From Scratch: Simple Homemade Kale Pesto

Today I’m going to show you how to make kale pesto from scratch in under 30 minutes. Yes, pesto made with kale! What can kale not do? Seriously. Traditional basil pesto is about to become a thing of the past with this fun, summery recipe!

Kale Pesto Ingredients
Photos via Edible Perspective

You are about to learn how to make kale pesto right at home!

With the cost of pine nuts at $20 per pound I’m switching things up and using walnuts in this recipe instead. Walnuts are a great substitution because they have many of the same qualities as pine nuts. They’re both a softer nut with a rich, nutty flavor and buttery texture after a light toasting.

So how exactly can you make pesto from kale? Well, first you’ll dip your fresh greens into a bath of boiling water and then promptly place them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. After that it’s pretty much the same process as making any pesto. A few spins in the food processor and you’re all done! I promise it’s really simple.

Blanched Kale In Ice Bath

This pesto is brightened with lemon and a small handful of basil leaves and has a robust kick of garlic. It explodes with flavor and freshness and is a great topping for so many things!

Kale Pesto From Scratch

Of course there is the obvious choice of pairing this deliciousness with pasta but there are many other ways you can get creative in using your pesto!

  • Spread on toast
  • Dolloped on scrambled eggs
  • Spread inside of an omelet
  • On top of roasted potatoes
  • Sandwich topping
  • Used as a pizza sauce
  • Tossed with grilled or roasted vegetables
  • Slathered on corn on the cob

I think my favorite use is on grilled vegetables and on pizza.

If you’re a fan of making your own sauces and dressings at home then you’re going to love this recipe for kale pesto. And if you’re new to from-scratch cooking this is a great place to start. The ingredient list is short and the process is very basic. You’ll be a pesto-making pro in no time at all!

Kale Pesto

Recipe for Kale Pesto

Yields: approximately 8oz


  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts
  • leaves from 2 1/2 large kale stems, (or 5 small stems)
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Step 1:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 8-12 minutes, stirring once, until fragrant and light golden brown. Let cool.

Step 2:

While the walnuts are toasting, place about 5 inches of water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.

Step 3:

While waiting to boil, de-stem kale leaves and tear into a few pieces.

Step 4:

Stir kale leaves into the boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Remove kale with a strainer and place directly into the ice bath (this stops the cooking). Drain water and pat kale dry.

Step 5:

Place garlic in a large food processor (7-11c capacity works well) and turn on until minced. Scrape the sides and add the cooled walnuts, kale, basil, parmesan, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and pepper. Turn the processor on until until kale is well chopped and all ingredients are incorporated.

Step 6:

Slowly stream in the olive oil while pulsing the food processor until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. (I used 1/4 cup but for a thinner pesto use more.) Taste and stir in more salt and/or pepper if needed.

Step 7:

Scrape contents from the processor into an airtight container and keep refrigerated for 4-5 days.

Usage tip: When adding the pesto to pasta: Retain about 1/2 cup of the cooking water when you drain the pasta and add in one tablespoon at a time along with the pesto to help thin out.

Jarred Kale Pesto

Not only is this pesto supercharged with all of the good-for-you nutrients from kale but it tastes pretty outstanding, too! Once you’ve conquered this recipe, you might also enjoy using it to create the Perfect Pizza at Home in Peter Reinhart’s free online Craftsy class.

Have you ever tried making pesto with ingredients other than basil? What did you use?

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