Fresh Kale Recipe – Kale Pesto

Fresh Kale Recipe - Kale Pesto Pasta

Pasta is a common dinner in our house, so we’re always on the lookout for new ways to enjoy it. We are big fans of pesto, but didn’t have any fresh basil on hand. Instead, we found a huge bag of kale in the back of our fridge. And that’s how this kale pesto pasta recipe came to be.

A Favorite Kale Recipe – How to Make Kale Pesto

One of the best things about pesto is that you can adjust based on what you love or what you have lying around in your pantry. In traditional basil pesto, you’ll usually see pine nuts used.

Instead of pine nuts, we went with almonds. One thing to remember when using nuts, toast them first. Toasting nuts adds so much flavor — it brings the nuts back to life.

Fresh Kale Recipe - Kale Pesto Pasta

Keep in mind that you could use any type of nut — walnuts, pecans or even peanuts would be great.

Remove Stems and Wash Kale

Whenever we cook with kale, we like to give it a good wash. In this case, we also remove any thick stems or ribs, too.

Fresh Kale Recipe - Kale Pesto Pasta

Once washed, the kale is added to boiling water and cooked for about 10 minutes.

You Can Make Pesto in Minutes

We drain and squeeze excess water from the cooked kale and add to a food processor along with the toasted almonds, garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Fresh Kale Recipe - Kale Pesto Pasta

After adding oil and pulsing — the pesto is the perfect consistency to toss with pasta. You could also toss the pesto with cooked vegetables or spread onto toast and serve as an appetizer.

Fresh Kale Recipe - Kale Pesto Pasta

And that’s it — a fresh, fun kale recipe. We just love it.

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4.6 from 5 reviews
Fresh Kale Recipe - Kale Pesto
Prep time
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Try tossing this pesto with pasta, vegetables or use as a spread for bread. To toss this with pasta, cook pasta according to package directions then just before draining, reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Toss the drained pasta with a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water and a few tablespoons of pesto. Add more or less pesto depending on your preference.
Created By:
Yield: 4
You Will Need
  • 1 large bunch of kale, washed with stems and ribs removed
  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add kale and cook 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry.
  2. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) then add almonds to a baking sheet and bake in oven for 5-10 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  3. Add kale, almonds, garlic, salt and red pepper flakes to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 3 times then slowly pour olive oil into the bowl while the processor is running. Stop to scrape the sides a few times.
  4. Add the pesto to a bowl with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, mix well. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. To store, top with a thin layer of olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

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24 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Edna Crabapple August 23, 2015, 7:29 pm

    I just made this for dinner. I did NOT cook the kale beforehand, I used it raw. It was still quite good, although I think I may try blanching the kale next time to make it more tender. Kale is kind of tough and I had to puree it a lot.
    By all means DO take those ribs out. Those things are tough enough to thatch a roof… lol
    I also used 1/2 toasted sunflower seeds and 1/2 walnuts in place of almonds. I crushed the nuts in a mortar & pestle before adding to the food processor.
    I also used about 1/4 cup red onion, chopped fine, and about 1/2 cup prosciutto ham, also chopped fine, for extra flavor. I added these at the very end to the pot when I was mixing all the ingredients together.
    It was really, really good. I served it with rotini.
    As kale is kind of bland, next time I may add some arugula leaves to perk up the flavor. 🙂

  • Deborah April 20, 2015, 5:41 pm

    When I told my dear husband we were having Kale Pesto for dinner, he thought I said Kaopectate (haha). He loved it. Making again real soon.

  • Kristin January 18, 2015, 1:41 pm

    Very good! Made as directed and I think it taste better than the regular pesto made with basil. It’s a keeper!

  • Veronica July 28, 2014, 3:15 am

    This looks great and I would love to try it, only problem is I’m out of cheese. Is it necessary or can it be replaced?

    • Joanne August 7, 2014, 12:45 pm

      The cheese adds a nice saltiness, but you could omit if you need to.

  • ALyssa August 18, 2013, 2:26 pm

    I’m so glad I tried this. I’m a college student who’s just starting to try cooking things on my own more often, and this was definitely a Pinterest success. I used pecans instead of almonds, but it tastes great still. Thanks for the idea!!

  • Sharon Hanna March 19, 2013, 3:29 pm

    Hi – recipe looks great; I have one that’s a little different in my book and it has goat cheese in it. I wondered if you had seen it or perhaps you have the book (“The Book of Kale”).

  • Molly @ Toffee Bits and Chocolate Chips February 12, 2013, 1:44 pm

    What a great idea!

  • rivka January 28, 2013, 11:56 pm

    Being a huge fan of kale, I just HAD to try making this recipe as soon as I saw it.
    I put the pesto on a whole wheat angel hair pasta. I didn’t have olive oil on me, so I used a combination of canola oil, butter, and some half and half (to make it a bit creamier). I used half the amount of red pepper, and it still came out a bit spicy.
    Overall, a very delicious and wholesome flavor, although the pesto wouldn’t have been as thick if I hadn’t drained the kale as much as was instructed.

    thanks for another great recipe!

  • Jessica October 1, 2012, 9:45 pm

    Yum! Just made this with the HUGE bunch of leftover kale I had sitting in the fridge (which I had no idea what to do with…)- eating it now and really love it!
    We don’t eat a lot of pesto, being that it’s just the two of us (for the next few months, at least!). I was thinking of freezing it in small batches and defrosting it on weeks when I’m using it in a couple of recipes. How long do you think it would keep in the freezer?

    • Joanne October 2, 2012, 6:19 pm

      Hi Jessica, We usually keep things like pesto in the freezer for up to three months (you could probably go longer, but after 3 months we usually forget about it). When you do freeze, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the top of the pesto then cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap.

  • diana February 29, 2012, 9:41 am

    Have been seeing tons of kale at the farmer’s markets, and not sure what to do with it. Great idea, and looks tasty.

  • Nadia February 25, 2012, 12:48 am

    Just had this for dinner… loved it. My husband (who has not embraced the idea of Kale) practically licked his plate clean, and my 3-year asked for seconds. I’m sold. In my version – I did 3/4 Kale, 1/4 spinach and added some basil. As always thank you for the inspiration!

  • Samann February 9, 2012, 4:39 pm

    This looks soo good and easy to make! Pesto is my favorite, this looks delicious!

  • Jenni MacArthur February 9, 2012, 11:21 am

    Oh wow!! I LOVE new pesto ideas! This looks amazing!

  • Lindsey January 19, 2012, 12:47 pm

    Made but with uncooked baby spinach! Delicious!

  • gabriella January 19, 2012, 10:08 am

    we just had this for dinner yesterday. i thought for the first time i saw it that it will taste delicious. and it did!! it’s easy to make, healthy but very fulfilling. instead of boiling the kale – i forgot to check your recipe before i made it – i sauteed it in oil and garlic. thanks for sharing!

  • Aysel January 15, 2012, 2:23 am

    I have some kale and didn’t know what to do with it (aside from green smoothie), so I’ll make this for dinner tomorrow! Also, do you think walnuts would work instead of almonds? Thank you!

    • Joanne January 15, 2012, 9:42 am

      Aysel – Walnuts would definitely work!

  • tafino January 13, 2012, 5:04 pm

    Love pasta, and more than that, love pesto. 🙂 Great recipe!!

  • Sarah January 12, 2012, 9:29 am

    I’ve never thought of making pesto from kale. Inspired!

  • Bev Weidner January 11, 2012, 6:27 pm



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