Super Kale, Hemp and Flaxseed Oil Pesto

Get your greens and omega-3's with this kale pesto (ready in 5 minutes!) -

When asked what I do for a living, my response lately has been, “I’m a food blogger,” which is usually met with an eyebrow raise. “What kind of food?” they ask. I explain that I publish tasty recipes that just so happen to be healthy. (I probably need a better elevator pitch.)

I stand by my statement with this pesto. Yes, it’s packed with so-called super foods, but it’s also mighty tasty and ready in 5 minutes flat.

tulips and kale

Hemp seeds are new to me. I’d come across them in health magazines and vegan blogs before, so I knew they’re high in protein and full of essential amino acids. I’m not the kind of person who takes wheat grass shots just because they’re healthy, though. I wasn’t interested in hemp seeds until I read in Martha Steward Living that they actually taste good. Like pine nuts, sorta. Sold!

hemp seed pesto recipe

I found a bag of hemp seeds in the supplement aisle of Whole Foods for 10 bucks, reminded myself that they’re still cheaper than pine nuts and tossed the bag in my cart. At home, in a post-shopping fit of hunger, I whirred together garlic, kale and hemp seeds in my food processor. I reheated some leftover pasta from the fridge. About 10 minutes after I got started, I was enjoying a super nutrient-dense dinner. I must have polished off at least 1/3 cup of hemp seeds and half a bunch of kale in one sitting. I’m expecting my Popeye muscles any day now.

Later, it occurred to me that I could use flaxseed oil instead of olive oil in the pesto. I had a forgotten bottle of flaxseed oil in my fridge. Flaxseed oil is a bit limited in cooking preparations, since it should only be served chilled or at room temperature. To retain nutritional benefits, both flaxseeds and hemp seeds should be kept in the refrigerator and never cooked.

The flaxseed oil significantly ups the amount of omega-3’s in the pesto. I couldn’t detect the flavor of flax in the pesto, which was a big plus. The oil has made a few of my salad dressings taste overwhelmingly flax-y. The hemp seeds disappear into the pesto, too, leaving a pleasantly nutty flavor and some creaminess.

kale, garlic and lemon pesto

If you don’t have hemp seeds and flaxseed oil on hand, you can totally make this into a kale, walnut and olive oil pesto. That version will be very good for you, too. I’ve been trying to incorporate more inflammation-reducing omega-3’s in my diet (my dry skin needs all the help it can get), so I’m excited to have found a delicious way to get them. You can learn more about those omega-3’s here.

whole grain linguine

This pesto is not just for pasta. In fact, I might prefer it as a full-flavored dip or spread rather than on pasta. You could spread it on sandwiches or wraps and mix it into quinoa or grain salads. I’m also thinking it would be great with wild rice and roasted carrots. Or potatoes. On toast, with or without a fried egg on top. Speaking of eggs, you could mix this pesto into scrambled eggs or serve it on top of a frittata.

If you are serving the pesto on pasta, you could lighten up the meal by adding more produce. In the summer, you could mix in zucchini noodles and/or grilled bell peppers and/or slow-roasted tomatoes. Sautéed mushrooms or chunks of roasted winter squash would be nice in the cooler months. Let me know how you like it!

Kale, hemp and flaxseed oil pesto (delicious, full of Omega 3's and ready in 5 minutes) - cookieandkate.comBefore I get to the recipe, my friends have been working on some cool projects that I wanted to mention:

Dana and John of Minimalist Baker made 31 Meals: an ecookbook boasting 31 healthy, simple dinners with meal plans. Get it for $8.99 here.

Cara of Big Girls, Small Kitchen just released A Baker’s Dairy-Free Dozen: Desserts for Every Sweet Day of the Year. It’s an ecookbook with 13 dairy-free desserts, plus two bonus breakfast treats. Get it for $7.99 here.

Kasey of Turntable Kitchen is offering a collection of 80 original recipes delivered in a rad wooden box, for $75. Check out the Turntable Kitchen Cookbook in a Box here.

