Is anyone else struggling to get back on the healthy train after Thanksgiving? I’m stuck on the pie train myself. My body wants greens but my brain wants more pie.
It’s so cold outside that salads don’t hold their usual appeal, so I whipped up some kale pesto instead. This recipe is super easy to make in your food processor and it’s ready in about five minutes.
Unlike traditional pesto, which is typically made with fresh basil and pine nuts, this recipe calls for kale and pecans. I love using pecans with kale because their light sweetness helps balance out the bitterness of the kale. You know what else helps balance out the kale? Salt and some heat. This pesto is best served on something warm.
This kale pesto recipe is a delicious way to pack in some greens this winter, and it’s the perfect use for the random bunch of kale in your fridge. You can use pesto for so much more than just pasta. I’ve provided some more uses below!
Uses for Kale Pesto
Here are just a few ideas:
- Toss it with warm pasta or spaghetti squash
- Or gnocchi with roasted carrots (shown below)
- Use it as pizza sauce (like this)
- Spread it inside your grilled cheese sandwich (or any sandwich)
- Mash it with avocado and spread it on toast (like this)
- Dollop it onto scrambled eggs or an omelet
Please let me know how you like this kale pesto in the comments! It’s a bold one, but I really love it and hope you do, too. Cookie loves to eat the leftover kale stems.
On a pesto kick? Check out these fun recipes featuring pesto!
Kale Pecan Pesto Recipe
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 1 ½ cups
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Food Processor
- Cuisine: Italian
Extra kale? Make this easy kale pesto recipe! It’s an absolutely delicious way to eat your greens. Use it like regular basil pesto—on pasta, pizza and more! Recipe yields about 1 ½ cups.
3 cups packed kale (about 1 small bunch), preferably the Tuscan/lacinato variety, thick ribs removed
½ cup raw pecans
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
1 medium-to-large clove garlic
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- In a food processor, combine the kale, pecans, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Turn on the food processor and blend until the kale and pecans have broken down into small pieces.
- While running the machine, drizzle in the oil. Process until the pesto reaches your desired consistency, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Then add the cheese and process briefly to combine.
- Taste and add more lemon juice, for zing (up to 1 tablespoon), or salt, for overall flavor and to cut the bitterness of the kale (up to ¼ teaspoon). Use as desired.
- Leftover pesto keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 10 days. Or, freeze it for up to 6 months. (I like to freeze pesto in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and store in a freezer-safe bag.)
Recipe adapted from my classic basil pesto and superfoods kale pesto.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Omit the Parmesan. Substitute 1 to 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, to taste, or generously sprinkle your finished dish with vegan Parmesan.
Make it nut free: Replace the pecans with hemp seeds or pepitas (green pumpkin seeds).
How to toss pesto with pasta: Before you drain your pasta, place a liquid measuring cup in the sink. Then, pour about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water into the measuring cup before you drain off the rest of the water. That pasta cooking water is pure gold—it contains starches that create a creamy emulsion and help attach the sauce to the pasta. Off the heat, toss pasta, pesto and small splashes of pasta cooking water together until you’re satisfied with the consistency (I used roughly ⅓ cup reserved pasta cooking water with ¾ cup pesto and ½ pound of spaghetti).
Oooh, can’t wait to try this! There’s a great vegetarian restaurant here in Austin that has grilled beets with pecan pesto on the menu. If you’re ever back this way you should check out the place: Citizen Eatery.
That sounds delicious! Let me know what you think of this one, Alice.
Made this delicious recipe for tonight’s pizza – OMG – gotta try it! I did not have pecans so I used filberts. Unfortunately my basil died ages ago due to cold so kale is a great replacement! Always amazing recipes – thank you!
Thanks for your review, Tamara! I love that you already tried it. :)
I have a huge bag of walnuts isn’t like to use. Do you think walnuts would work well or too bitter paired with the kale?
Hi Madison! I think walnuts would be good, too. If you’ve had the bag for a while and the walnuts taste bitter, though, they have probably gone rancid.
Brittany Audra @ Audra's Appetite
I tried adding kale to pesto when I had an abundance of kale in my garden this past summer. Can’t wait to make it again!
Thanks for sharing, Brittany!
I am on the pie train with you! I have eaten more pie in the past week than I have eaten in 2 years! Of course, I tried to justify it because there were pecans in it. Am feeling so unhealthy and can’t wait to make this pesto. Am always looking for more ways to eat dark leafy greens. Thanks for the recipe!
The holidays, am I right?! You’re welcome. Let me know what you think when you try it, Erin!
I’m a big ice cube tray pesto freezer. What a great idea for the winter considering my outdoor basil will eventually die off!
I wasn’t sure how to use the pecans I had bought when I only needed a few to garnish a Thanksgiving dish, so I was so happy to see this recipe! I’m going to try it on red lentil pasta. Do you ever use pasta alternatives such as chickpea pasta or black bean pasta?
Hey Monica! Hope you love the pesto. I actually tried this pesto on Banza brand pasta (chickpea pasta) and loved it. I’ve tried some other brands and not enjoyed them, but Banza has a nice texture and flavor as long as it’s pretty well coated in sauce. :)
Where’s the parm come into play here?
Hey Charlotte! Sorry, I forgot to add that you mix in the cheese at the end. I’ve fixed the recipe!
Pesto is a go-to topping for pasta, chicken and fish on our dinner table. Love a pesto recipe that uses something other than basil. It’s the sauces that make the difference and even a small tweak can really change things here and there!
