Easy Kale Pesto

This vibrant kale pesto recipe comes together in 5 minutes flat! Nutty and bright, it's delicious on pasta, pizza, sandwiches, bowls, and more.

Kale pesto

When I have a bunch of kale in the fridge, I almost always save a few leaves to make this kale pesto recipe. I especially love making it in the winter, when basil is out of season. Of course, it doesn’t taste exactly like basil pesto (basil is more aromatic, while kale is more peppery), but it’s still delicious. Extra-virgin olive oil and pepitas make it rich and nutty, and lemon juice adds a lovely bright finish.

The whole recipe requires 8 ingredients and comes together in 5 minutes, so it’s a great one to have in your back pocket. Whizz it together and toss it with pasta for an easy dinner one night, and save the leftover kale pesto for the next day. It’s super versatile, so you’ll have no trouble finding ways to use it. Spoon it over eggs, dollop it on a grain bowl, or slather it on a sandwich. The options are endless!

Kale pesto recipe ingredients

Kale Pesto Recipe Ingredients

Ready to make kale pesto? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Fresh kale, of course! You’ll just use the leaves and tender stems in this recipe. Save the tough stems for another use. You could blend them into a smoothie or simmer them into soup!
  • Garlic – For sharp depth of flavor.
  • Pepitas – Pepitas create an especially vibrant green pesto, but if you don’t have them on hand, feel free to substitute another nut or seed. Hemp seeds, walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts all work well.
  • Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast – Both options are delicious! Parmesan is traditional for pesto, but if you’re vegan, nutritional yeast is a great substitute. It adds savory, cheesy flavor to this kale pesto recipe.
  • Lemon juice – For brightness.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – A pesto essential! It adds richness and moisture to tie the sauce together.
  • And salt and pepper – To make all the flavors pop.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Kale, seeds, and nutritional yeast in a food processor

How to Make Kale Pesto

You can whizz together this easy kale pesto in 5 minutes flat! Here’s what you need to do:

First, pulse the solid ingredients. Add the garlic and pepitas to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to grind them up. Then, add the nutritional yeast or cheese, salt, and pepper, and pulse again.

Next, add the raw kale leaves and lemon juice. Process until all the ingredients are well-combined.

Hands pouring olive oil from a measuring cup into a food processor

Then, add the oil. With the blade running, pour the oil into the food processor. Process until the oil is completely incorporated.

Finally, season to taste! Try a spoonful of the sauce and add more salt, pepper, lemon juice, and/or nutritional yeast, as desired. If the kale pesto tastes bitter, add 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup or honey to balance it.

Enjoy!

Kale pesto in a food processor

How to Use Kale Pesto

You’ll love having this kale pesto on hand in your kitchen! It’s super versatile, so have fun experimenting with different ways to use it. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

How do you like to use kale pesto? Let me know in the comments!

Kale pesto recipe

More Favorite Sauces and Dressings

If you love this recipe, try one of these sauces or dressings next:

Kale Pesto

rate this recipe:
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time: 5 mins
Serves 8
This vibrant kale pesto is bright, nutty, and delicious! Toss it with pasta, or find more serving suggestions in the post above. Leftover pesto will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze it for up to 2 months.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup pepitas
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, or 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • Heaping ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 packed cups chopped curly kale
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • In a food processor, pulse the pepitas and garlic until the pepitas are ground up. Add the cheese or nutritional yeast, salt, and several grinds of pepper and pulse again.
  • Add the kale and lemon juice. With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil, and process until combined. Season to taste.

Notes

Tip: If the kale pesto is too bitter, add ¼ teaspoon maple syrup or honey.
Makes 1 cup.

