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Whiz up this kale pesto recipe into a bright green sauce! It’s perfect for swirling into pasta, as a sandwich spread, and more.

Kale Pesto

Kale is the darling of the food world lately, starring in everything from kale Caesar salad to kale chips. Did you know it can also make…pesto? Try this irresistible Kale Pesto recipe! Whiz that leafy green with Parmesan cheese, garlic, nuts and olive oil, and it makes a savory bright green puree with a spicy kick. Kale can have a bitter flavor, but we’ve got a few tricks to help mellow it in this sauce. Here’s what to do!

Ingredients for this kale pesto recipe

Pesto is a sauce that originates in Italy, in the city of Genoa. The word pesto comes from an Italian word that means “pounded” or “crushed”. Pesto alla genovese or pesto from Genoa is the most popular version, made with basil. But the sauce can be made with any type of vegetable, herb or leafy green, like Arugula Pesto, Sun Dried Tomato Pesto, or Garlic Scape Pesto. Swap out raw kale for basil and you’ve got kale pesto! Here’s what you’ll need for this kale pesto recipe:

  • Cashews, pine nuts, or walnuts
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic cloves
  • Tuscan kale
  • Italian parsley or basil
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Once you’ve compiled the ingredients, simply pop them in a food processor and give them a whiz. It comes together quickly into a sparkling, emerald green sauce! You can also use a mortar and pestle if you prefer, which is the traditional method for making pesto in Italy.

Kale Pesto recipe

How to balance the bitter flavor

Kale can be rather bitter spicy when it’s raw. So there are a few things we recommend for this kale pesto recipe so it’s not incredibly bitter. Here’s what to know:

  • Use a fresh herb in this recipe if you can. If you’re making kale pesto because it’s the winter, it still should be easy to find bunches of Italian parsley at the store. Just a handful or two helps balance the flavor. If you don’t have access, feel free to omit but know it may have a strong flavor.
  • Look for Tuscan kale. Tuscan kale, also labeled as Lacinato or dinosaur kale, has a more mild, sweet flavor compared to curly kale. You can use curly kale if it’s all you have, but we like making pesto with Tuscan.
  • Balance with sugar. Sugar is a trick used in recipes to balance very bitter or acidic flavors. Just a ½ teaspoon sugar does wonders here.

Leftovers and storage info

This kale pesto recipe lasts about 1 week refrigerated. Don’t think you’ll eat it all at once? You can freeze it! Here’s how to freeze pesto:

  • Pour the pesto into an ice cube tray and pop in the freezer.
  • Once frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a freezer safe sealed container.
  • When you’re ready to eat, you can pop out small servings of pesto. Place them in a container and allow to come to room temperature on the counter or in the refrigerator.
Kale Pesto

Ways to use kale pesto

Once you’ve got your kale pesto on hand, the sky’s the limit on how to use it! Try any of our pesto recipes, like one of the following:

This kale pesto recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Kale Pesto

Kale Pesto

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 ¼ cups 1x


Whiz up this kale pesto recipe into a bright green sauce! It’s perfect for swirling into pasta, as a sandwich spread, and more.


  • ½ cup roasted or raw unsalted pine nuts, cashews, or walnuts*
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 cups torn Tuscan kale leaves*, packed
  • 1 to 2 handfuls fresh Italian parsley or basil**
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup olive oil, plus additional as needed


  1. In a food processor, combine the nuts, Parmesan cheese, and peeled garlic cloves. Process until finely ground, about 20 to 30 seconds.
  2. Add the kale, parsley or basil, lemon juice, sugar and kosher salt. Turn on the food processor and gradually pour in the olive oil: blend until it combines into a thick, oily sauce. Taste and add additional herbs if desired. Eat immediately or refrigerate up to 1 week (it solidifies in the refrigerator so bring to room temperature before serving). You can also freeze for several months.


*We prefer the milder flavor of Tuscan kale here: it’s also labeled as Lacinato or dinosaur kale at the store. However, you can also use curly kale if it’s all you have available.

*Fresh herbs are optional, but they do smooth out the spicy flavor of the kale. Use if you have them on hand, or it’s easy to find bunches of Italian parsley at the grocery in the winter.

  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Blended
  • Cuisine: Italian inspired
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Kale pesto, kale pesto recipe

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you’ll want to make again and again.

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