Delicious Kale Pesto

Meeghan Aimone
by Meeghan Aimone
4 Servings
30 min


Kale pesto is a fresh, healthy, delicious, and easy pesto recipe. It pairs perfectly with pasta and makes a fantastic entree or a great side dish. Kale pesto is also a wonderful way to get kids (and adults) to eat their greens.

Beautiful bounty.

The garden is thriving, y’all! This season in coastal North Carolina we have had a dryer than usual Spring. I’m not complaining though and neither is my garden. The humidity in the south can be rough, especially on the garden, but this season the humidity has been low (so far) and my veggies are loving it.

I recently harvested a bumper crop of Swiss chard and curly kale. Although I have many recipes in my arsenal for Swiss chard, I seem to be lacking in kale recipes (aside from kale salad and kale chips). Therefore, I took this revelation as a clear sign that it was time for me to get in the kitchen and start getting creative with kale.

The perfect way to eat your (dark leafy) greens is in kale pesto.

Dark leafy greens are a great source of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Kale is considered one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet due to its many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Dark leafy greens may also be one of the best cancer-preventing foods. If that’s not enough, dark leafy greens, like kale, are also low in calories and carbohydrates and are low on the glycemic index. There are so many reasons to eat dark leafy greens and to add more to your diet. Have I mentioned that they are delicious too?

Fresh ingredients are the best ingredients.

It doesn’t get any fresher than straight from the garden. With my bounty of kale harvested, it was time to get busy in the kitchen.

Staring at my basket of dark leafy greens on the kitchen counter, my head was swirling with recipe ideas. However, I kept coming back to one, in particular, pesto. My love for pesto runs deep y’all, especially in Spring and Summer. There is just something I love about very few, very fresh ingredients, that when combined, make delicious food. Pesto is the perfect example of this perfect storm. I also love versatile recipes and pesto is VERY versatile. It can be used as a sauce on pasta, to spread on fish or chicken before grilling it, and it can even be used on pizza. The options are endless!

Pesto is traditionally made with basil and pine nuts. However, there is nothing written in stone that says other leafy greens can’t be used. “Why not kale!?” I thought to myself. I’ve made pesto with spinach, it was high time to try making pesto with kale. Although each version of pesto is unique, one thing I’ve always found is that all are equally delicious.

If you’re a basil pesto lover, have no fear. My delicious kale pesto has a bit of basil in it too!

Kale pesto, farm to table.

After some experimenting, it turned out that pine nuts were not the best nut pairing for kale pesto. The flavor combination was too bitter. The mild creamy texture that came from raw pistachios enhanced the kale pesto beautifully. It is imperative that the pistachios are raw in order to get the creamiest texture. (I found my raw pistachios at Whole Foods.)

With my kale pesto recipe dialed in, it was time to find the perfect vehicle for this delicious sauce. Regular pasta, in this case, spaghetti, is absolutely delicious with kale pesto. However, my favorite combination is kale pesto with whole wheat spaghetti. The nutty flavor from the whole wheat pasta elevates the pesto making it a match made in heaven. I can honestly say though, you’ll love it on any type of pasta, it’s that good!

I hope you enjoy this fresh, delicious, zesty, and easy kale pesto recipe. Try it with pasta, slather it on salmon or chicken before you grill it, or spread it on pizza dough with some fresh tomatoes from the garden and some buffalo mozzarella cheese before you bake it. I’d love to hear how you use it and what you think of the recipe. Be sure to share with me in the comments section. Bon appetit!

Looking for more fresh and delicious recipes? You may enjoy, Salmon, Asparagus, and Dill Orzo Salad with Lemon Pepper Vinaigrette, Pickled Red Onions, and Grilled Corn Summer Salad with Pickled Blueberries. I share many more on Pinterest. Come follow me!

Want to save this recipe to make later? Pin this image to find it easier when you’re ready to cook!

Recipe details
  • 4  Servings
  • Prep time: 20 Minutes Cook time: 10 Minutes Total time: 30 min
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  • 1 large bunch of Kale (approx. 12 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup raw pistachios
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water, plus more to loosen pesto if necessary
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Juice from a half of lemon, plus a pinch of lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound of spaghetti (I like to use whole wheat)
  • Freshly ground black pepper.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the kale leaves until they are bright green and wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer the kale to a baking sheet lined with paper towels and pat the leaves dry. Keep the water boiling.
Cook the pasta in the pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain pasta and transfer it to a large bowl. Add butter and a 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water to the pasta and toss with tongs to coat the pasta.
In a blender, blend the pistachios, olive oil, garlic, 1/3 cup of water, lemon juice and zest, and basil until smooth. Add the kale and Parmesan cheese. Purée, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed, until smooth.
Pour the pesto over the pasta and toss with tongs. Add more reserved pasta water by the tablespoon if needed, until the sauce coats the pasta completely. Divide the pasta equally, top with more Parmesan cheese and a few grinds of fresh pepper.
  • This pasta is delicious served on its own with a salad and fresh-baked bread. I also love to serve it alongside grilled fish, like salmon, or grilled chicken.
Meeghan Aimone
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  • Geoffrey Geoffrey on Apr 04, 2022

    Sounds great! Yes, I've made pesto out of lots of different greens. I also rarely use pine nuts. Usually walnuts. But always toasted first!