Hemp Seed & Kale Pesto

An easy 5-ingredient homemade Kale Pesto. Great for fall and winter, this recipe is vegan, gluten-, nut- & dairy-free. Serve on pasta or your favorite dish!

Kale & Hemp Seed Pesto

I freaking love pesto. I make it all the time – usually with any herbs, greens, nuts, or seeds I have around. I like to swirl it into my soups, top it onto my eggs, or dollop it onto big salad-ey grain bowls. While there are one or two (or twelve) pesto recipes on this site already, I really love this version, so I think there’s room for one more.

Before I started the blog, I would have never imagined just how many people are allergic to nuts. So in the spirit of the healthy new year, this tasty pesto is dairy-free, gluten-free (obviously), and nut-free with omega-rich hemp seeds in place of the nuts. It’s also basil-free because, well, it’s winter and basil is hard to find.

Kale & Hemp Seed Pesto

Make this and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days – put it on anything & everything (or use it in one of these recipes!)

5.0 from 13 reviews

Hemp Seed & Kale Pesto

Serves: about 1 cup
  • ½ cup hemp seeds (I like Happy Hemp)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 cups chopped kale leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Pulse the hemp seeds and garlic in a food processor. Add the kale and pulse again.
  2. Add the lemon juice and a few generous pinches of 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. Season to taste.
Kale can vary in bitterness - if your pesto is a little too bitter for you, add a drop of honey (or maple, if you're vegan). If it tastes a little too raw for you, (and you do cheese) you can add parmesan or pecorino cheese to make it richer. Occasionally, I like to add ¼ teaspoon of good dijon mustard for a extra flavor.



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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. Olivene Clavon

    Can I use pine nuts instead of hemp seeds gor the pesto?

  2. Lindsay

    I had spinach and basil, so I used that instead of the kale. I also added a little bit of nutritional yeast. It turned out great! I served with with roasted zucchini and tomatoes on top of spaghetti.

  3. Terry Scalzo

    As a lifelong lover and maker of pesto, I can safely say this is the best pesto recipe I have ever made. Amazing taste and texture! Thanks!

  4. Chantelle Kennedy

    Wondering about the nutritonal values of this, i assume its really just the hemp hearts and olive oil to count? I added nutritional yeast and its amazing!!
    Going to toss it over sweet potato noodles!!

  5. Sheree

    I really want to try this recipe but do not have a food processor. Do you think I could use a blender instead?

  6. Terri

    Just found this recipe tonight, long after you first posted it. I arrived here via your Lemon Pesto Spaghetti Squash recipe.
    Funny thing, I know a lot of people are allergic to nuts. I am not allergic to nuts but I am terribly allergic to seeds! I’ve never heard of it! I just replace any seeds in a recipe with nuts, opposite of what most people have to do! Thanks.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      you’re not alone, my sister is actually allergic to sesame seeds!

      • Terri

        Yay, I’m not alone, but sorry for your sister. It makes vegetarian and especially vegan eating more challenging. I am vegetarian, so not as bad. So thankful I can eat all kinds of nuts.

  7. readerrita

    This sounds absolutely wonderful, and I will definitely be giving it a try. But your comment about the nut allergies made me wonder if you could sub in some sunflower seeds for the nuts? Maybe half hemp and half sunnies?
    As to the bitterness, if you can do nuts, pistachios might help alleviate some of that- due to their inherent sweetness. Plus they’re yummy!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      yes, you can use half sunflower seeds, half hemp seeds. And, yes, I love pistachio pesto! I also really love pesto made with pepitas – their green color makes the pesto look really vibrant 🙂

      • readerrita

        Mmmmmm! I love anything with pepitas….I will try that next!

  8. Marla from marlasmuffins.com

    Just made this as a topping for my salad. So delish! Thank you for the recipe:)

  9. Lisa from Www.commonsensecorner.org

    Great recipe! Thanks for the inspiration. I had a big bag of hemp hearts in the fridge. I used basil with the kale. Turned out awesome!

  10. Wendy

    Sounds delish! Can you freeze ir?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I haven’t tried, but let me know if you give it a go!

  11. Cait

    Just made this! Thank you for a cheese-less pesto that miraculously leaves nothing to be desired!

    • jeanine

      glad you liked it, Cait!

  12. Wow, this is the best design of a cooking recipe cooking my favorite sauce “pesto”, thank you very much guys for your job, you are an inspiration to cook delicious meals for your cool recipes, today I am a regular reader of your. Continue in the same spirit!

  13. Helen

    Hi, loving the sound of this, but can you use whole hemp seeds or do they need to be hearts only (which I think the Happy Hemp ones seem to be)? BTW your avocado & quinoa stuffed squash is one of my all-time favourite recipes ever (and I’m not vegetarian)!

    • jeanine

      You can use any raw hemp seeds (Hemp Hearts is just the name of the brand). SO glad the avocado quinoa squash is a favorite!!

  14. Chrissty

    Looks fabulous and a great new way to use cauliflower! Can I sub something non-fat for the oil?

  15. I love hemp hearts- i add them to my salads and omelets but have never thought of using them for pesto! This sounds delicious.

  16. Amanda from livelifelovefood.com

    Absolutely LOVING your blog. Gorgeous photos and awesome recipes. We are pretty big carnivores, but you guys are inspiring me to get a little more creative with our veggies. This pesto is going in rotation this week! I actually started a food blog about a month ago. livelifelovefood.com If you have just a minute to check it out, I would SOOO appreciate any feedback or advice you could give. Also- question- what is your fave farmers market in Austin? We live in Horseshoe Bay (about 45 minutes out Hwy 71) But my hubby is from Austin and my in laws and a lot of friends are there. We are in town often and I want to start hitting the farmers markets

  17. Cassie from backtoherroots.com

    This is GENIUS! And I have all the ingredients in my fridge. Yum. Yum. YUM.

  18. Tori from gringalicious.com

    This pesto sound so amazing. I feel like I’m stuck in a box when it comes to pesto cuz I always just do the same one. Thanks for sharing such great inspiration!!

  19. Thanks lady for the hemp shout out!! You’re the best. Happy Healthy Holidays!!

    • Sm

      Hi how much pesto does this make

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.