57 comments

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  1. i s a from headredandblondi.blogspot.com
    04.02.2013

    Wow! Scrumptious!! 😉

  2. Meryl
    04.02.2013

    I love to keep pesto around as well…it’s so versatile! My husband and I like to use it as a topping for our weekly pizza night 🙂

    • jeanine
      04.02.2013

      oh of course, how could I forget about pizza? 🙂

  3. Lauren from gourmetveggiemama.com
    04.02.2013

    Why did I never think to make kale pesto?? My plants are about to bolt, so I think this will be a project for the weekend…

    • jeanine
      04.02.2013

      hope you like it!

  4. This looks amazing! I love kale pesto. Been too long since I’ve made it. Might have to make some this weekend.

  5. I have a spinach and walnut pesto that I loooove to make. I have to try this kale version! Pesto is so versatile!

    • jeanine
      04.02.2013

      love it, I do an arugula variation sometimes too.

  6. Hi. My name is Sylvia and I’m a pesto-holic. No joke. This looks so delicious! Always looking for new ways to make this all time favorite of mine. Sounds nutritious too :). Will have to try this one out soon!

  7. This looks so yummy! I love making pesto – there are so many ways to change it up, but it is always great! Yours makes me want some very soon!

  8. Dana from celiackiddo.wordpress.com
    04.02.2013

    I was in a store while reading this post, about to pay for my groceries when I ran to grab some kale and walnuts 🙂 Thanks for a yum looking pesto! Can’t wait to try.
    -Dana

    • jeanine
      04.03.2013

      ha! Glad you saw it in time 🙂

  9. Emma
    04.02.2013

    Just whipped this up for my lunch 🙂 After finding my walnuts past their used by date, I substituted with pecans and was delicious!

    • jeanine
      04.03.2013

      I love pecan pesto, so versatile!

  10. Ooo, trying this tomorrow night! Love that you offered 5 different options as well. I’m pretty good (bad?) at eating the same exact dish over and over until I get sick of it.

    • jeanine
      04.03.2013

      I’m so guilty of that too…

  11. Jamie from thriftyveggiemama.com
    04.03.2013

    Delcious! I love pesto but basil is so expensive. Love that you used kale and the less expensive walnuts too

    • jeanine
      04.03.2013

      I know, I love pine nuts, but they’re SO expensive.

  12. nuria from birdymoments.blogspot.co.uk
    04.03.2013

    I love pesto as well 🙂 I think it’s the perfect ingredient for everything. Today I did two beautiful sandwichies with pesto that were delicious.

    I just found your blog, I think that you are doing a great job with this blog!

    • jeanine
      04.03.2013

      thanks Nuria, welcome!

  13. Danielle
    04.04.2013

    I made this last night and used it as a sauce for my margarita pizza – wow was it every delicious! The lemon added an unexpected zip!

  14. Looks great! I love pesto- any combo of nuts and greens works for me! Thanks for posting this one with Kale, I will have to try it!

  15. Kathryn from londonbakes.com
    04.05.2013

    I think you missed out ‘just eating it with a spoon’ from your list 😉

  16. Noelle
    04.09.2013

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was fantastic over pasta! I agree that the lemon put it over the top. I can’t wait to use the leftovers for as many things as I can think of.

  17. Usually I stick with parsley or basil walnut pesto, but I would be very interested to try kale in it’s place. Thank you for posting this!

  18. I love the idea of the kale pesto! I’ve been trying to work more kale into our weekly diet (for my husband and I… haha, I am gradually converting him to kale!) and this looks like a fantastic option to add in the benefits of kale without having to chew through heaps of leaves 🙂 Thanks for sharing this inspired idea. I love walnuts so that in itself is enough to convince me to make it, like, now! x

  19. Jen
    05.26.2013

    I make it often w raw, just remove the stems and save them for a stew or something later.