Foodie’s latest apps are now available in the iTunes app store. One is themed around pies, and the other features gluten-free meals by Cafe Johnsonia. Download Foodie’s apps for free here.

I’ve been wondering, do you all like ecookbooks? Would you have any interest in purchasing one made by yours truly? If so, what kind of recipes would you like to see?

Kale, hemp and flaxseed oil pesto -

Kale, Hemp and Flaxseed Oil Pesto
4.8 from 10 reviews
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
Kale pesto made with Omega-rich hemp seeds and flaxseed oil. Ready in 5 minutes! Feel free to substitute walnuts for the hemp and/or olive oil for the flaxseed oil if that's what you have on hand. The pesto recipe is vegan and gluten free (see notes).
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups packed kale (about 1 small bunch)
  • ¾ cup hemp seeds or toasted walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • ¾ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • Red pepper flakes, optional (if you want to add some kick)
  • ¼ cup flaxseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil (more if desired)
  • Entirely optional: ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Pasta (if you want pasta...)
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) whole grain pasta, like linguine
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  1. Make the pesto: In a food processor, add the peeled garlic cloves and process until the garlic is minced. Add the kale, hemp seeds, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Turn on the food processor and drizzle in the oil. Process until the pesto reaches your desired consistency, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Taste and add more lemon, salt or pepper if necessary. (You can thin out the pesto with more oil, but if you’re serving with pasta, keep in mind that you can also thin it out with reserved pasta cooking water.)
  2. Cook the pasta (optional): Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Reserve one cup cooking liquid before draining the pasta. Let the pasta and pasta water cool for a minute to make sure the high heat doesn't damage the flax oil pesto.
  3. If you intend to have leftovers, transfer the amount of pasta you think you’ll be eating immediately to a serving bowl and mix in pesto with splashes of cooking water. Otherwise, you can mix the pasta and pesto together in your cooking pot, adding splashes of cooking water as necessary. Keep in mind that you have diluted the flavor a bit with the cooking water, so taste and add more lemon, salt or a drizzle of olive oil as necessary.
  • Recipe loosely adapted from The Oh She Glows Cookbook.
  • Yields about 1¼ cups pesto.
  • If you intend to have leftover pasta, it’s best to store the noodles and pesto separately. Avoid reheating pesto (it will lose its vibrance and some of its flavor)—especially if you used flaxseed oil, which is heat sensitive. To serve, bring the pesto to room temperature and add a little water if necessary to get the right consistency.
  • This pesto is vegan as long as you skip the Parmesan. It's also gluten-free, as long as you're serving it on gluten-free pasta or whatever.
  • If you're in the market for a food processor, I recently bought this small, highly rated Cuisinart food processor and it's been treating me well.
  • Commenters have found hemp seeds on sale at Costco and TJ Maxx/Marshall's, so you might look for them there!


  1. says

    Such a great idea to sub in hemp seeds and flaxseed oil – definitely going to try this the next time I whip up a batch of pesto!

    PS would love love love to see an ecookbook of the best of Cookie + Kate!

  2. says

    Love that last shot! I’ve been pretty obsessed with all things hemp for a few years now. Just can’t get enough! If you have access to Costco they carry the seeds [Nutiva organic] along with hemp oil [my salad oil of choice!] and of course are so much cheaper. I’m a big fan of making hemp milk, too. Yay for hemp and superfood pesto!

    • says

      Thanks, Ashley! I snuck into Costco with a friend a couple months ago and all I bought were bottles of Champagne and Cholula. Next time, I’ll look for hemp! Thanks for the tip!

  3. says

    Hooray for pesto! I remember the first time I had a kale pesto and how wonderful it was–but I’m super intrigued by the idea of using hemp seeds! Maybe they’re in the spring air or something, because it seems like everyone is suddenly talking about them. Plus, did you know you can get them for super cheap (comparatively) in the food aisle at Marshalls or TJ Maxx? I really want to try this out!

    • says

      Thanks, Eileen! I bet you would enjoy this version of kale seeds. I did not know that I could find them at Marshalls/TJ Maxx. That’s a great tip, thank you!

