This easy Kale Pesto is my favorite way to use up all of the fresh kale that’s easy to find in the summer and all year long. It takes about 5 minutes, stores well, and is delicious on pasta and pizza. It’s a great way to serve greens to kids!

kale pesto in container

Kale Pesto

On its own, kale can have a very strong flavor that is not always very kid-friendly, but using it in pesto is a genius way to lock in the nutrients it contains with seriously yummy flavor. I like to pair it with some basil so you get the classic flavor of basil pesto, too.

This is a favorite way to serve greens to kids, and it stores really well in the fridge or freezer if you want to make it ahead. It’s a delicious sauce for pasta, or you can use it on pizza instead of tomato-based pizza sauce.

I love to make this with almonds or sunflower seeds—the latter is great if you need to make it nut-free—whenever we have a lot of kale in our garden. It’s one of our favorite pesto recipes, right up there with Spinach Pesto and Broccoli Pesto.

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Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe you’ll need the following ingredients on hand. See the info below for all of the options in case you need to adjust for allergies or preferences.

ingredients in kale pesto
  • Kale: Any variety works, whether flat-leaf or curly. (Flat-leaf kale is commonly called lacinato or dinosaur kale.)
  • Basil: Fresh basil adds classic pesto flavor.
  • Olive oil: You can use any type of olive oil you have, though I usually reach for extra virgin olive oil.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese: I prefer this type of Parmesan as it adds the most flavor. You can use Pecorino, too, if you prefer, which may be a little less expensive. Use nutritional yeast to make this dairy-free if needed,
  • Nuts or seeds: Roasted almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, or pine nuts all work here. I most often use roasted unsalted sunflower seeds since they are the least expensive and are safe to send to nut-free schools.
  • Fresh lemon juice: This is optional but can add a dash of nice flavor.
  • Salt: You’ll want to add salt to taste to ensure the overall flavor of the pesto is bright.

TIP: Some people also add fresh cloves of garlic to pesto, though I find it makes it a little too “spicy” for my kids. You can certainly add it, though!

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at how to make this recipe so you know what to expect from the process. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full information.

how to make kale pesto step by step
  1. Remove the kale and basil from the stems.
  2. Add the ingredients to a blender or food processor.
  3. Start to blend on low, slowly working up to high.
  4. Add more olive oil as needed to make a thick, but smooth, pesto. Use or store.

TIP: I usually make this in my blender and use the stick that came with it to move the ingredients around continuously. It may be a little easier to make in a food processor, but either way, be patient. Kale leaves are thick and may take a few minutes to blend up!

kale-pesto-in-freezer-bag

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you make kale pesto less bitter?

Pairing it with basil and a little lemon juice—as well as the other ingredients—helps to reduce the bitterness.

How long can you store kale pesto in the fridge?

You can store this in an airtight container for 3-5 days. Or you can freeze it for up to a year. Which is super handy if you find yourself with a lot of fresh kale in the summer.

What is the benefit to using kale in pesto?

This pesto is a great way to use up kale with a more pleasing flavor than eating it by itself, it adds nutrition, and it helps pesto with the classic basil flavor stay brighter green (versus turning brown) if it’s stored.

kale pesto pasta in white bowl and kids plate

How to Store

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer in a zip top freezer bag, with as much air removed as possible, for up to 12 months. (I press the bags flat so I can easily break off a small amount if needed.) Thaw in the fridge or at room temperature to use or add a frozen piece directly to a pot of hot pasta and stir. It will thaw and coat the pasta very quickly.

Best Tips for Success

  • I typically use ½ cup of this kale pesto recipe with 1 pound of pasta, but start with less and add more as you like.
  • Use a blender or food processor, depending on what you have. A food processor may be a little easier. This is a thick mixture and it may take a few minutes to blend.
  • Taste and add a little salt if needed.
  • Use on Pesto Pasta, Pesto Pizza, in Pesto Pizza Rolls, or with my Greek Yogurt Pizza Dough. You can also use it as a topping for grain bowls, eggs, soup, or toast. Use it to make pesto pasta salad or toss with boiled potatoes for pesto potato salad.
  • Nut-free: Use roasted unsalted sunflower seeds.
  • You can use fresh or frozen kale.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe, so comment below to share if you try it for your family!

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kale-pesto-in-container

Easy Kale Pesto

Try this healthy pesto with your favorite pasta or in place of pizza sauce on pizza! It's a kid-friendly way to serve up kale, and you don't have to worry about it turning brown if you store it.
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Course Sauce
Calories 108kcal
Servings 16 (Makes about 1 cup)

Ingredients

  • 4 cups lightly packed kale leaves (stems discarded)
  • 1 cup lightly packed basil leaves (stems discarded)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil (start with ½ cup)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted almonds (or sunflower seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about ½ lemon; optional)
  • salt (to taste)
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Instructions

  • Add the kale, basil, ½ cup olive oil, Parmesan, almonds, and lemon juice (if using) to a blender or food processor.
  • Blend very well until very smooth, starting on low and slowly working up to high. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl or using the stick that came with the blender as needed. Add the additional ¼ cup olive oil as you go to make it easier to blend as needed. (I usually use all of that additional ¼ cup when making this in a blender.)
  • Season to taste with salt if needed.
  • Store for future use or mix some into pasta, spread onto pizza dough instead of red pizza sauce, or enjoy however you like.

Notes

  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in a zip-top freezer bag, with as much air removed as possible, for up to 12 months. (I press the bags flat so I can easily break off a small amount if needed.) Thaw in the fridge or at room temperature to use.
  • I typically use ½ cup with 1 pound of pasta.
  • Use a blender or food processor depending on what you have. A food processor may be a little easier. This is a thick mixture and it may take a few minutes to blend.
  • Taste and add a little salt if needed.
  • Use on Pesto Pasta, Pesto Pizza, in Pesto Pizza Rolls, or with my Greek Yogurt Pizza Dough. You can also use it as a topping for grain bowls, eggs, soup, or toast.
  • Nut-free: Use roasted unsalted sunflower seeds.

Nutrition

Calories: 108kcal, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 3mg, Sodium: 54mg, Potassium: 124mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 1780IU, Vitamin C: 21mg, Calcium: 74mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

This post was first published July 2021.

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Comments

    1. Yes, though you may want to taste it and add some salt. I would for sure add the lemon to help balance the flavors. (Some people use nutritional yeast, too)