Easy Kale Pesto

Easy Kale Pesto

This vibrant kale pesto recipe comes together in 5 minutes flat! Nutty and bright, it’s delicious on pasta, pizza, sandwiches, bowls, and more.

cooking basics / dressings & sauces — Jump to recipe

Kale pesto

When I have a bunch of kale in the fridge, I almost always save a few leaves to make this kale pesto recipe. I especially love making it in the winter, when basil is out of season. Of course, it doesn’t taste exactly like basil pesto (basil is more aromatic, while kale is more peppery), but it’s still delicious. Extra-virgin olive oil and pepitas make it rich and nutty, and lemon juice adds a lovely bright finish.

The whole recipe requires 8 ingredients and comes together in 5 minutes, so it’s a great one to have in your back pocket. Whizz it together and toss it with pasta for an easy dinner one night, and save the leftover kale pesto for the next day. It’s super versatile, so you’ll have no trouble finding ways to use it. Spoon it over eggs, dollop it on a grain bowl, or slather it on a sandwich. The options are endless!

Kale pesto recipe ingredients

Kale Pesto Recipe Ingredients

Ready to make kale pesto? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Fresh kale, of course! You’ll just use the leaves and tender stems in this recipe. Save the tough stems for another use. You could blend them into a smoothie or simmer them into soup!
  • Garlic – For sharp depth of flavor.
  • Pepitas – Pepitas create an especially vibrant green pesto, but if you don’t have them on hand, feel free to substitute another nut or seed. Hemp seeds, walnuts, almonds, and pine nuts all work well.
  • Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast – Both options are delicious! Parmesan is traditional for pesto, but if you’re vegan, nutritional yeast is a great substitute. It adds savory, cheesy flavor to this kale pesto recipe.
  • Lemon juice – For brightness.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – A pesto essential! It adds richness and moisture to tie the sauce together.
  • And salt and pepper – To make all the flavors pop.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Kale, seeds, and nutritional yeast in a food processor

How to Make Kale Pesto

You can whizz together this easy kale pesto in 5 minutes flat! Here’s what you need to do:

First, pulse the solid ingredients. Add the garlic and pepitas to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to grind them up. Then, add the nutritional yeast or cheese, salt, and pepper, and pulse again.

Next, add the raw kale leaves and lemon juice. Process until all the ingredients are well-combined.

Hands pouring olive oil from a measuring cup into a food processor

Then, add the oil. With the blade running, pour the oil into the food processor. Process until the oil is completely incorporated.

Finally, season to taste! Try a spoonful of the sauce and add more salt, pepper, lemon juice, and/or nutritional yeast, as desired. If the kale pesto tastes bitter, add 1/4 teaspoon maple syrup or honey to balance it.


Kale pesto in a food processor

How to Use Kale Pesto

You’ll love having this kale pesto on hand in your kitchen! It’s super versatile, so have fun experimenting with different ways to use it. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Toss it with pasta. Use it instead of basil pesto in my Easy Pesto Pasta recipe. For a lighter dish, replace the regular pasta with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.
  • Spoon it over a frittata or sunny-side-up eggs.
  • Swirl it into mac and cheese.
  • Scoop it onto a bowl of soup. I love it on my Ribollita, Tortellini Soup, and Tomato Basil Soup!
  • Serve it as an appetizer with crusty bread for dipping.
  • Slather it onto a Caprese sandwich, a grilled cheese, or any sandwich you like.
  • Dot it onto homemade pizza.
  • Toss it with roasted veggies for a yummy, healthy side dish. It’d be fantastic with roasted cauliflower, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes!
  • Dollop it onto a grain bowl, like this Roasted Veggie Grain Bowl or this Kale Pesto Mushroom Pistachio Bowl.

How do you like to use kale pesto? Let me know in the comments!

Kale pesto recipe

More Favorite Sauces and Dressings

If you love this recipe, try one of these sauces or dressings next:

  • Marinara Sauce
  • Alfredo Sauce
  • Romesco Sauce
  • Chimichurri
  • Cilantro Lime Dressing
  • Green Goddess Dressing
  • Tahini Sauce (4 ways!)

kale pesto 150x150 1

Kale Pesto

rate this recipe:#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0 .wprm-rating-star.wprm-rating-star-full svg *{fill:#343434}#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0 .wprm-rating-star.wprm-rating-star-33 svg *{fill:url(#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-33)}#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0 .wprm-rating-star.wprm-rating-star-50 svg *{fill:url(#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-50)}#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0 .wprm-rating-star.wprm-rating-star-66 svg *{fill:url(#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-66)}linearGradient#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-33 stop{stop-color:#343434}linearGradient#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-50 stop{stop-color:#343434}linearGradient#wprm-recipe-user-rating-0-66 stop{stop-color:#343434}5 from 10 votesPrep Time: 5 minutes minsServes 8
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Print RecipeThis vibrant kale pesto is bright, nutty, and delicious! Toss it with pasta, or find more serving suggestions in the post above. Leftover pesto will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze it for up to 2 months.


  • ½ cup pepitas
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, or 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • Heaping ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 packed cups chopped curly kale
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Cook ModePrevent your screen from going dark


  • In a food processor, pulse the pepitas and garlic until the pepitas are ground up. Add the cheese or nutritional yeast, salt, and several grinds of pepper and pulse again.
  • Add the kale and lemon juice. With the food processor running, drizzle in the olive oil, and process until combined. Season to taste.


Tip: If the kale pesto is too bitter, add ¼ teaspoon maple syrup or honey.
Makes 1 cup.

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  1. Lily

    5 stars
    so so delicious! I used a mort and pestle and grinding down the kale took some elbow grease but ended up being delicious. Also used pine nuts instead of pumpkin seeds.

    Reply ↓

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Lily, I’m so glad you loved the pesto! Impressed that you used a mortar and pestle on the kale 😊

      Reply ↓

  2. Kelly

    5 stars
    Loved this! I enjoy sneaking extra greens into recipes, so i like this spin on traditional pesto. I was running low on pepitas so I improvised with half pepitas and half pistachios and it was delicious! Might be putting this on everything…. lol.

    Reply ↓

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Kelly, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Ooh, I love it with pistachios.

      Reply ↓

  3. Lora

    Can this pesto be frozen?

    Reply ↓

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Lora, yes! It freezes really well.

      Reply ↓

  4. Barbara

    Will this work okay with lacinto kale?
    I know it is a bit tougher, and it is what I have on hand.

    Reply ↓

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      yep! It’ll just be a bit darker.

      Reply ↓

  5. Rose

    5 stars
    Wow, this was delicious. I’ve made traditional pesto but this felt more nutritious.

    I made some tweaks:

    Pine nuts
    Tuscan /Dino kale
    Added a couple fresh basil leaves

    If you fancy a tomato sandwich (my fav!), after crisping up the buttered bread on a pan, use this pesto in lieu of mayo. Some flaky salt to finish and you’ll be set. Thanks for yet another recipe to keep in the rotation, L+L!

    Reply ↓

  6. Robyn

    5 stars
    This is simple to make and very tasty. A good way to eat kale even if you’re not that fond of it.

    Reply ↓

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Robyn, I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipe!

      Reply ↓

  7. Cinzia

    5 stars
    I just made it and had a plate of pasta with it: very yummy and easy to do!

    Reply ↓

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply ↓

  8. Victoria Wise

    5 stars
    I used half kale and half basil and it turned out great.

    Reply ↓

  9. Kira from thelighthousewebworld.com

    Thank you for this, it is so delicious! And perfect for winter when there’s no fresh basil. Superb !

    Reply ↓

  10. Shushi

    I love your recipes, the ones I have tried so far! Thank you!
    Can I substitute the regular Kale with Dinosaur Kale or any other type of Kale for this recipe?
    Have you tried or would you recommend using other kinds of greens for this recipe?

    Reply ↓

    • Rose

      Dino kale is delicious with this recipe!

      Reply ↓

  11. cate acer

    Is the intention here to use raw pepitas, or rotated and salted? The latter seem to be more common in stores, but…?

    Reply ↓

    • cate acer

      HA! Of course I meant roasted, NOT rotated!

      Reply ↓

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Cate, I use raw unsalted pepitas – I find them at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or any store with a good bulk bin section. Hope that helps!

      Reply ↓

  12. Vanessa

    Hi! How long will this keep in a sealed jar in the fridge?

    Reply ↓

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Vanessa, about 5 days, it also freezes well.

      Reply ↓

      • Vanessa


        Reply ↓

  13. Kali

    5 stars
    Love this kale pesto. I made a double batch and subbed about 1/4 cup of garlic infused olive oil for the regular. Overall super tasty. I like to roast some tempeh, cook some pasta, and combine the two with the pesto

    Reply ↓

  14. Mel

    Love this! We are nut free and this is perfect! Thank you!

    Reply ↓

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