Kale & Walnut Pesto

kale & walnut pesto + easy uses  / loveandlemons.com

Pesto is one of my favorite things to make and have on hand. I put spoonfuls of it on (almost)ย everything. It makes otherwise-boring meals seem instantly fancy. I thought I’d share some of my favorite go-to uses. (if you have a favorite, feel free to share!)

Of course, there are tons of pesto variations to be had. This one is based on ingredients that I happened to have on hand at the time. Or more specifically, the ingredient I did not have: basil. Last year my basil plant made a miraculous comeback from the prior winter. This spring, not so much.

So until I get a new plant growing, I’ll be making pesto out of other green things.

kale & walnut pesto / loveandlemons.com

kale & walnut pesto
  • small bunch of kale (4-6 leaves, remove the thick part of the stems*)
  • ¼ cup walnuts, toasted
  • ½ to 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil (or more for a smoother pesto)
  • juice & zest of one lemon
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • optional: grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • (note: you can use all of the kale stems in your pesto, you will just have to boil them longer (separately) than the leaves. About 20 minutes, or until tender)
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  2. Blanch kale for about 30 seconds, remove and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  3. Dry the kale a bit, squeeze out some of excess water and set on a towel for a few minutes more.
  4. Blend everything together in a food processor. Pulse to create a chunky pesto, blend longer to create a smoother one. Taste and adjust, adding more salt, pepper, lemon, olive oil, as necessary.

If you make this, let us see! Tag your photo with #loveandlemons on Instagram.


  1. i s a from headredandblondi.blogspot.com on said:

    Wow! Scrumptious!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Meryl on said:

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      oh of course, how could I forget about pizza? ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Lauren from gourmetveggiemama.com on said:

    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 from loveandlemons.com on said:

      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 from loveandlemons.com on said:

      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 from loveandlemons.com on said:

      ha, me too ๐Ÿ™‚

  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”! ๐Ÿ™‚

  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 on said:

    I was in a store while reading this post, about to pay for my groceries when I ran to grab some kale and walnuts ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for a yum looking pesto! Can’t wait to try.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      ha! Glad you saw it in time ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Emma on said:

    Just whipped this up for my lunch ๐Ÿ™‚ After finding my walnuts past their used by date, I substituted with pecans and was delicious!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      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 from loveandlemons.com on said:

      I’m so guilty of that too…

  12. Jamie from thriftyveggiemama.com on said:

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

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

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

  13. nuria from birdymoments.blogspot.co.uk on said:

    I love pesto as well ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 from loveandlemons.com on said:

      thanks Nuria, welcome!

  14. Jillian from coffeelightandsweet.com on said:

    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 on said:

    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 on said:

    I think you missed out ‘just eating it with a spoon’ from your list ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. Noelle on said:

    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. laurasmess from laurasmess.me on said:

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 on said:

    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 from loveandlemons.com on said:


      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 on said:

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

    • Dew on said:

      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) ๐Ÿ™‚

      • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

        definitely! I blanch mine, just barely, to avoid any bitterness ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. JMill on said:

    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 from loveandlemons.com on said:

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

  23. Lacey on said:

    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 from loveandlemons.com on said:

      so glad you liked it! I hope you’ve continued to enjoy it all week ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Noelle from noellebeesmith.blogspot.ca on said:

    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 from Loveandlemons.com on said:

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

  26. Carol from Loveandlemons.com on said:

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

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

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

  27. Olga on said:

    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 on said:

    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.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe (after making it):