Here's an easy, tasty, and vibrant kale pesto recipe that you can make in 5 minutes with simple ingredients.
Spread it in a sandwich, mix it with pasta, or serve it as an appetizer with crunchy crostini or focaccia bread.
On this page:
Check out our best sauce recipes.
Kale pesto is hands down one of the best winter pesto recipes when fresh basil is out of season and kale abounds.
You can make it with curly kale or dinosaur kale (also known as Tuscan kale or Cavolo Nero), and you can use it just like any other pesto.
You can prepare the pesto ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for about a week or in the freezer for months.
It's an excellent meal prep idea and works wonderfully on pasta and anything with bread. It's also delicious in a sandwich, wraps, as a dressing for salads, including potato salads, pasta salads, and grain salads, or as a topping on pizza.
You can make kale pesto with or without dairy, based on your dietary preferences. To make it with dairy, we recommend using grated parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano are best).
To make the recipe dairy-free and vegan, substitute nutritional yeast for parmesan.
You can use curly kale or dinosaur kale, sometimes called Tuscan kale or lacinato kale.
Use fresh, not frozen, kale leaves, and remember to discard the woodier stems.
We use almonds in this kale pesto recipe; however, you can easily substitute walnuts, pine nuts, and macadamia nuts for almonds.
Pick a good quality, fruity, extra virgin olive oil. Since the pesto is consumed raw, you'll taste the quality of the oil; a better oil makes a tastier kale pesto.
Tip: good quality extra virgin olive oil can develop bitterness if processed at high speed.
To prevent that, add the oil at the end once the other ingredients are processed. Then pulse a few times to incorporate the oil, but never blend at full speed.
We add cold water to keep things cool in the blender and to reduce the amount of oil used in traditional pesto recipes.
Parmesan Cheese or Nutritional Yeast
Grated parmesan cheese is the more traditional choice; however, you can easily make this recipe dairy-free by substituting nutritional yeast flakes for parmesan. Nutritional yeast adds a mild cheesy flavor.
A small clove of garlic adds a beautiful aroma.
Lemon juice freshens the recipe, adding a hint of acidity that is welcomed in kale pesto.
Some add lemon zest, but we prefer not to make the pesto too lemony. Beware of lemon seeds; they'll make your pesto butter if you blend them.
We recommend sea salt or kosher salt. Black pepper or red pepper flakes are optional.
Rinse your kale, pat it dry, chop up the leaves, and discard the woodier stems.
To a food processor, add chopped kale leaves, nuts, grated parmesan or nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, water, and pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped.
Tip: you'll need to scrape down the sides of your food processor with a spatula once or twice.
Add extra virgin olive oil and pulse a few more times until the ingredients are well incorporated.
Add more water or oil until you reach your desired consistency, then taste and adjust for salt.
Tip: pulse, don't blend continuously. The antioxidants in the extra virgin olive oil can turn bitter if exposed to high processing speeds.
Transfer into a bowl, store in a jar, or use right away.
It's also excellent as a spread in a sandwich.
Use it to make tasty, nutritious, and colorful kale pasta.
First, boil your favorite short or long pasta shape al dente in plenty of salted boiling water, drain it and toss it with a ladleful of reserved pasta water and the kale pesto.
You can make pesto with most vegetables and fresh herbs. Here are some ideas for you:
Pulse, and avoid blending continuously.
Blending at high speed can change the flavor of the pesto by oxidizing the olive oil and the kale and making the pesto slightly bitter.
It's best to pulse to ensure the blender or food processor doesn't heat the ingredients changing their flavor and color.
Make Ahead & Storage
Make Ahead: kale pesto is a great recipe to make ahead and keep in your fridge or freezer.
Refrigerator: transfer the pesto to an airtight container like a jar, cover the top with a bit of oil to prevent the kale from oxidizing and turning dark, and store it in the fridge for up to 5 - 7 days. Stir with a spoon before using.
Freezer: transfer the pesto to a jar or other freezer-friendly container, cover it with a bit of oil, and freeze for up to 6 months. Do not freeze multiple times.
Thaw: thaw in the refrigerator over a few hours. We don't recommend thawing in the microwave, as too much heat can change the color and flavor of the pesto. Stir with a spoon before using.
More Kale Recipes
If you love cooking with kale, check out the following:
- Lentil soup with wholesome tasty ingredients, it's a nourishing and cozy dinner idea.
- Kale chips, crunchy with grated lemon and red pepper flakes.
- Tuscan soup, creamy and nutritious, with white beans and leafy greens.
- Savory crepes made with chickpea flour, sauteed mushrooms, and kale.
- Rainbow kale salad with roasted pumpkin and pomegranate seeds
For more condiment ideas, check out our dressing and sauces category page.
- Food processor or blender
- 3 packed cups (3.7 oz) chopped kale curly or dinosaur kale, woodier stems removed.
- ⅓ cup almonds sub walnuts or pine nuts.
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ cup parmesan cheese grated, sub 3 tablespoon nutritional yeast.
- ¼ cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Rinse kale, pat it dry, chop leaves, and discard the woodier stems.To a food processor, add chopped kale leaves, nuts, grated parmesan or nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, water, and pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped.Scrape down sides of food processor if necessary.
- Add extra virgin olive oil and pulse a few more times until the ingredients are well incorporated.Add more water or oil until you reach your desired consistency, then taste and adjust for salt.
- Transfer into a bowl, store in a jar, or use right away.
- Try it as a starter, on crostini or bruschetta.
- Make a delicious kale pasta by tossing the pesto with pasta cooked al dente.
If you liked this kale pesto, you might also like the following: