Flavorful Kale Pesto – a delicious spin on pesto made with fresh earthy kale and parsley, rich olive oil, bright lemon, and bold parmesan and garlic. It’s a healthy Italian inspired sauce and there are countless ways to use it!
Kale pesto is a nice alternative to change things up from making the traditional herby basil pesto. I love to have both in the rotation.
It’s the perfect pasta upgrade, and you can make it year round since there’s usually an abundance of high quality fresh kale at the grocery store available throughout the entire year. Plus it’s a less expensive option to basil pesto.
If you haven’t had it before I think you’ll truly be amazed at how delicious it is. This kale pesto recipe is proof that fresh kale can create some incredible dishes.
The key is to just use a balanced blend of ingredients to highlight the kale and tone down some of its boldness (such as lemon and parsley).
This is just simple ingredients, maximum flavor, and it’s something you can feel good about eating!
Ways to Use Kale Pesto
- Toss with cooked pasta or gnocchi.
- Spread over ravioli or tortellini.
- Use it as a pizza sauce.
- Layer over cooked chicken or mild fish, or toss with shrimp.
- Spread over crostini (toasted bread).
- Toss over steamed or roasted vegetables.
- Serve as a dip for pita chips or vegetables.
Serving Suggestion as Pictured
Here I tossed kale pesto with 1 lb. Campanelle pasta (cooked in salted boiling water and drained), add splashes of pasta cooking water to thin, and finished with fresh mozzarella pearls, and plenty of toasted chopped walnuts.
It’s also delicious served cold (like a pasta salad), just thin with more olive oil as needed.
Kale Pesto Ingredients
3 cups (slightly packed) torn curly kale leaves (110g)
1/2 cup (slightly packed) parsley leaves (15g)
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (45g)
1 tsp lemon zest
1/3 cup walnuts (38g)
1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1/4 tsp salt, then more to taste
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 to 3 Tbsp water, to thin as desired
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
How to Make Kale Pesto
- To a food processor (I use 7 cup size processor) add kale, parsley, parmesan, lemon zest, walnuts, garlic and salt.
- Cover and pulse until finely minced.
- Add in lemon juice and 1 Tbsp water.
- Cover, then with processor running pour in olive oil through the feed tube of the lid insert.
- Thin with a little more water as desired (up to 2 more Tbsp).
How to Store Kale Pesto
- Kale pesto should be stored in the fridge.
- Keep in an airtight container.
- Store up to 3 days.
- It’s also delicious with Pecorino Romano cheese in place of parmesan cheese.
- Fresh basil will make a great alternative to parsley as well.
- You can try with a different oil such as avocado oil.
- Pine nuts or slivered almonds will work in place of walnuts.
- For extra flavor toast the nuts.
- Lacinato kale should also work well in place of curly kale if that’s what you have.
- Make it vegan by using a vegan parmesan cheese, or add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast in place of parmesan.
More Nutritious Kale Recipes to Try
- Kale Salad
- Kale Quinoa Minestrone
- Lemon Parmesan Kale Salad
- Mediterranean Kale Cannellini Farro Soup
- Strawberry Kale Coleslaw
Follow Cooking Classy
- 3 cups (slightly packed) torn kale leaves* (110g)
- 1/2 cup (slightly packed) parsley leaves (15g)
- 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (45g)
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/3 cup walnuts (38g)
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- 1/4 tsp salt, then more to taste
- 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 to 3 Tbsp water, to thin as desired
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- To a food processor (I use 7 cup size processor) add kale, parsley, parmesan, lemon zest, walnuts, garlic and salt. Cover and pulse until finely minced.
- Add in lemon juice and 1 Tbsp water. Cover, then with processor running pour in olive oil through the feed tube of the lid insert. Thin with a little more water as desired (up to 2 more Tbsp).
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container up to 3 days.
- *Remove thick inner ribs (stem running up through the kale) from the kale only using the leaf portion.
- Recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto, or enough for about 16 oz pasta (also include a few splashes of pasta water).