Celery Leaf Pesto: Time Well Spent

Chicken and Jicama Salad with Celery Leaf Pesto

I made Celery Leaf Pesto because I spend a lot of time at home these days. My duties as a caregiver for my MIL mean I often have hours on my hands where I have nothing much to do. However, I need to be able to drop whatever I’m doing at a moment’s notice. So I’m always looking for tasks that can be stopped and started at that same moment’s notice. 

Things like Celery Leaf Pesto can keep my hands busy but allow me to keep my mind on my responsibilities.

Celery Leaf Pesto

That’s because Celery Leaf Pesto requires no great skill. It does, however, require you to sit in one place and remove the leaves individually from stalks of celery. Much like shucking beans it can be a bore if you let it. So I try not to let it. I have a fabulous interior life…

Of course, if you say the word pesto it won’t be long before an Italian food connoisseur in your exterior life will declare the basil-centric pesto alla Genovese as the only true pesto. But don’t worry because the name pesto is derived from the Italian word pestare (to pound or crush). So as long as you can pound it or crush it then I say – there is no such thing as the one true pesto. Because pesto can be unexpected. It can be creative. It can be made with celery leaves that have been patiently plucked one-by-one until you have a great big delicious pile. GREG

PS: It doesn’t have to be served with pasta either. You can serve pesto on (or in) anything.

Chicken and Jicama Salad with Celery Leaf Pesto

Chicken and Jicama Salad with Celery Pesto 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Inspired by Nancy SilvertonPublished

Use the pesto immediately or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to two days — any longer and it will lose its pretty green color and vibrant flavor.

Chicken and Jicama Salad with Celery Pesto


  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more if needed)
  • ¼ ounce flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 ounce celery leaves (light green leaves are best, divided)
  • 1–2 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 pound cooked chicken breast (about ounces, cut into 3/4‑inch dice)
  • 1 pound fresh jicama (cut into 3/4‑inch dice)
  • 3 stalks celery (cut into ¼‑inch slices on an extreme bias)
  • 4 scallions (cut into ¼‑inch slices on an extreme bias, both white and green parts)
  • 8 ounce burrata (optional)
  • 3–4 fresh sprigs tarragon (leaves only)
  • whole lettuce leaves (for serving, optional)


To make the celery pesto: Combine the pine nuts, garlic, salt, and about half of the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the parsley and pulse until it is finely chopped. Turn off the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add about two-thirds of the celery leaves, the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the remaining olive oil and purée, stopping as soon as the ingredients form a homogenous, but not too smooth paste, and adding more olive oil if necessary to obtain a loose, spoonable pesto. Cover and set aside. (see notes).

To assemble the salad: Combine diced chicken, diced jicama, sliced celery, and sliced scallions in a large bowl. Drizzle with 2–3 tablespoons celery pesto (or more to taste). Toss to combine.

Pile the salad in the center of a large serving plate. If you are using burrata, nestle it in the center of the salad. Use the back of a spoon to create a shallow crater in the center and spoon more pesto into the crater. Garnish with remaining celery leaves and tarragon leaves, and serve it “taco-style” wrapped in lettuce leaves, if you like.