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Easy Kale Pesto

easy-kale-pesto

Make this easy kale pesto recipe with fresh kale, walnuts, olive oil, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. It’s the perfect complement to pasta dishes, as a dip or a marinade.

Kale pesto in a bowl.

Amazingly Easy Kale Pesto

Pesto is such a fun way to flavor pastas, proteins, and anything in between. Our classic pesto recipe is a popular one on Fit Foodie Finds, but we wanted to make a kale pesto that features kale instead of the more traditional basil. And it’s delicious!

What is pesto?

Pesto is a green sauce that originated in Italy. It’s typically made from basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil.

What is pesto made from? Classic pesto is made from fresh basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.

There are many variations of pesto including kale pesto like this one, walnut pesto, basil pesto, vegan pesto, etc.

How do you serve pesto? Pesto is often served as a sauce on pasta. It can also be used as a dip, marinade or dressing (check out our Israeli couscous salad!).

Ingredients for kale pesto.

Kale Pesto Ingredients

Fresh kale: have a ton of extra kale on hand? Kale pesto is the perfect recipe to make sure none of it goes to waste! Make sure to debone your kale for this recipe.

Olive oil: we love the flavor of extra virgin olive oil and this is the main fat in this sauce. Not only does it make it super buttery, but it also helps thin it out and turn it into a sauce.

Parmesan cheese: parmesan cheese adds such a yummy, salty, savory flavor to this kale pesto sauce.

Walnuts: pine nuts are traditionally used in pesto sauce, but we’re using walnuts in our kale pesto . We use ours raw, but you can toast them for a bigger flavor.

Garlic cloves: we sauté the garlic to draw out the garlic flavor and create a delicious depth of flavor. You can use raw garlic, but it will change the flavor of the pesto. 

Lemon juice: lemon juice adds just the right amount of acidity to this sauce. Don’t skip it.

Salt: a little kosher salt brings all of these ingredients together into one incredible sauce. Make sure to start with a little and go from there.

Recommended Kitchen Tools

All of the ingredients for kale pesto in a food processor.

How to Make Kale Pesto

Smash & Sauté Garlic

Take the bottom of a glass or a large chef’s knife and place it over the top of each garlic clove and press firmly to smash the garlic clove just until flattened.

Heat 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet over medium/high heat, and sauté the garlic until fragrant and slightly golden brown. 

Put Ingredients in Food Processor

Add the cooked garlic to a high powered food processor along with kale, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, walnuts, salt and the remaining olive oil. 

Pulse Ingredients

Pulse the ingredients in the food processor to mix the ingredients and then process all of the ingredients on high for 2-4 minutes or until the ingredients become thick and creamy.

Pro tip: be sure to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times during the processing time. 

Test for Texture

After the pesto has been processed it should be thick and creamy.

If the pesto is still dry and chunky, add a teaspoon or two more of olive oil, scrape the sides, and continue to process the pesto until it becomes thick and creamy.

Sometimes processing the pesto longer will draw the oil out of the walnuts which will add more moisture to the pesto. 

Serve & Enjoy!

Serve the pesto over pasta, as a sauce on sandwiches, or transfer the pesto to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Ingredient Swaps

  • Kale: don’t have kale? Try using spinach or basil instead. 
  • Walnuts: no walnuts on hand? Try using pine nuts, cashews, pecans, or almonds instead.
  • Parmesan cheese: hoping to keep this recipe dairy-free? Our vegan parmesan cheese is a great substitute.
  • Olive oil: instead of olive oil use grape seed oil.

Vegan Pesto

How to Serve Kale Pesto

There is no one-size-fits-all with our kale pesto recipe. One of our favorite things about it is that it’s so versatile in how you can use it!

Marinade: Pesto makes for a great marinade. Try our Pesto Chicken Skewers.

Salad Dressing: Pesto is a great base for salad dressing! Add more olive oil to make it a milder and thinner dressing or just drizzle it right onto your salad as is. You’ll love our Israeli Couscous Salad.

