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 under 10 minutes.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Super Kale Pesto
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 8 mins
- Total Time: 13 minutes
- Yield: 1 ¼ cups 1x
- Category: Entree
- Method: Food processor
- Cuisine: Italian
This kale pesto recipe is made with Omega 3-rich hemp seeds and flaxseed oil. Ready in under 10 minutes! For a more pantry-friendly option, use walnuts/pecans instead of hemp seeds and/or olive oil for the flaxseed oil (it’s just as tasty). Recipe yields about 1 ¼ cups pesto.
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic
- 3 cups packed kale (about 1 small bunch)
- ¾ cup hemp seeds or toasted walnuts or pecans
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
Suggestions for leftovers: 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.
Make it vegan: This pesto is vegan as long as you skip the Parmesan.
Make it gluten-free: This pesto is gluten-free; just be sure to serve it on gluten-free pasta or whatever else.
Make it nut-free: Use hemp seeds instead of walnuts or pecans.
Recommended equipment: If you’re in the market for a food processor, I love this small, highly rated Cuisinart food processor (affiliate link).
This looks heavenly! I love pesto in general and the idea of making it with kale sounds delicious. I’ve never actually tried hemp seeds, though I’ve always wanted to!
Let me know what you think, Grace!
I love the combo of kale and walnuts.
Can I use this as a dip with crackers?
I have never commented on someone’s recipe before, but…this is THE best online recipe I have ever tasted! I used olive oil and linguine. Tonight, I will be dreaming of lunch tomorrow–kale pesto smeared on multigrain bread with fresh tomatoes.
THANK YOU :)
I’m so glad you commented, Sue! Thanks so much for the review.
I usually make this once a week and grill some portobellos to top it off.
My family loves it and we’re starting to meal prep before our newest addition arrives. I’m wondering how well and long the pesto will freeze for.
I am going crazy with the amount of kale I have. After market I want to use the kale I don’t sell.
Can you tell me please if this freezes well?
Do you add the parmesan, or just eat it as is? I am constantly making vegan parmesan, but really have too much to do today:)
You can out in nutritional yeast instead of vegan parmesan
I LOVE this recipe. It is such a powerful punch of superfoods. I made it vegan by using nutritional yeast instead of parmesan cheese. It was wonderful served over spaghetti squash with some pan roasted cherry tomatoes over top. Thanks for the inspiration!
Thanks for sharing, Tracy! The combination sounds delicious. I appreciate your comment and review!
This is such an amazing receipt! I could not stop eating my pasta.
I also added sprouted mung beans and shallot on top. Brilliant!
Love to hear that!
Loved this! Even my 6 year old picky eater enjoyed it. I just omitted the chili flakes.
Thanks for sharing, Sarah!
I’ve been using your recipes for years and have never been disappointed! This kale pesto is especially great because I have a photo of my 2 year old dipping his fingers into the leftover pesto and eating it. Seriously, he LOVED it! Toddler approved!
I’m so happy to hear that, Katherine! Thanks so much for commenting. I’m glad your little guy loved it!
I have loads of kale. Can I freeze it and make pesto in a few months with the frozen kale?
Hi! Sure, that could work. Or, you can make the pesto and freeze in ice cube trays too.
This pesto is absolutely delicious its the perfect combination of flavors and the toasted walnuts really make it a hit thanks for creating such a delicious recipe i’ll be making this again!!:))
You’re welcome, Maria! I’m happy you loved it.
This pesto was amazing! Like another commenter, I added nutritional yeast in place of the parmesan. For the pasta I used shells and like you suggested, I added more lemon at the end. Wonderful, fast, and so pretty!
Thanks, Kelley! I’m glad you loved it.
Delicious! I didn’t have time to look for hemp seeds so used pine nuts and pistachio nuts that I had. We mixed zoodles and whole wheat spaghetti noodles and a little nutritional yeast on top. Definitely will make it again.
I’m glad you liked it, Beth! Thanks for the review.
Hi, I was just going to remind you that Parmesan Cheese isn’t vegan nor vegetarian
Hi Poppy! I know it isn’t vegan, but there are vegetarian options out there. You just need to look at the ingredients. Thank you for the comment!
