This Kale Pesto recipe is totally vegan, easy, and delicious! Made with fresh greens, walnuts, and Italian seasonings, you’ll want to add it to all of your favorite meals.
Having freshly made Kale Pesto ready to go in your fridge is an easy way to pump up the flavor in tons of your favorite meals. With 3 cups of kale and fresh basil leaves in this recipe, it’s the ultimate way to eat your greens.
I love pesto because it can be used in almost anything. Stir it into Pea and Bacon Pasta for a comforting dinner, add a dollop on top of scrambled eggs for breakfast, use it on a Buddha bowl for more flavor, or spread it on a sandwich! The recipe only takes 5 minutes to come together, so you can keep a batch in your fridge or freezer at all times.
Made with kale, basil, walnuts, and garlic, this fun variation tastes just like your favorite Italian pesto. Better yet, it’s completely vegan and gluten-free!
What is pesto?
Pesto is an Italian sauce traditionally made with fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, hard cheese (like Pecorino Sardo), salt, and garlic. A classic pesto is made by crushing all of the ingredients together in a marble mortar, but a blender or food processor works just as well. The finished sauce can be used on pasta, sandwiches, pizza, eggs, and more.
Kale pesto ingredients:
- Basil leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil
Note: Make this pesto without nuts by removing the walnuts entirely or replacing them with sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, or more basil and oil.
How do you make kale pesto?
It’s so easy! Simply pulse the kale, basil, olive oil, walnuts, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt together in a food processor until it’s smooth.
How to make kale pesto pasta:
Cook your favorite kind of pasta to al dente (follow the package directions for the best results). Reserve some of the cooking water before straining the pasta.
After the pasta is strained, add it back into the pot and stir in the pesto. Mix it all up until it’s completely coated in sauce, using the cooking water to thin it out as needed.
Is kale pesto bitter?
Raw kale has a natural bitter flavor which can be avoided by blanching the leaves before blending it with the other pesto ingredients. Blanch the kale by bringing a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add in the kale and blanch for 3 minutes.
When it’s done, transfer the kale to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking, then drain.
Kale Pesto variations:
- Swap the kale for another fresh green like parsley. You can also use arugula to make my arugula pesto instead.
- Substitute the walnuts for almonds, pecans, or pistachios.
- Make it nut-free by replacing the walnuts with hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, or more basil and oil.
- Swap out the lemon juice for another acid like white or apple cider vinegar.
- Feel free to add in freshly grated shredded parmesan or pecorino before blending.
Uses for kale pesto:
- Mix it into zucchini noodles or spread it on a zucchini pizza boat.
- Spread it on a burger or sandwich.
- Use it in my broccoli pesto pasta.
- Add a dollop on top of eggs.
- Replace the tomato sauce on pizza for pesto instead.
- Make your salad exciting with a dollop of pesto on top.
How to store it:
It’s best to store pasta and pesto separately to avoid losing some flavor and vibrancy. Keep the pesto in a shallow airtight container or jar in the fridge for up to 1 week. When you’re ready to use it again, allow it to come to room temperature before using it on your meal.
If you want to freeze the kale pesto, spoon some into ice cube trays and then freeze. Once they’re completely frozen, transfer the pesto cubes to a ziploc bag and freeze for up to 1 year.
Wine pairings for pesto:
- Viognier has a great lush texture with mild acidity – It pairs nicely with the broccoli and the richness of the cheese.
- A ripe, full-bodied Chardonnay will also fit the bill here. It’s creaminess is a great match for the bright flavors in this pesto.
If you loved this recipe I would appreciate it so much if you would give it a star review! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.
More Italian recipes to enjoy:
- Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
- Gnocchi with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto
- Chicken Parmesan Skillet
- Tortellini Skillet Lasagna
- Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
- 3 cups torn kale (stems removed (about 1 large bunch))
- 1 cup basil leaves (tightly packed)
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 lemon (zested and juiced)
- ½ teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
- Cooked Pasta
- If Serving with Pasta:
- 1 pound 16 ounces pasta
- 1 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid
- If Serving With Pasta: Cook the pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking liquid before straining.
- Meanwhile, pulse the kale, basil, olive oil, walnuts, garlic, lemon zest & juice and salt in a food processor until smooth.
- Return pasta to the pot and add pesto. Toss to coat, adding pasta cooking liquid as needed to thin the sauce.
This kale pesto recipe was originally published in 2020. It was updated in 2021 to add new information. The original recipe remains the same. Enjoy!