Easy Kale Pesto

Don't have basil? Make this easy Kale Pesto in just 5 minutes! It's wonderful to keep on hand for sandwiches, grain bowls, pastas, and salads.

Kale Pesto

Kale pesto is one of my favorite things to keep on hand for easy meals throughout the week. When I don’t have basil for my pesto, kale is a great alternative since it’s so healthy and green. I put spoonfuls of it on so many things. It makes otherwise-boring meals seem instantly fancy. Here are some of my favorite uses.

How to use Kale Pesto

  • On a Grain Salad. Make a quick grain salad with farro or quinoa, a handful of greens, crumbly cheese, toasted walnuts and a scoop of pesto.
  • As a Sandwich Spread. Slather pesto onto sandwiches, like these grilled eggplant sandwiches or this veggie caprese sandwich.
  • Make a quick crostini. Spread onto toasted baguette for an easy, fast appetizer.
  • Make Green Eggs. Dollop pesto onto your morning scramble.
  • As Pasta Sauce. Make the pesto with a bit more olive oil so that it has a smooth consistency. Toss the pesto with hot pasta, using some of the starchy pasta water to loosen it up, creating a creamy pasta sauce.

The first recipe here is for kale walnut pesto. Walnuts are a delicious alternative to pine nuts, which are typically used in pesto. Pesto can be made with nearly any type of nut or seed, so the second recipe below uses hemp seeds. That version is a great alternative if you’re cooking for someone with a nut allergy.

Kale Pesto

How to Make Kale Pesto:

  1. Pulse the walnuts and garlic in a food processor
  2. Add the chopped kale and pulse again.
  3. Add the lemon juice salt and pepper and pulse again.
  4. While the blade is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Scrape the sides of the food processor, if necessary, and pulse again. For a smoother pesto, add more olive oil.
  5. Season to taste and enjoy!

Kale Pesto with hemp seeds – a nut-free alternative:

  • Use hemp seeds in place of the walnuts

Kale Pesto with Hemp Seeds

No kale?

Make pesto with carrot tops, mint & peas, or broccoli.

What to do with the kale stems? Make Kale Stem Pesto!


Easy Kale Pesto
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Kale pesto is so easy to make! Below is an option for Walnut Kale Pesto, and one for Hemp Seed Kale pesto, which is great if you're cooking for someone with a nut allergy.
Author:
Serves: 1 cup
Ingredients
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 cups chopped kale leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus lemon zest, optional
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for a smoother pesto
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese, optional
Instructions
  1. Pulse the walnuts and garlic in a food processor. Add the kale and pulse again.
  2. Add the lemon juice salt and pepper and pulse again.
  3. While the blade is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Scrape the sides of the food processor, if necessary, and pulse again. For a smoother pesto, add more olive oil.
  4. Season to taste. Pulse in grated parmesan cheese, if desired.
Notes
*If you want to incorporate the kale stems into your pesto, chop them and boil for 20 minutes, or until tender. Let cool slightly before adding to the food processor.

 

74 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  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!

    • jeanine
      04.02.2013

      ha, me too 🙂

  7. Kale pesto…what a fantastic idea! I adore pesto and kale (and always have some in the fridge). A great quick meal that’s tasty and healthy! Thanks for the idea! FYI…this also inspired me to create a “Pesto & Pasta Sauce” Pinterest board, on which I pinned this (http://pinterest.com/deliciouskarma)…to share the “pesto love”! 🙂

  8. 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!

  9. 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 🙂

  10. 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!

  11. 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…

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. Jillian from coffeelightandsweet.com
    04.04.2013

    Kale and walnut pesto is one my staples. Love it even more than the traditional basil pesto! I like the addition of a bit of lemon zest. Haven’t tried that, but it seems like it would give it a nice zing.

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. Kathryn from londonbakes.com
    04.05.2013

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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

  21. Laini from lainimadhubuti.tumblr.com
    05.15.2013

    Beautiful site! Question, must you blanch the kale? I eat a lot of raw kale salad, so I’m wondering whether raw kale pesto will work.

    • jeanine
      05.15.2013

      thanks!

      I’m not sure, I’ve never tried it with raw kale. If you go for it, let me know how it works out (and what you end up altering to get it to work out)!

    • Jen
      05.26.2013

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

    • 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) 🙂

      • jeanine
        09.16.2013

        definitely! I blanch mine, just barely, to avoid any bitterness 🙂

  22. JMill
    07.16.2013

    Wow, just added some goat cheese and sriracha to this and my husband and I can’t get enough! What a perfect wait to eat more kale!

    • jeanine
      07.17.2013

      sounds like some nice additions! (I’ll add sriracha to anything any day!)

  23. 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 🙂

  24. 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!

  25. Carol
    07.18.2014

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

  26. 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).

  27. 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.

  28. Anita
    04.05.2015

    I just made this but with cashews instead of walnuts. It’s so delicious! I have to stop myself from eating it by the spoon.

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.