  4. says

    Yum. This pesto looks amazing.
    Though I am not vegetarian,or vegan I love vegetables, legumes, etc. Which is why I have been visiting your site for the last year or so.
    What keeps me coming back?
    That you offer great looking, great tasting, healthy foods (with an emphasis on vegetables and lots of flavor). I especially like the recipes that I do not have to buy ingredients I may not have on hand.
    I say all of this to say, yes to the ebook!!
    I think you should write an ebook about meals or snacks that can be made quickly. But, whatever you write about, I think it would be great:)

    • says

      Rachel, thank you! When it comes to my recipes, I just try to make vegetables look good. :) I’m so glad you’re enjoying them!

  5. Jenna says

    I have found it hard to convince myself to buy cookbooks and ecookbooks now since so much is available for free online and since it sometimes seems like the recipes you pay for are just slightly re-worked versions of recipes on the web. But I do make exceptions (e.g. the Smitten Kitchen cookbook) and I would definitely buy one from you too!

  6. says

    i got myself some hemp seeds too lately and works so nicely in salads..making pesto with it is just gorgeous!!

    Ecookbook sounds wonderful..I released one not too long ago and it was a great feeling. Anything you make is good so whatever is in there i can guarantee its healthy and fantastic :)

  7. Janis says

    Hi…lovely recipe! You can make pesto in a mortar and pestle. I’ve done it many times. For kale,though, you’ll probably have to chop it finely to start as it’s a lot tougher than basil and/or parsley. In fact, it might be nice to toss in a small handful of fresh basil with the kale.

    Thank you so much for this beautiful site!

    • says

      Thanks, Janis! I don’t have the patience for a mortar and pestle, but you’re right, that’s a very good option! I love basil and think it would be lovely here. Glad you are enjoying the site!

  8. says

    Fabulous idea to put together a cookbook – healthy and tasty is exactly my type of thing.
    I am curious, I hope you do not mind me asking, but can you make a living being a blogger? How do you earn you money – just from those few adds on you post?

    • says

      Hey Afra! Good question. I try to diversify my revenue sources, but it’s mostly coming from ads right now. Some of it comes from affiliate links, sponsored posts, etc. Oh My Veggies just released a terrific ebook about making money from a blog, if you want to check it out!

      • says

        Thanks so much for your reponse! That really is very handy info to have. I am wondering whether I should stick some time and effort into figuring out if I can make my blog generate a little income.

  9. says

    That picture of Cookie cracked me up at work :D “Whatcha doin’?”

    I love the idea of combining superfoods in a pesto. Been on a bit of a pesto kick lately, so maybe it’s time to start boosting that nutritional value :) Thanks for sharing!

  10. says

    I adore pesto and one look at the first picture with the noodles entwined with the fork sold me. I’ve never tried hemp seeds either. I’m afraid that if I buy them my pantry will keel over and die. I have officially over-stuffed my pantry with so many dang seeds, flours, sugars, and supplement-type-odds-and-ends that I seriously can’t even close my door. But oh wait, you said you keep these in the fridge right? Score! And sold. :)

    • says

      My new cupboards are bursting to the brim, too! But yeah, you want to keep hemp seeds in the fridge. I think you’ll like them. :)

  11. says

    I’ve never purchased or read an ecookbook. But I cook so much more often from blogs than from my actual cookbook collection, I don’t know why not! If you make one, just keep doing what you do — I love your range of recipes :)

    Cookie is soooo cute :) I am loving your photos these days! This pesto sounds so full of goodness and nutrition. Love!

  12. says

    Personally I’m not a huge fan of e-books. I prefer something tangible that I can flick through, spill on, lend to a dear friend. If you wrote a cookbook I would purchase it in a heartbeat!

  13. says

    Mmmm this looks gorgeous and delicious Kate! I’m on a huge hemp seed kick and love your idea of pairing the pesto with eggs. As for the e-cookbook, I’ve published 2 (well, they’re sort of nutrition guides AND cookbooks – each has some nutrition tools, plus recipes) and they’re really fun to make! I’m sure one of yours would be beautiful!