  20. Lacey
    09.14.2013

    This is a great recipe for using kale in a creative way beyond soups and smoothies! Thank you! Made it tonight for a pasta toss, (tossed with pasta, shrimp, parmesan and kalamata olives). I did add a few basil leaves to the pesto, and loved the addition of the lemon. It was sooo delicious! I think that blanching the kale gives it that bright green color that tends to stay that way for an extended time. I made a lot of it so we will be using it in a variety of ways this week. I think trying it on pizza with roasted tomatoes and feta or mozzarella cheese would be lovely.

    • jeanine
      09.16.2013

      so glad you liked it! I hope you’ve continued to enjoy it all week 🙂

  21. Dew
    09.15.2013

    I’ve made a raw version and it comes out well but I have to say it tastes much better blanched (but the raw still tastes better than overcooking it) 🙂

  22. Noelle from noellebeesmith.blogspot.ca
    06.24.2014

    Was in the mood for a kale/walnut pesto tonight, and yours was perfect! In fact I loved it so much, I blogged about it (and of course directed my readers back to your beautiful website). Thank you so much – I know I’ll be returning to L&L on a regular basis – beautiful!

  23. Carol
    07.18.2014

    Does it matter what kind if kale you use (Dino,curly,etc)?

  24. Carol
    07.18.2014

    Does it matter what kind of kale is used (Dino,curly,etc)?

    • jeanine
      07.21.2014

      I used dino, I think curly kale might be fine too (since it all gets blended up anyway).

  25. Olga
    11.04.2014

    I just made a bunch of kale pesto. I did not cook the kale. I also tossed in a jalapeno pepper per batch scince I had a bunch laying around. I plan on using it in soups and frittatas this winter. It’s the only way I can get my husband to eat kale.

  26. Mary
    04.15.2020

    I love this recipe and was making it so much last summer and fall that I burned out on it!

    I’ve been sheltering in place for almost a month and it’s been difficult to get to the store for fresh produce. So now I have three bunches of kale from my grocery delivery yesterday and I’m going to use at least one for this pesto and then freeze it so I have some greens left. Thanks so much for this awesome recipe! Stay well!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.18.2020

      Hi Mary, ha, I’m so glad you’ve loved the recipe… freezing pesto is such a great idea for making fresh groceries last!

  27. Jeanine Donofrio
    06.05.2020

    I’m so glad you loved it!

  28. Jeanine Donofrio
    07.12.2020

    I’m so glad you loved the kale pesto!

  29. Di
    08.16.2020

    How long can you keep kale pesto in refrigerator?,..

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.30.2020

      I keep it 3 to 4 days.

  30. Candy
    09.09.2020

    Can you make a store for long periods of time?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.10.2020

      Hi Candy, you can store it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, and you can freeze it to last longer than that.

      • Nancy
        12.02.2020

        Just curious if the kale is curly kale or tuscan kale? I am having a hard time figuring it out from the image. Thank you

  31. Lanee
    01.26.2021

    Have you ever tried doing this with thawed, frozen kale? I have tons in the freezer from my summer garden.

    • Kari
      01.26.2021

      I’m wondering this too. We have a ton of kale in the freezer and want to use it up.

      • Jeanine Donofrio
        01.26.2021

        I haven’t, I usually use frozen kale just for smoothies. I think it might work if you squeeze out the excess water after thawing.

  32. Shari
    01.28.2021

    Love this alternative to regular pesto! Do you think spinach pesto would work as well?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      01.28.2021

      Hi Shari, yep! I love spinach pesto.

  33. Brooklyn
    02.14.2021

    Mmm, looks delicious! I’ll have to try it out. Could you also do this recipe with spinach? Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      02.15.2021

      you could!

      • Brooklyn
        02.15.2021

        sounds great! Thanks again!

  34. Laura
    02.23.2021

    Just made this and it was so delicious! Thank you! 😍

  35. Vivian Dibrell
    03.23.2021

    This recipe makes the most delicious thing ever! I love it more than basil pesto by a huge amount. I have put it on everything imaginable. My favorite is on top of sliced hard-boiled eggs which are on toast with mayonnaise. DELISH!!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.