This easy kale pesto has all the cheesy, nutty, healthy goodness of traditional basil pesto made with pine nuts. It has all the versatility of the original, too. Toss it with a plate of pasta. Swirl it into soup. Stir it into risotto. Dollop it over scrambled eggs. Spread it on sandwiches. Slather it on pizza crust. Or, you know, otherwise, indulge in any manner you can imagine. It’s endlessly adaptable to your tastes. And it freezes beautifully, too, which is especially helpful since you’ll probably find yourself wanting to use it every day.Angie Zoobkoff

An illustration of kale pesto ingredients being added to a food processor

Kale Pesto

5 from 1 vote
Kale pesto. How virtuous is this? It’s easy and healthy and an excuse to indulge in pine nuts and folks are calling it one of the best pestos they’ve ever experienced.
David Leite
Servings8 servings | 1 cup total
Calories120 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes


  • 2 cups baby kale, stems removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • About 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • About 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted if desired
  • About 2 tablespoons lemon juice (1/2 to 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  • Toss the kale, garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts, lemon juice, and salt into a food processor and pulse until combined. With the motor still running, slowly add olive oil through the feed tube, stopping when you reach the desired consistency. (Alternately, you can mash all the ingredients in a mortar and pestle until smooth.)
  • Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a cover days. If you aren’t using all the kale pesto right right away, you can scrape it into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid. Then pop the kale pesto cubes out of the tray and into a resealable bag for longer storage.
Fresh Made Simple Cookbook

Adapted From

Fresh Made Simple

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Serving: 2 tablespoonsCalories: 120 kcalCarbohydrates: 2 gProtein: 3 gFat: 12 gSaturated Fat: 2 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gCholesterol: 4 mgSodium: 182 mgPotassium: 96 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 0.4 gVitamin A: 1724 IUVitamin C: 17 mgCalcium: 119 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2015 Lauren Keiper Stein. Illo © 2015 Katie Eberts. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

We love pesto. This kale pesto makes a basic pesto that each person can definitely change the proportions of ingredients to suit your own taste but I did the amounts listed above. Everything was blended in the food processor. Serving suggestions include as a topping for goat cheese on toasts; folded into any warm pasta, added to deviled egg filling; spooned onto any soup, and mixed with mayonnaise for sandwiches.

Pesto is always best when homemade. It’s also conveniently easy to make. Anyone with a food processor or blender should get along with this recipe just fine. I toasted my pine nuts on a low broil for about 10 minutes until browned. This provided an initial nutty flavor that regular pine nuts does not. I used the amounts above save for a giant handful of kale (which ended up being about half of a normal package bought at the grocery store). This pesto breaks open in your mouth with a smooth nuttiness, satisfying oily texture, and burst of acidic lemon. This recipe could easily be doubled. I actually tripled the recipe and used it on vegetable sandwiches, pasta, and atop a pizza crust.

All these ingredients added in the right proportions made one of the best pestos I’ve ever had! I really liked the addition of kale rather than basil. The tender baby leaves make the pesto easy to blend and is mild enough to where you can taste every single ingredient. I pulsed everything in the food processor and then blended in the oil. I ended up with 2/3 cup finished pesto. I ended up eating half of it with a spoon but I plan on making a nice Caprese sandwich with the rest.

I love trying different variations of pesto, and this certainly is a winner. I used a food processor to pulse all of it together and I had a very yummy pesto. It can be used as a base for pizza sauce, you can add it to pasta, soups, etc. I was making a Parmesan risotto tonight and I decided to add a few tbsps kale pesto to the risotto when it was done. It was absolutely delicious.

I adore all types of pesto! Whether it’s a traditional basil pesto with pine nuts, a leafy green kale pesto like this one, you name it, I’m trying it. I actually used 2 cups curly kale (stems and ribs removed). The flavor of the pesto was very tasty; I can’t wait to use it again. Pesto sauce is so versatile in its ingredients but also with what you pair them with. I tossed this one with some roasted red potatoes and topped it all off with goat cheese crumbles; I plan to use the rest of it in a couple of days on a white pizza with prosciutto, mushrooms and thinly sliced potatoes.

This pesto took less than 5 minutes to pound together in a mortar. We started by slicing the kale into ribbons, then added all the ingredients except for the olive oil. Once all the ingredients were incorporated into a paste, we stirred in the olive oil, added another dash of salt as well as fresh pepper and voila—a lively and well-received pesto to top off scrambled eggs for three. I made a small batch with 1/2 large clove garlic, 3 T fresh Parmesan, 2 T toasted pine nuts, 2 t lemon juice, a sprinkling of salt, 8 medium leaves dinosaur kale, and 1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil. It made 3 tablespoons finished kale pesto.

I don’t usually make pesto so at first this kale pesto recipe was a bit daunting. Having said that, it allowed me to make it my own and came together nicely. The pesto turned out delicious. It really is just a matter of patience and tweaking the recipe to your flavoring preference. My pesto flavoring was heavier on the garlic and Parmesan side, but the pine nuts and lemon were able to level that out. The kale flavor was mild and more of a backdrop to the overall flavors but did add a brightness to it. I toasted the pine nuts in a pan and had to keep a watchful eye on it as pine nuts tend to burn quickly. It only took 2 to 3 minutes for the pine nuts to toast nicely in the pan. I let them cool before adding them to the mixture for processing. For the amount of ingredients I used, I felt that my larger 11-cup Cuisinart food processor would be too big. I might use that instead if I double the recipe and decide to make a big batch. I used my Mini-Prep Plus Cuisinart food processor. At first, the amount of ingredients seemed a bit much for the small processor, but after a few pulses and once I started adding the oil, it all started to break down and become manageable. I would probably have liked to have been able to drizzle the oil into the mixture as it was processing rather than needing to constantly open up the mini’s lid and adding more oil over and over. I did need to open the lid often as I would drizzle a few glugs of oil, pulse a few times, open the processor, scrape down the lid and sides, and add more oil a few times. It did finally break down enough that pulsing to the desired consistency was easier.

I enjoyed this kale pesto recipe very much. I will always have some in the fridge from now on. It’s very versatile. I’ve used it in sauces, salads, smoothies, and soups.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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