Nettle Recipes

Stinging nettles deserve their name – they have tiny little hair-like stingers on the leaves and stems that make touching them very unpleasant. But never fear, cooking removes the stingy stuff and leaves only the woodsy-tasting leaves behind. Just handle fresh nettles with gloves and all will be well.

If you have never eaten stinging nettles you might be surprised at how tasty they are. They are also abundant in the Spring. You might find them at your local farm market. If you have a chance to try them- take it. Nettles are very nutritious and mild-flavored. They are sometimes used to make tea but can be used in any recipe where you might use spinach. Here are a couple of recipes you might want to try.

Nettle Pesto

1/2 pound nettles
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer for the nettles. Add the nettles directly from their bag and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. (This denatures their sting.) Dump into a colander to drain. When the nettles are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a clean dishtowel and wring out as much moisture as possible, like you would for spinach. You’ll have about a cup of cooked, squished nettles.

In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the paddle attachment, whirl the garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper to taste until finely chopped. Add the nettles, breaking them up as you drop them in, and the lemon juice and whirl until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Add the cheese, pulse briefly, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice.

Nettle Soup

1 lb. stinging nettles

2 t. salt

1 T. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1/4 c. rice

4 c. chicken or vegetable broth

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 2 teaspoons of salt. Drop in the stinging nettles, and cook 1 to 2 minutes until they soften. This will remove most of the sting. Drain in a colander, and rinse with cold water. Trim off any tough stems, then chop coarsely.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and stir in the onion. Cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice, chicken broth, and chopped nettles. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes, 40 minutes if you are using brown rice. Puree the soup with an immersion blender, and season to taste with salt and pepper.