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.


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 10 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
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.



  • 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.


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


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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Jen

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

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. Noelle

    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.

  5. Kathryn from londonbakes.com

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

  6. 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!

  7. Danielle

    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!

  8. nuria from birdymoments.blogspot.co.uk

    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

      thanks Nuria, welcome!

  9. Jamie from thriftyveggiemama.com

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

    • jeanine

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

  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

      I’m so guilty of that too…

  11. Emma

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

    • jeanine

      I love pecan pesto, so versatile!

  12. Dana from celiackiddo.wordpress.com

    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.

    • jeanine

      ha! Glad you saw it in time 🙂

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

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

    • jeanine

      love it, I do an arugula variation sometimes too.

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

  17. Lauren from gourmetveggiemama.com

    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

      hope you like it!

  18. Meryl

    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

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

  19. i s a from headredandblondi.blogspot.com

    Wow! Scrumptious!! 😉

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.