Amazing! I made it with toasted walnuts and rosemary-infused olive oil and absolutely loved the flavor. On top of that I also love how flexible the recipe is to modifications, as well as quick to prepare. This is going to be a staple…
I’m glad you loved it, Meg! Thanks for your review.
Made this last night with linguine it was delicious. Every plate was finished including the fussiest eater in our fam – thank you Kate
I made this last night and it was phenomenal!
So tasty and perfect for this time of year where we are transitioning to Spring!
I had it with zucchini noodles, broiled cherry tomatoes and pan fried prawns!
We cant wait to make it again! Thank you!
Can you sub chard for the kale?
You could try it since they are similar. Might be more bitter, so adjust accordingly.
Hi Kathryn, I love kale pesto but just wondered what you think about the oxalic acid in raw kale. I thought it was only in raw chard and silverbeet until recently. Not as alluring but I think I’ll start steaming kale first before making pesto…sigh
Do you think this recipe can be canned? I mean make it in the food processor raw and put it in a hotbath for 10-15 min? I love making pesto and have been freezing it but wonder about canning it?
I’m sorry I’m not an expert with canning. I have had luck with freezing pesto in ice cube trays in the past.
This is a fresh, healthy, and easy summer meal. I make it regularly and it has definitely helped me when deciding what to make on a busy weeknight. Who knew that something so delicious could be so easy to make? Thank you for this recipe!
You’re welcome, Keisha!
This sounds delicious! Has anyone frozen the pesto? I like to make things ahead and freeze to have on hand for my vegan son when he visits.
Hi Dee! I know my basil pesto freezes well, so I assume this would too. Try it in ice cube trays. Let me know!
Yummy & nutritious, what else can we ask for? this recipe delivers mega flavor and no one will know it’s kale if you don’t want them too. :) I used walnuts, extra virgin olive oil and parm cheese. Great way to incorporate kale into your diet. thank you!
may i post your recipe and link to your website?
Thank you! Be sure to follow my recipes sharing policy here: https://cookieandkate.com/cookie-and-kates-photo-and-recipe-policy/
I have an over abundance of French kale this year and can’t wait to make this recipe. I think I will do like I do with regular basil pesto and freeze in small containers so I will always have a summer fresh meal all winter long. I spread regular pesto on chicken breasts and bake, add some extra Parmesan cheese at the end and voila, you have a tasty quick dinner under 30 min
Good day! Does this freeze well?
Pesto typically freezes well, so I assume so!
This is delicious and turned out well. The only issue for me is seeing an ad for toe fungus removal on your page. Not too appetizing or good to see on a food blog/website.
Hi Abe, I’m sorry about your experience! I only have so much control over ads that are served as it is based on the user and other criteria. I will make a note to my team, though!
I bought kale pesto at Costco and it was so so . Nothing to brag about. I do buy the basil pesto and put it on chicken and broccoli. love it!! I am thinking about adding kale to basil pesto to make it go further and maybe healthier.
Let me know what you think when you try it!
I used lacinto kale and a mixture of walnuts and hazelnuts because that’s what I had and it came out great! It didn’t even need the cheese but I added it anyway because cheese :)
Thank you for sharing, Nadia!
This was delicious! I’ve been looking for something I could do with my multigrain pasta, and I just knew this would be a hit!
I just made this and it was so great! Thank you!!
Hi I have heaps of limes, would that taste weird instead of lemon?
You could try it. May be interesting but shouldn’t be too bad!
LOVED the kale walnut pesto. I had tons of early kale and garlic come on all at once so I tried this – yum! I added some fresh basil I had growing as well. Best Pesto ever thank you.
When faced with a lot of kale, this is my go-to recipe. I also added some Braggs nutritional yeast and used the walnuts in lieu of hemp hearts. A real crowd pleaser.
Absolutely amazing! Wondering if can freeze as it made more than expected.
Had it with gnocchi and roasted veg.
Yes I freeze it
Great, great, great recipe!
I did add basil and spinach and created a pasta with mushrooms, onions, pine nuts, extra spinach and goats cheese.
