Kale and Toasted Walnut Pesto {recipe}

Kale Toasted Walnut Pesto
You can make pesto with anything — leafy greens, nuts, olive oil, salt, and pepper…
Kale Pesto Toasted Walnut
The standard seems to be basil with pine nuts, but we’ve used spinach, arugula, and today, and maybe for the rest of eternity, we’re using kale. With the addition of walnuts (healthy!), this pesto is basically a Super Sauce. We drizzled it over ravioli, and have plans for Green Eggs tomorrow morning, but why even bother with these other foods?

The Kale Pesto tastes pretty good straight up with a spoon.
Kale Toasted Walnut Pesto in processor

Kale Toasted Walnut Pesto

You can make this pesto with plain (raw) walnuts, but toasting them gives them a little extra flavor that can hang with the slightly more intense (and bitter) taste of kale.

makes about 1 cup


½ cup plain/raw walnuts, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
about 3 cups chopped kale
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add walnuts and stir constantly (or gently shake pan) until toasted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let the walnuts cool.

Pulse garlic clove ion food processor until it is chopped finely, about 30 seconds. Add kale, toasted walnuts and Parmesan cheese and pulse until chopped. You may have to stop the food processor, open the top, and push the kale down toward the blades.

With the food processor running on low, add olive oil in a steady stream until you get the consistency you want. I went with almost ¾ cup of olive oil.

Season to taste with salt and pepper (we used about 1½ teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper).

by Sarah J. Gim on November 29, 2011 · 21 comments

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Nika December 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Genius! Thank you!!


Jackie January 9, 2012 at 11:20 am

Wow, just made a batch of this. I was skeptical but it tastes amazing. I used raw walnut to preserve the nutritious oils, but other than that made no other changes. It makes a big batch and is so much healthier than basil pesto. Our two young kids tried with with pasta and loved it – they couldn’t tell the difference between basil pesto. Thank you for a great healthy alternative.


Courtney January 25, 2012 at 6:37 pm

I love pesto and have also made it out of all kinds of greens, including spinach, arugula, and the traditional basil. I thought about using kale, but never did. Your recipe inspired me, and the results were fantastic! One thing I generally add to my pestos is the zest and juice of one lemon. I like how brightens up the flavor just a little more. Thanks so much for the recipe and the fabulous site.


Deb February 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm

do you not cook the pesto at all? Even blanching?


sarah April 25, 2012 at 11:45 am

Deb, I wondered the same thing. The answer is no, there’s no need to blanch or cook the kale (just as you don’t need to cook basil before making traditional pesto). Don’t worry, the raw kale is not bitter in this recipe and it tastes great! I add lemon and some red pepper to mine, in addition to the salt and pepper. Oh, and I threw some little cherry tomatoes in the bottom of the colander just before draining the pasta, and the uncut, warm tomatoes were a nice addition to the pesto dish as well.

blueollie May 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm

blanching the basil, in a standard pesto recipe, keeps the bright green color of the herb in the final dish. especially useful if you are making it ahead of time. it’s beautiful. at first I thought that would be an annoying extra step but now, I wouldn’t think of going back. i’m excited to try the kale version. with such a sturdy green, blanching seems wasteful.

Barbara | Creative Culinary February 11, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I wonder what pesto means? Once synonymous with basil, pine nuts and olive oil (which I like fine) but now a mixture of so many different things! I love using toasted walnuts with pesto; I can still afford then. Pine nuts? Barely. :)


Jessica March 22, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Loved it. I had some leftover Kale in the garden that I wanted to use before we tilled for the spring and was hoping that someone else thought like me that it would make great pesto! I’m with Courtney and thought the lemon was just what it needed. I also used raw cashews (that I toasted in the oven while I got everything else ready) instead of walnuts because that’s what was in my pantry. Fabulous!


pcyeta April 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Is there any chance that sunflower seeds can sub for pine nuts or walnuts? I plan on making this for dinner on Wednesday…looks great!


Brian May 24, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Great looking recipe. So many plausible pesto variations! We use various nuts. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts are wonderful!
Looking forward to trying kale. I have too much in the garden now, and basil is so expensive here.

Brian May 24, 2012 at 3:51 pm

We make pesto all the time without pine nuts. I don’t really care for them.

Lisa C. April 3, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Yum yum! I made this using blond miso instead of parmesan cheese, for a vegan version. Absolutely delicious and alive! Thank you!


Marcia May 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I just made this pesto from kale harvested in the garden. So SO delicious! Thank you for posting the recipe!


Aurora May 30, 2012 at 7:07 pm

YES…excellent use of summer kale harvest! It was FABULOUS!!! The basil option is behind the sundried tomatoe and kale is in the fore!!! Thank you.


Dede Moreno June 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I heard about kale pesto while purchasing it at the farmers market this morning. One of the growers told me she blends kale with juice from pepperocinis. So, I’ll try that and add a few sundried tomatoes.


Annie June 16, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Hey i have never made pesto, but have been thinking about it. This looks fantastic and so many ideas! I actually grow and harvest edible weeds like dandelions, clover, and purslane. Have any of tried a pesto from any of the weed family. I discovered that most edible weeds are tons more nutritious than regular greens. So far purslane is not just beautiful, but the most nutritious. I plan on trying making pesto with a combination from my yard!


Desiree July 12, 2012 at 9:46 am

you wouldn’t possibly know the nutritional facts of this would you?


Miles Coiner July 16, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I tried this because there was lots of kale in the garden that I hadn’t picked young enough for salad. I’m not a big fan of kale. But I thought I would give it a try. Recently I’ve been on a grilled pizza or grilled flat bread kick. So why not try the kale pesto with a grilled pizza? Heaven. I have to admit that after slathering on the pesto I did sprinkle it with grated Mozzarella. The results were really wonderful. I also did the suggestion of some lemon zesty and red pepper. Just sorry that I was home alone.


Nancy September 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Would like to see you add a pinterest button!


Jasminebaxter@gmail.com December 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm



blueollie May 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm

PS, sarah – your photographs are lovely and inviting!


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