This Kale Pesto recipe is a truly delicious way to sneak more dark leafy greens into your life. It takes just minutes to prepare, and is perfect over your favorite pasta, or as a dip for veggies.
Benefits of Kale
Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there! A single cup of raw kale has all the vitamin K and C your body needs for the whole day. (According to the USDA food database.)
Here’s what else you’ll love about it:
- Kale contains the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which may have anti-inflammatory and potent antiviral effects.
- Kale may help to bind bile acids, which can help to lower cholesterol over time. In one study, participants who drank kale juice for 12 weeks increased their “good” HDL cholesterol, while lowering the “bad” LDL cholesterol.
- It contains sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (I3C), both of which may have anticancer effects.
- Kale is a good source of beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that the body can use to produce vitamin A.
- It’s also a good source of potassium, which may help to lower the risk of heart disease.
Even if you’re not the biggest fan of kale, I hope you’ll give this recipe a try! You can also try making a kale smoothie or the best kale salad, if you have more of these dark leafy greens to use up.
Why You’ll Love this Pesto Recipe
This kale pesto is:
- Fast (ready in 5 minutes!)
- Made in one bowl
- Low in oil, compared to traditional recipes
- and easy!
All you need is 6 ingredients to get started, and this recipe is very flexible. If you don’t have kale on hand, try using fresh spinach or arugula, instead.
How Do You Make Kale Pesto Less Bitter?
Kale is naturally a bitter-tasting vegetable, but you can make it less bitter by pairing it with bright flavors, like lemon juice. Lemon juice is one of my favorite additions to pesto, because it helps add a tangy, acid flavor that can almost mimic cheese, especially when you add a hefty pinch of salt, too.
In fact, you don’t even need to add cheese to this recipe, if you are trying to cut-back on dairy. I tested this recipe with and without adding in Parmesan, and it’s honestly delicious, either way.
How Long Does Kale Pesto Last?
Since kale pesto is made with fresh kale leaves, it will only last in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. As soon as you pulverize the kale, the leaves will begin to oxidize faster, and that can lead to a more pronounced, “stinky” odor as time passes.
If you want to make this kale pesto in advance, I’d recommend preparing it 24 hours in advance for the very best flavor and color.
What Can You Put Pesto On?
Pesto is delicious on:
- Pizza (try it on my Almond Flour Pizza Crust or Cauliflower Pizza)
- Toast (like Bruschetta)
- Pasta (especially with cherry tomatoes)
- Veggie Wraps
- Buddha Bowls
- and more!
If you are anxious to experiment with other pesto variations, be sure to try my Arugula Pesto, Oil-Free Pesto, Avocado Pesto, and Broccoli Pesto recipes.
Kale Pesto (in 5 minutes!)
- 1 bunch kale (Lacinato or curly) , stems removed (85 grams without stems)
- 3/4 cup raw walnuts (84 grams)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (31 grams)
- 3 cloves garlic (6 grams)
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (4 grams)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (58 grams)
- water, as needed to blend
- 12 ounces linguine (use brown rice or lentil past for gluten-free)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes , sliced in half
- 1/2 red onion , chopped
How to Make Kale Pesto:
- In a large food processor fitted with an "S" blade, combine the kale leaves, walnuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, olive oil, and 1/4 cup of water. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the blender, as needed.
- Taste the pesto, and adjust the flavor and texture to your liking. For a smoother pesto, add up to 1/4 cup more water. For more flavor, you can add 1/4 teaspoon more salt, to help compensate for the lack of Parmesan cheese. (Or if you want to add Parmesan cheese to this, use only 1/2 teaspoon of salt to start with, and add more to taste, after adding the cheese. See notes.)
- Once the flavor and texture are to your liking, you can use this pesto on pasta, pizza, and more. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 or 4 days.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and prepare the noodles according to the package directions. Once the pasta is done cooking, drain it and set aside. (You can prepare the pesto sauce while the pasta is cooking.)
- Using the same pot you used for the pasta, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and tomatoes until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the cooked noodles and prepared pesto sauce, and toss until heated through. Serve warm.
If you try this Kale Pesto recipe, please leave a comment below letting me know how you like it. And if you make any modifications, I’d love to hear about those, too! We can all benefit from your experience.
Reader Feedback: What’s your favorite way to eat kale?
Questions and Reviews
Can i use avocado in place of EVO
Sure, that sounds great!
Can I freeze the kale pasta to preserve it longer then 4 days?
My family loves this! Super simple and quick. Your family can be eating it within 20 minutes – a lifeline on busy nights.
Who knew that pesto without basil could taste so good. I use same weight of everything but instead kale I use spinach. Delicious!
I was very skeptical about this recipe but I had some tuscan kale that I needed to use up. This pesto blew me away, so delicious.
This was great and so easy to make thank you!!
I am a huge fan of kale but even if you’re not, you can’t even taste it in this recipe. To make it a little more “cheesy” I use cashews instead of walnuts and a table spoon or more of nutrional yeast. Delicious and nutritious!
Although I mostly eat a whole food plant based diet, I seem to struggle with getting enough greens. This is such a wonderful way. I don’t think of it as “sneaking” greens because I love greens. I just think of it as a way to enhance my diet. Thank you for another wonderful recipe. You have made eating healthy easier and more fun for us.
Can you use frozen kale is you let it defrost and drain? I have a bunch in my freezer. Thanks!
How much kale is actually being used? Don’t get the ‘grams’, or ‘bunch’ measurements…how about how many cups torn kale, or how many ounces?
I can’t wait to try this. I have a cauliflower/kale soup this is my very favorite dish, and it made a confirmed kale lover out of me.
Any nut-free suggestions to replace the walnuts due to allergy? Thank you!
Delicious and one of few ways the kids will eat kale!