    • says

      Your ebooks sound like great resources, Angela. I’ve designed magazines so I know I could make an ebook if I put my mind to it. We’ll see.

  14. says

    this looks so delicious, kate! i love the flecks of red in a sea of speckled green. i have yet to experiment with hemp seeds, but will have to try soon. great job on the blog redesign – it looks great. keep it up, i absolutely love your blog!

  15. Marcia says

    I’m old so I’d rather have a cookbook to hold BUT I like the idea of an ecookbook because I truly have enough books now!! It’d be nice to have all your great recipes in one spot rather than trying to dig through my computer to find what I’m looking for. It’d also be more financially feasible to make an ebook too. I’d say Go For It! And Good Luck! Marcia

    • says

      Right?! Hemp seeds have a more mild flavor than pine nuts but they’re lovely in pesto. You can also sprinkle them on salads, granola/cereal/oatmeal, etc.

  16. says

    Just stuff those superfoods in wherever you can! That’s my life motto. I’m amazed at how many omega 3’s are packed into this. Good stuff.

  17. Jackeline says

    Splendid recipe! I love the switch to hemp seeds, since walnuts are the usually what’s used to make pesto. Speaking of hemp seeds and walnuts, alas, I don’t have any of those on hand; could I use something else (flaxseeds, maybe?) or is that impossible?

    • says

      Great question, Jackeline. I actually looked up flaxseed pesto yesterday and it looks like it can be done. If you try it, will you let me know how it turns out? I also love pecans and/or pistachios in pesto, if you have either of those on hand.

  18. says

    Ugh, I hate the dreaded “so what do you do”. I never know what to say and when I say food blogger, I hate the look I get. Ha!

    This pesto looks so delicious!! Pesto this time of year is just right!

  19. says

    What a wonderful recipe and great shots (especially the first one)! I’ve never had hemp seeds but if they taste like pine nuts, you can totally count me in. I’m more of a cookbooks-printed-on-paper kind of girl but would love to see an ebook from you, Kate!!

    • says

      Thank you, Sini! I think you would like hemp seeds. Their flavor is much more mild than pine nuts, but it’s nice. I usually prefer printed cookbooks, too. We’ll see. :)

  20. says

    That is a seriously beautiful pesto Kate. I actually thought about using kale in a pesto last week but then checked myself with a premature “Nah, it’d be too bitter!”. You have proven me entirely (and happily) wrong! I’ve never used hemp seeds before so I’d be interested to try your recipe… nice to know that they’re not much more expensive than pine nuts. Looks so delicious with the lovely little flecks of chilli – yum. Plus, that picture of Cookie is entirely adorable. Naw! x

  21. says

    Yeah, I know what you mean about wheatgrass and all these fad superfoods. I too usually stick with the plain old ingredients, but I recently wrote an e-book all about being healthy on a budget, and wrote a little section in it about health foods worth the splurge and hemp seeds were one of them! I love the taste of them and they’re so versatile and healthy!

    Love the idea of using them in a pesto with kale. Could be on the menu tonight….

  22. says

    Oh yummy, this looks delicious! I live in Switzerland and have never seen hemp seeds in the stores, but I will definitely keep my eyes open for them now. I really want to try this recipe! And what a cute dog you have! Mine also loves to peek over the table when I’m cooking :-D

  23. says

    Nice! I’ve been looking for a recipe like this, as you said its so versatile! I think its brilliant that you can say you blog for a living…..every bloggers dream I think.
    I’ve never bought an e-cookbook before as I love physically flipping through cookbooks. Never say never though!
    PS. That pic of Cookie is super-cute.

  24. says

    Hi, Kate! I absolutely love tangible cookbooks that you can leaf through, drool over and spill things on, but I don’t see why an e-cookbook couldn’t be as attractive (I can still droll over it and sort of leaf through it, but I’ll have to skip the spilling things on it I guess!), especially one from you because I know already that it would be super high quality. And you can always print bits of it out, I guess. Yes, I say go for it!
    As for the kale and hemp pesto … wonderful! Love the versatility of different pestos!

