Walnut & Kale Pesto

Walnut & Kale Pesto is a wonderful condiment to keep on hand during the winter and spring! I love this lemony version on sandwiches, eggs, pasta, and salads.

Walnut & Kale Pesto

Pesto is one of my favorite things to make and have on hand. I put spoonfuls of it on (almost)Β 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 walnut kale pesto 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 pesto is a wonderful option for winter and spring months. I like to brighten mine with both lemon juice & zest, giving it a bright flavor on pastas, eggs, and sandwiches!

No kale? Make pesto with carrot tops, mint & peas, or broccoli.

Walnut & Kale Pesto

Walnut & Kale Pesto
Walnut & Kale Pesto is a wonderful condiment to keep on hand during the winter and spring! Prep a batch and use it on sandwiches, eggs, pasta, and salads.
  • Small bunch of kale (4-6 leaves, remove the thick part of the stems*)
  • ¼ cup walnuts, toasted
  • ½ to 1 garlic clove
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (or more for a smoother pesto)
  • Juice & zest of one lemon
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper
  • Grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese (optional)
  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 the excess water, and set on a towel for a few minutes more.
  4. Add the kale to a food processor with the walnuts, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice & zest, salt and pepper, and cheese, if using. Pulse to create a chunky pesto, blend longer to create a smoother one. Taste and adjust, adding more salt, pepper, lemon, and olive oil, as necessary.
*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.



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  1. i s a from headredandblondi.blogspot.com

    Wow! Scrumptious!! πŸ˜‰

  2. 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 πŸ™‚

    • jeanine

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

  3. 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!

  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

      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

      ha, me too πŸ™‚

  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”! πŸ™‚

  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

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

    • jeanine

      ha! Glad you saw it in time πŸ™‚

  10. Emma

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

    • jeanine

      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

      I’m so guilty of that too…

  12. 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.

  13. nuria from birdymoments.blogspot.co.uk

    I love pesto as well πŸ™‚ 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!

  14. Jillian from coffeelightandsweet.com

    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

    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

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

  18. 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.

  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 πŸ™‚ 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

    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


      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

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

    • Dew

      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) πŸ™‚

      • jeanine

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

  22. JMill

    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

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

  23. Lacey

    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

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

  24. Noelle from noellebeesmith.blogspot.ca

    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

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

  26. Carol

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

    • jeanine

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

  27. Olga

    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

    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.