Sauce: Need a sauce to top your veggies or protein. This kale pesto does just the trick! Try our Pesto Chicken Meal Prep or Mediterranean Salmon.

Dip: Keep it simple and use your pesto as a dip for bread, veggies, or crackers!

Pasta: Toss al dente pasta with pesto and serve as is. You can also check out our Chicken Pesto Pasta recipe for a heartier meal.

Spread: Use it as a spread on sandwiches or pita bread. Check out our Roasted Red Pepper and Pesto Turkey Sandwich.

top tips for kale pesto

too thick?

Is your kale pesto a little bit too thick? Simply add a little olive oil by the teaspoon until it thins out.

Too thin?

If things seem a little bit too thin, simply add more fresh kale. That should do the trick!

Add Other Herbs

Try adding other fresh herbs into your kale pesto such as basil, parsley, or thyme! It will give your kale pesto some depth.

Kale Pesto Storage

Transfer your kale pesto into an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.

How to Freeze Kale Pesto

Freezing kale pesto is so easy and a great way to use up all your fresh kale! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Transfer pesto into an ice cube tray. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of pesto into each ice cube so that it’s filled 3/4 of the way full.
  2. Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours or until fully frozen.
  3. Pop the kale pesto ice cubes out of the tray and then transfer the frozen cubes into an airtight container or gallon-size bag.
  4. Freeze for up to 3 months.

To thaw: simply let the frozen kale pesto sit out on the counter for 1 hour or transfer them into a nonstick skillet and defrost on the stovetop over medium heat.

Kale pesto on crostini.

Kale pesto in a bowl.

Easy Kale Pesto

Make this easy kale pesto recipe with fresh kale, walnuts, olive oil, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. It’s amazing in pasta dishes, as a dip or a marinade.

Prep:15 minutes

Cook:5 minutes

Total:20 minutes

Ingredients

  • cup olive oil separated
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled
  • 4 cups chopped kale deboned and packed
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese medium grate
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions 

  • Take the bottom of a glass or a large chef’s knife and place it over the top of each garlic clove and press firmly to smash the garlic clove just until flattened.

  • Heat 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil in a small skillet over medium/high heat. When the olive oil is fragrant, add the garlic. Sauté the garlic until fragrant and slightly golden brown.

  • Add the cooked garlic to a high powered food processor along with kale, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, walnuts, salt and the remaining olive oil.

    All of the ingredients for kale pesto in a food processor.

  • Pulse the ingredients in the food processor to mix the ingredients and then process all of the ingredients on high for 2-4 minutes or until the ingredients become thick and creamy. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times during the processing time.

  • After the pesto has been processed it should be thick and creamy. If the pesto is still dry and chunky, add a teaspoon or two more of olive oil, scrape the sides, and continue to process the pesto until it becomes thick and creamy. Sometimes processing the pesto longer will draw the oil out of the walnuts which will add more moisture to the pesto.

    Kale pesto in a bowl.

  • Serve the pesto over pasta, as a sauce on sandwiches, or transfer the pesto to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Tips & Notes

  • This recipe yields approximately 3/4 cup pesto.
  • This isn’t a drippy pesto, it is a thicker pesto sauce. If you would like a more wet pesto add 1-2 teaspoons of water until it reaches the desired consistency.
  • We sauté the garlic to draw out the garlic flavor and create a delicious depth of flavor.
  • You can use raw garlic, but it will change the flavor of the pesto.
  • If you would like a “creamy” pesto you can add 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream.
  • If you don’t have walnuts you can use almonds or pistachios.
  • This pesto has to be used within 5 days if stored in the refrigerator. To stretch the pesto, scoop the pesto into an ice tray and freeze the best for 1-2 hours. Pop the pesto cubes out of the ice cube tray and store them in a freezer safe container in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Nutrition facts

Calories: 169kcal Carbohydrates: 4g Protein: 4g Fat: 16g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 1g

Photography: photos taken in this post are by Ashley McGlaughlin from The Edible Perspective.

Easy Kale Pesto originally appeared on FitFoodieFinds.com

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