Thanks for the recipe share ☺️
Would frozen kale work in this recipe? I always plant a bumper crop and freeze for smoothies/soups and don’t have fresh kale at the moment.
Hi! You could try it! I would make sure if there was any excess moisture from it being frozen to remove. Let me know how it turns out for you.
Great pesto and super easy to make! The garlic flavour was stronger than I imagined, but overall it was nice. Maybe I’ll add some spinach next time?
Hi! Thank you for sharing. Spinach could be interesting, although I haven’t tried it.
Hi Kate, I made the Kale Pesto (vegan version) tonight with hemp seeds. Unfortunately it’s hasn’t gone down as a family favourite. I didn’t mind it once I added lots of lemon juice and a few torn basil leaves to my plate. Not having had kale much we weren’t used to the kale flavour. I have lots of left overs. :)
Just made it using pumpkin seeds. I used fresh parmesan. Could not find Pecans or Walnuts at the biggest store. Made 3 sandwich bags full of Pesto.
I did buy hemp hearts will use for next batch. Lots of Kale in the garden. Thanks for posting this Kate
I am not a camera gal.
This is a family favorite (our sons favorite meal of all time) and we eat it frequently so easy and healthy and tasty. I have 4 kids under 9 and they all love it every time we make it. They prefer it with whole wheat rotini because it clings to the pesto better. I have been trying to cut the gluten to improve my health so I made it pesto pilaf this time (served it over rice with some sprouted lentils on top). Still slammin good!
I won’t put snake oil in my pesto, AKA hemp seeds.
Anything that is sold in a vape shop to gullible idiots hoping to get high is not an industry I care to support.
Zero science, max hype.
I think you should actually look into the “science” before you rudely comment (to also avoid sounding ignorant). Hemp seeds do not contain CBD or THC, but they are incredibly high in nutritional benefits. You could even call them a superfood – I suggest reading reputable sources.
This is one of my favourite recipes, I probably make it once a week. I usually steam the kale briefly before making the pesto. I also typically toss broccoli with the pasta and pesto – either roasted broccoli or just broccoli that I add to the pot with the pasta 2 minutes before it is done.
Thank you for sharing, Emma!
This recipe was delicious and I’m going to make it again!! Question: how long do the leftovers last, and is it possible to freeze or can it? Thanks so much!
Hi Nancy! This pesto keeps for about 4 days before losing flavor. You could try freezing it—I think that would work well. This recipe is not designed for canning, and has not been testing for canning safety, so please don’t can it.
This was great! I was out of hemp seeds so I used a little sunflower seeds. The texture was great and the flavors were bright. I’ll go lighter on the garlic next time but this is a keeper. I love that there’s no dairy for those of us who are lactose intolerant and it’s a great way to use kale.
LOVED this! Awesome pesto! I did not have hemp seeds but was so eager to try this when I saw it, so I used pumpkin seeds and it turned out fantastic!
Bright, bold, garlicky, flavourful, absolutely delicious! Great new way to use kale! Yayyyyy!
Thanks for keeping us healthy and inspired Kate! ❤️
I have made this tonight and put it on zucchini noodles. It was delicious. Can’t wait to put it on other item. I definitely will recommend this to all my friends
Mares Krishnaa Bajar De Chavez
I made this and replaced the hemp/walnuts with cashew nuts. Put abt a tbsp of water and extra virgin olive oil. Forgot the lemon lol but tastes so good! Can be a cracker dip too! I just wonder how long this could last inside the fridge?
I love your creativity and happy it turned out for you! It should keep well for a few days, but make sure you check my storage suggestions. Enjoy!
I made this with walnuts and olive oil, no cheese. A dollop of it brightens your black beans from scratch recipe. Will it freeze well?
Hi Linda! Pesto typically freezes well. Thank you for your review!
Well. It’s kale. It’s not basil. If you add enough olive oil, garlic and Parmesan even kale tastes ok. I used piñon pine nuts which helped
Can you make this with pine nuts or does it have it be walnut or hemp?
Hi! You could use pine nuts. Let me know what you think!