Pesto is so good!
This looks great! Pecans and kale together sound wonderful.
Just checking, but I’m assuming I stir the grated parmesan into the blended pesto at the end, right?
Can’t wait to try this!
Yes, you do! So sorry for that omission. I’ve corrected the recipe, thank you for bringing that detail to my attention!
I just made two batches of your pesto (pic at #cookieandkate). First batch just as written, second batch I added some lemon zest, and I pre-toasted the pecans for a few minutes in a dry pan. I think the toasted pecan really adds something nice to the flavor! Another tasty recipe – thanks for a good recipe to make on this gray winter day!
You’re welcome, Mary!
This was delicious!
I’m glad you liked it, Janine! Thanks for your review.
This pesto was so delicious! I had some leftover kale from another recipe, so I thought I would give this a try. I didn’t quite have enough pecans, so I did about half pecans and half hemp seeds, and it worked really well. I also made it vegan using nutritional yeast (about 1.5 tablespoons). Thank you so much for this recipe, I will definitely be making more of it in the near future!
Thanks for sharing, Erin! I’m glad you loved it.
This is really tasty! Made it with cauliflower gnocchi, roasted carrots and butternut squash. I have a lot of pesto leftover – how long will it keep in the fridge?
Thank you for sharing!Leftover pesto keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 10 days. Or, freeze it for up to 6 months. (I like to freeze pesto in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out the cubes and store in a freezer-safe bag.)
Thank you for the recipe! I truly like the taste of this pesto. I added all the ingredients at once in my Vitamix and it mixed well. I did not realize the oil had to be poured in as it blended. I am planning to use the pesto on a cauliflower pizza. I would like to know how would you thaw the pesto in cubes once frozen for later use. I love your recipes! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for trying it, Elizabeth! You can just pull out ahead of time and let it thaw in your fridge.
You’re probably tired of hearing this, but OMG, this recipe is sooo good. I’m not a fan of most pestos, but this is fresh, herby, and rich. I would eat this straight out of the food processor bowl even if I didn’t have a spoon! Thank you for yet another outstanding recipe.
I’m not tired of hearing it! Thanks for your review and feedback, Patricia.
I brought this kale pecan pesto to a dinner party along with lots of roasted veggies (carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, etc.) and it was a hit! I’m vegetarian, but some guests added the pesto to their steak and raved about it. I had the leftover pesto on toast the next day. I made more today added the zest of the lemon I used for the juice and 2 cloves of garlic. Yum!!! Thank you.
How did you do gnocchi and carrot like in the picture? I’m guessing a 500g package gnocchi + the whole roasted carrots recipe + half this recipe pesto?
Hi Hayley! I did a standard package US (I believe 12 oz? or a little less) and you got the rest right! :)
Thanks! The pesto is delicious. We used half of it on roasted potatoes and I was looking for another way to use the rest :)
Can you substitute cashews for the pecans? I seem to always have cashews laying around my kitchen.
Usually walnuts and pecans can be swapped. I’m not sure cashews will provide the same consistency here as they can be softer.
made this from a big bag of leftover kale – it was bright, tangy and fresh. we added it to pasta and also used it in a sandwich. absolutely delish – definitely a keeper!
Thank you for your review!
Delicious! What a great way to eat kale. I recently found your website and am an instant fan. Amazing how many recipes also go down with our three boys.
Thank you, Jikke!
Kate I’ve made this with kale man times – it’s fantastic. I’m overrun with spinach right now, and I’m pretty sure it will be delicious with spinach as it is with kale, but I’m cooking for neighbors and am not sure. What do you think?
I’m not sure without trying it, but I think it would be worth testing! Let me know what you think.
This was beautiful. I used this with some pasta. It made an awesome side dish.
Which Kale pesto recipe that you have is the best?
Hey Danica, I’d say this one is my favorite! Hope you love it.
So delicious! I’m dreaming of all the ways I could use this. And also definitely had a spoonful on its own before putting it in the fridge. As always, amazing recipe using healthy, feel-good AND taste-good ingredients. I love every recipe I try from you!
I’m not normally a fan of kale, but I love this pesto! It’s delicious!
Hooray! Thank you for trying it and reporting back, Heather.
Absurdly delish! The only change I made was to double the garlic because I’m a garlic fiend.
Just made this to use up a bunch of kale that came in a veggie box, and mmmmmm is it ever nice! Thank you so much for a great recipe
You’re welcome, Sarah! I appreciate your review.
Hi Kate, is it possible to use the curly kale as that’s all
I can get. Thanks!
This was delicious! I was in a bit of a rut with our pizza making (usually basil pesto with broccoli, lemons and onion) and frankly didn’t have the main ingredients on hand. However, I did have a bag of Trader Joe’s chopped Kale. Made the pesto and used half of it on your Kale Pesto Pizza. Yum.
I had half of the pesto leftover, and ended up putting a very large dollop on a slice of Tartine sourdough bread for a quick and easy lunch. Yum, yum, yum. I think it was even better since the pesto had sat for a couple of days and the flavors melded together.
I’m a convert! Thanks for the recipe.
This is a great way to use up extra kale. I used 2 small garlic cloves, and it was a little too garlicky for me, plus with the lemon it was overall pretty acidic. I added some extra half n half and pasta water before tossing it on pasta, and that helped. Great on pasta!
Thank you for your feedback, Rose. I’m glad you were able to modify it to your taste.