening. I’m going to try your recipe as I love lemon. Thanks.

  20. Julie Anne says:

    I just bought garlic scapes for the first time yesterday. Now I know what to do with them. Thank you.

    • Carswell says:

      They are really nice when you chop them into short chunks and sauté them lightly. They taste like very sweet and mild garlic. Yummm.

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