Omw this was excellent. I love kale and my garden stop producing recently so I had to buy some from the local market to get my fix! I made this today and added 2T nutritional yeast and added only 2T oil and it came out amazing ! I love the flavor and I love using hemp seeds to really give this pesto a nutritional boost! What a wonderful idea! THANK YOU!!
You’re welcome! I’m happy you loved it, Chamron.
This is delicious! I used more kale (just to use up the package of baby kale we had on hand) and 1/2 hemp hearts and 1/2 toasted pecans…(no parmesan since I can’t eat aged cheese) still so yummy— thank you for the recipe.
Made this today in under 15 minutes! I used walnuts instead of hemp seeds and olive oil and it tasted amazing. Definitely a keeper.
This recipe is great! It’s tastes delicious. We subscribed to a CSA and were receiving kale on a routine basis. This recipe allowed me to plow through our CSA kale while making a great tasting and healthy pesto that made for easy and practical meals.
hi! how long does this recipie keep just in the fridge, not freezer? thinking of making and spreading on toast!
Hi! It should keep for a few days in an air tight container! This would be delicious on toast.
We LOVE this recipe. It is one of the few ways I have to disguise kale for my toddler. I do find it to be a little salty, so I cut the salt down to 1/2 tsp.
Hi – this sounds delicious
How long would the pesto keep and can you freeze the leftover pesto?
I know my basil pesto freezes well, so I assume this would too. Try it in ice cube trays. Let me know!
Thanks for your quick reply. I tried freezing it in ice cube trays – great idea. Defrosted one today to try and it was delicious
While i was reading your blog, I thought, she has a special talent to share her experience cooking. But then, I found at the end the nutritional information, and it really made me think that you deserve a great congratulation for making this incredible blog. You are talented, keep impressing people. I found you randomly, but I will definitely put you in my favourites websites to visit and read.
Have a happy new year.
Looking for knowing about your next recipe.
You’re so kind, Maira! I appreciate your review.
This was delicious!!!! Always looking for a way to use up our gardens’s kale. I love fresh pesto and have made it with basil, cilantro, and parsley before, so I don’t know why it never occurred to me to use the kale. I used pine nuts because I had some hanging about. Other than that I made the recipe as written.
Thank you for sharing!
Made this last night, loved it. Had left overs today with roasted grape tomatoes and mushrooms. Wow! so good. Thanks for so many great recipes.
Just made this snd can’t wait to eat it later on pasta. It is so good just want to eat it by the spoonful. I use almonds in mine being my daughter is allergic to nuts. Thanks for the recipe.
Lush !! I didnt have quite enough kale so popped in some rocket as well, only had almonds so used them and pumpkin seeds, the garlic was spot on and I used the tip of a warmish chilli for fun:)
Half pasta, half spiralised zucchinin and it was awesome !!
Thank you for sharing, Liz! I’m happy it turned out.
Thank you so much for sharing such an awesome recipe that has an alternative to using nuts! This is wonderful!!
Great recipe, thanks! I grew up with my Italian mama making fresh basil pesto from our garden, but when I asked her for the recipe a few years ago, she told me to just buy it at the grocery store…
I was short on kale so I made up the difference with some fresh basil and spinach. The whole family loved it!
Wonderful, Kristin! I appreciate you taking the time to review.
So delicious and easy! Second time I’ve made this and doubled the recipe. Everyone loves it and no left overs. Good and bad! :-D I did add extra red pepper flakes and nutritional yeast instead of parmesan to keep it plant based. Love it! Thank you so much for.
Thank you for your review! I appreciate you sharing how you made it.
I love this recipe! I make it for my zoodles for lunch. How long do you think it’ll keep in the fridge? I’ve made a big batch!
Hi! It should keep well for 3-4 days. I’m glad you love it, Veronica.
This recipe is absolutely amazing!! I have made this sooo many times now since I found it, I just wish I found it sooner! I use walnuts and EVOO to stay on the cheaper side. I also sub in cashew parmesan “cheese” to make it Vegan. Thanks so much for this recipe!
You’re welcome, Julia! I’m delighted you enjoyed it.
I love this pesto! I used sunflower seeds instead of hemp and added some water to thin it out. Served on quinoa gluten free pasta and also over baked sweet potatoes! Yummy!
