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Kale Basil Pesto

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Enjoying pasta and eating greens at the same time? Where do I sign up? This kale basil pesto is the best of both worlds with leafy fresh kale blending alongside classic pesto ingredients.

overhead of fresh kale pesto in a canning jar

And here’s the thing for all of those leafy green skeptics, it tastes just like regular traditional pesto! Fresh, sweet, fragrant basil forward flavor and aroma with creamy toasted pine nuts, salty parmesan cheese, and plenty of garlic blended with leafy kale and rich olive oil for a superior sauce.

Don’t worry, there’s just a smidge of lemon to balance out the richness of the olive oil and cheese, which in my opinion makes this kale pesto perfect any time of year.

For the most part, basil and kale are pretty easy to find at the grocery store and the other ingredients are staples. That pop of lemon though! That’s the part that will have a winter pesto pasta still count as comfort food but have you dreaming of summer.

While homemade pasta is my favorite way to eat pesto, there’s more than one way to enjoy this veggie-packed sauce!

spoonful of pesto scooping it out of a canning jar

WHAT DOES PESTO GO WITH?

So much! Of course, pasta is naturally the first option but there are so many ways to enjoy that fresh burst of garlicky, cheesy, basil packed kale pesto.

Spread it on bread and toast it with cheese for delightful garlic bread. Spoon warm pesto into tomato soup for a punch of flavor. Spread over grilled chicken with fresh sliced tomatoes or substitute in bruschetta for fresh basil if you have a jar in the fridge!

My second favorite way to enjoy kale pesto is on pizza with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella cheese. It’s divine!

HOW DO YOU MAKE KALE PESTO?

There are so many ways to switch up pesto. You can make it Meyer lemon or even a grapefruit and pecan pesto. Switch out the pine nuts for walnuts. Swap in chicken stock for some of the olive oil to lighten it up.

What I’m trying to say is that you have a lot of options when it comes to your ingredients, but how you actually make the pesto is pretty much the same recipe to recipe.

labeled ingredients for kale pesto

For kale pesto, the only extra step is just to blend the kale leaves until finely chopped first so that they blend in smoothly with the other ingredients.

Do you have to toast the nuts?

Technically no. What toasting does is intensify the flavor of the nut – whichever variety you choose to use.

I like to stick to traditional pine nuts for this kale pesto since there will already be leafy greens to grind up. I find the pine nuts blend a little easier.

What equipment do you need?

To incorporate your ingredients you’ll use a food processor or a blender. If you want to be super traditional, you need a mortar and pestle and grind the ingredients that way.

Personally, I love being done with the prep work in mere minutes so I choose the food processor option.

How to store pesto

As the basil gets exposed to air it will start to turn a dark green color.  If you want to keep that brilliant green hue, be sure to store your kale pesto in an airtight container.  Wide mouth canning jars are my favorite, plus this recipe fits perfectly inside.

Be sure to refrigerate the pesto.  If you don’t plan to use the pesto right away, it will keep in the refrigerator for about 1 week.  If you don’t have plans to use the pesto before then, just freeze it!

To freeze pesto, you can divide it into an ice cube tray, freeze the pesto, then pop out the blocks into a storage bag.  Freeze for up to 6 months.  Alternatively, you can lay the pesto in a freezer storage bag, squeeze out the air and freeze flat.  Then when you need some, just break off a piece and return the bag to the freezer.  This flat bag method works great for tomato paste too!

pesto freshly run through the food processor

close up of pesto in jar

TIPS FOR PERFECT PESTO

  • remove all the stems from your kale leaves
  • roughly tear or chop the kale leaves into large pieces and rinse with cold water (this will remove some of the natural bitterness from the kale!)
  • let the pine nuts cool slightly before using (if toasting)
  • blend all the nonliquid ingredients first
  • slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the food processor running

Just a few minutes to prep and blend the ingredients then you can get right to cooking or store it for later.  If you’re ready to get cooking, try one of these pesto pasta ideas:

What’s your plan?  Will you go traditional with pine nuts or swap it out for what’s in the pantry?  Be sure to tell me your favorite way to enjoy this kale pesto in the comments!

If you made this recipe, I would love to know!  Please leave a rating and comment below, and if you have pics of your delicious creations don’t forget to tag us!

jar of pest with light background

Kale Basil Pesto

Get your greens on and enjoy this classic Italian sauce!  Kale basil pesto takes just a few minutes to make in the food processor and can be used right away or stored for later.  A little bit of lemon really makes this pesto pop!
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Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: easy kale pesto, kale basil pesto, Kale pesto, veggie pesto
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 cups
Calories: 2207kcal
Author: Lauren

Ingredients

  • 3 packed cups kale stems removed, roughly chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • Toast. Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a sheet tray, toast the pine nuts for 5 to 8 minutes until light brown and fragrant. Let cool slightly before using.  (This step can be skipped, but adds lots of flavor.)
  • Pulse. In a food processor, pulse the kale leaves until roughly chopped into small pieces. Add the garlic and basil and repeat.
  • Blend. Add the pine nuts and parmesan to the food processor. Run-on low for 30 to 60 seconds until chopped and starting to combine with the greens. Keep the food processor running and through the food chute, add the salt and lemon juice. Process for about 15 seconds. Once combined, very slowly stream in the olive oil with the food processor running. If needed, stop the food processor, scrape the sides and bottom, and run again until the pesto is smooth and combined into a sauce
  • Cook or store. Use right away or store in an airtight container for about 1 week in the refrigerator and 6 months in the freezer.

Notes

  • remove all the stems from your kale leaves
  • roughly tear or chop the kale leaves into large pieces and rinse with cold water (this will remove some of the natural bitterness from the kale!)
  • let the pine nuts cool slightly before using (if toasting)

Nutrition

Calories: 2207kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 224g | Saturated Fat: 35g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 1999mg | Potassium: 1424mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 18802IU | Vitamin C: 217mg | Calcium: 884mg | Iron: 9mg

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