    • says

      Hi Sally, I’ve considered adding nutritional information to my recipes but it’s actually a pretty complex decision for me. We’ll see.

  25. says

    Thanks so much for making hemp + flaxseed unintimidating! I’ve always wondered if I’d be able to make use of them if I bought whole jars/bottles, and with this pesto I bet I would. Thanks, too, for the e-cookbook link. You’re the best!

    • says

      Hooray, that’s just what I wanted to hear! I think you would like both hemp and flaxseed. Hope you get a few sales from the link!

    • says

      Awesome! Their flavor is pretty mild, so I think you’ll like hemp seeds. You can also sprinkle them on salads, yogurt and so forth.

  26. says

    Tasty recipes that just happen to be healthy- yes. I’m with you on that- I love the way I feel when I eat kale, but I would never eat it if I didn’t like the taste. That’s one of the reasons I tend not to buy “superfoods”, because people always talk about how to hide the taste. Ugh. I’ve never bought hemp seeds, but now I might. Thank you!

    • says

      Hope you enjoy the hemp seeds if you get around to buying them! They have a really mild taste that would go well on salads, cereal, etc.

  27. says

    i LOVE pesto! this recipe sounds delicious and is healthy to boot, woohoo! i will have to try it. love that the ingredients seem pretty easily accessible too.

    btw, i’m a huge fan of ecookbooks. i usually try out recipes on my ipad in the kitchen so you’d be saving me the time to take a snapshot of each recipe i liked in physical book form ;)

    • says

      Hope you love the pesto, Sher! Thanks for the feedback on ecookbooks, too. Maybe I’ll make one if I come up with a fun topic.

  28. says

    This looks great – as I don’t eat wheat (or any refined sugar/flour etc) I presume you could also have this on top of zucchini pasta too? I got a cool Veggie Twister spiraliser which makes zucchini pasta in one minute flat!

  29. says

    First off… pup pic… adorable. Ok, now you have me intrigued about trying hemp seeds. Mainly, because I am a pine nut (and pesto) obsessed man. Thank you for officially inspiring me to give these a try. I will let you know what I think when I do.


  30. says

    I just so happen to have everything I need to make this pesto, if I use walnuts. Husband is working on Sunday night and this looks like the perfect single lady dinner! Also – I have big plans for your “Very Best Brownie” recipe this weekend…I’m thinking I can have two if I load up on this healthy pasta first, right? ;)

  31. sasha vegelove99 says

    Going to get the M Baker ecookbook as oneingredientchef says it supports all the wonderful free stuff we get, would buy yours as have gone to vegan would need it to be easier to substitute. Really like your dishes, would like to see tofu, tempeh, fiery Asian dishes..anything really!!

  32. says

    I have made kale pesto before, I love it. I made it with zucchini pasta and cherry tomatoes. Beautiful pictures, you’ve inspired me to do it again!

  33. says

    I made this last night!! It was the first time I have had kale pesto, really great! I served with gluten free pasta, tomatoes, and grilled shrimp. I am a new reader to your blog, looks like I will have to try more of your recipes!

  34. Kim says

    Kate, I have been hoping that you might consider a cookbook ever since you announced your career move to full-time blogger status. I would truly be thrilled if you wrote a cookbook (in any format)!

  35. says

    Hi Kate – I’m such a fan of your website, writing, and recipes! It’s so much fun to try your recipes … and so far, everything has been tasty. What a great resource as I venture into the land of plant-based eating.

    Question for you on the flax seed oil. From what I’ve read about it, combining flax seed oil with anything too hot breaks down the oil and you lose the health benefits. So I wondered if adding in some of the pasta cooking liquid would be a no-no?

    I made this in my VitaMix so I steamed the kale for just a couple of minutes, then let it cool and THEN added everything else. It still needed some liquid but I just added room temperature water. We enjoyed it over some spelt spaghetti. It was great! Thank you!!