Sounds delicious, Suz! Thank you for sharing.
Can you use any other nuts, say cashews, instead of pecans or Walnuts? Thanks, this looks delicious and nutritious!
I prefer what’s listed. But you can substitute if you like.
Hi, can you please let me know how long this pesto keeps in the fridge?
Hi Sheila! It should keep for a few days in an airtight container. Be sure to check out my storage suggestions for when reheating.
This recipe is amazing!! How long does the pesto keep in the fridge and freezer? Thanks!
Hi AO, Store leftover pesto in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 1 week. You can also freeze pesto—my favorite way is in an ice cube try. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag, then you can thaw only as much as you need later.
This is so delicious! I skipped the Parmesan and placed cashew Parmesan on the table for each to put over their portion. Yum! I will definitely be making this again.
That’s great to hear, Luisa! I appreciate your review.
Incredible recipe! Become a new favourite for me. Thank you for this.
I did a bit of a remix to the recipe but used a combination of walnuts, almonds & hemp hearts! Also added basil to the blender and so happy with the result! Much appreciated
Thank you, Amit! I’m happy you enjoyed it.
This is amazing on zucchini noodles! Truth be told, I didn’t follow the recipe, rather used it as a guideline (thank you so much for providing one). I combined at least three cups of kale, about a half cup of toasted walnuts, garlic–i just squeezed the pre-minced a few times, EVOO–no measurement just drizzled to desired consistency and a ton of lemon–personal preference! Nothing more was added. So fresh and yummy!
I’m glad you were able to enjoy it, Katherine! I appreciate your review.
would sun dried tomatoes go well if blended into the pesto?
I would recommend Double Tomato Pesto Spaghetti with Zucchini Noodles! It’s delicious.
Thrilled about this. The pesto is (perhaps surprising, for being kale) wildly scrumptious. Hemp hearts for the win! You saved our dinner party tonight! Thank you!!
You’re welcome, Katie! I appreciate your review.
This is fantastic. I was stunned by how delicious it was. Added it to jasmine rice topped w/ sautéed mushrooms, topped with delectable Parmesan! Wowza.
This was SO delicious. I left out the cheese and didn’t miss it at all. So much lighter and less greasy with the hemp hearts/no cheese. I served it with fresh linguine, julienned zucchini as you suggested, and halved fresh cherry tomatoes. I did add in a little basil and oregano with the kale.
Thank you for sharing how you adapted this recipe, Carly! I appreciate your review.
made this tonight for my parents; thank you for the beautiful recipe! looked & tasted lovely. there was a slight bitterness because of all the kale — is there any way to counter that or is it part of the flavor?
Hi Urmila, I’m glad you enjoyed it. You can add a bit more salt and see if that helps.
Hi, Kate, thank you for the recipe. I always appreciate others who can put flavors together effortlessly.
I had an abundance of both kale and parsley in my garden, so decided to try this recipe half and half. I even went to TJs and picked up hemp seeds, which I’ve never tried before (looking for more protein in my diet). Tasting the finished pesto, it’s very good, but the parsley dominates more than I hoped it would. I wonder if you have any ideas on how to tone it down? More lemon juice, maybe? Or some sort of spice? I have a basil pesto recipe I love that calls for almonds and a dash of nutmeg that is my go-to. Is there an herb or spice that would complement the parsley like the nutmeg does for the basil? (I laughed re-reading this before posting – maybe the answer is right under my nose – maybe adding basil would do the trick!)
I will appreciate any advice you or your readers can offer. Thanks!
TIP: I like to warm my garlic in the olive oil on very low heat for just a minute or so and then let it cool before adding it to the pesto. This method takes the bite out of the raw garlic, which is sometimes overwhelming for me.
I have tried this and it is yummy.
Great to hear, Lou! I appreciate your review.
Karen in NorCal
Made a double recipe today, kept half vegan for a potluck and put the extra parmesan in the other half (doubling it). Used walnuts and olive oil. They both came out great! Used some mixed half-and-half with Italian dressing on some grated carrots and red cabbage with my lunch. Yum!
Great to hear, Karen!