    • says

      Hi Nancy! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipes. Good question about the cooking liquid. My cooking liquid had been sitting out for a few minutes before I mixed it into the pasta, so I don’t think it was hot enough to damage the flax oil. I assumed most others would be doing the same. I just read online that flax oil starts to degrade at temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit and water boils at 212, so I’ll add a note to the recipe about letting the water cool a bit.

  36. Maya says

    Hi Kate, This looks fantastic, I’ve just made the kale pesto (without the hemp seed though, it’s a bit hard to get them here) and it’s also tastes great. How long can i keep it in the fridge?

    • says

      Hi Maya, I’m sorry I didn’t answer your question soon, but glad you enjoyed the pesto! It keeps for a few days in the fridge. I like to press saran wrap against the surface to help prevent oxidation.

  37. Ashley Marie says

    This was great! Next time, I will omit the lemon because it was too tangy with the kale. I made it vegan by using nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese!
    But definitely write a cookbook because I love your recipes and because they use such whole ingredients, they can easily be made vegan or gluten free by substituting small things!

  38. says

    Loved this! I make Socca all the time and this was such a great variation. It was such a hot summer night, so decided to try it out on the grill in 2 cast iron skillets and it turned out absolutely amazing! I subbed a few things because I wanted to use what I had on hand. I grilled some radicchio and portobellos and used this instead of the squash and spinach. Will make it again and again! Thanks so much, Kate!

  39. Aviva says

    I always think of pesto as such a to-do, but I see now that it’s pretty easy. Admittedly I didn’t use exact measurements, but it still came out great. I used walnuts and half walnut half olive oil and a baby spinach and kale mix. I consider parmesan mandatory :) I loved it. My kids didn’t go for it, but that’s their loss. More for my husband and me!

  40. Susan says

    Made this tonight with Broccoli greens ( used hemp seeds and olive oil) plus added a pinch of fresh lemon zest from the juiced lemon … It was wonderful!
    Thank you for another recipe to use up the broccoli greens after the garden has quit producing broccoli florets.

  41. Olga says

    I just made this kale pesto today. I froze most of it (I made a lot) and plan to use it in soups and frittatas this winter. It’s the only way I can get my husband to eat kale. I also tossed in a whole jalapeno per batch scince I had some laying around.

  42. Priya says

    I discovered your blog a couple of months ago and now I’m obsessed. I have tried several of your recipes but haven’t left any comments until now. I just had this for lunch and I have to say thank you for introducing me to this!! I have never been able to get myself to eat kale but this is the perfect way to disguise it. I’m also a strong believer of mushrooms making everything better and topped this dish off with sliced, sautéed portabella shrooms.

    Dinner menu: Freekeh pilaf with roasted cauli, yum!!

    • says

      Hi Priya! Thanks for saying hello. I’m delighted to hear that you’re enjoying my recipes! I bet this pesto is fantastic with mushrooms on top.

  43. Layla says

    Love this! I added a bit of nutritional yeast instead of parmezan. That way you can keep it vegan but still give it a nice cheezy touch.

  44. Jean says

    This looks so good and healthy. Gonna try to make this tonight. Love Love your pics of your pup!

    Thanks for your recipes!

  45. Stephanie says

    This recipe ROCKED! I used walnuts and olive oil because it’s what I had on-hand and I even used leftovers as part of a bruschetta.

  46. Eva says

    My cousin and I made the walnut/olive oil version for dinner yesterday for Game-of-Thrones night. Delicious. I’m never sure if my husband will take to a new healthy dish, but he loved it as well. He suggested sprinkling more chopped walnuts on top, which i will try next time. Now to see if the toddler takes to it. Definitely making this again. If I could suggest anything it would be to start light on the salt for those who want to add the Parmesan. I say again…delicious. Thank you for all your work, Kate.

    • says

      Thank you, Eva! So glad you enjoyed it. I like your husband’s suggestion of adding more walnuts on top! Hope the toddler goes for it!

  47. Sofia says

    I just made this but substituted the hemp seeds with sunflower seeds. It was delicious! Thanks a lot for posting this!

Leave a comment below:

Your comments make my day. Thank you!

Note: Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: