Kale & Spring Greens Pesto

Kale pesto Collage

Although I’ve heard plenty about the deliciousness of kale pesto, I’ve never made it myself. I assumed it would be a lesser pesto – not as full-flavoured as that made with loads of fresh basil. Turns out I was wrong. It’s not the first time.

I got so excited about that kale-Brussels sprout salad that I wound up with 3 bunches in my fridge – plus spinach, arugula and a tub of spring mix. (It could be that I’m so desperate to see something green outside that I’ve been stockpiling it inside?) And so because W will eat anything smothered in pesto (proof that all kids are picky in their own unique ways) I decided to give it a go.

Bowl of greens
Wilted greens

Besides, it’s a good way to compact enormous bags of leaves into something far smaller (and tastier) than the sum of its parts. I used mostly kale, with some spinach and arugula added for interest. Blanched it quickly in a pot of boiling water, drained it well and blitzed it with toasted walnuts, Parmesan, garlic and olive oil. It took five minutes, yet makes me feel oh-so Urban Homesteader.

Kale Pesto Pasta 1

It’ll keep well in the fridge for pasta and salmon and eggs, and when we head to Seattle next week if there’s any left, I’ll cover it with a slick of olive oil and put it in the freezer. Putting away preserved greens after sweeping the snow off my car in the middle of March? Something seems amiss here.

Pesto pasta 2

But not here.

Kale & Spring Greens Pesto


March 20, 2013

  • Makes: Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


4 cups fresh kale, chard, spinach and/or arugula, tough stems trimmed, roughly chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds, toasted

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

juice of half a lemon

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper


1If you’re using kale, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil; add all the greens and blanch for 2-3 minutes, until tender and wilted. (You can do this with other greens, but it isn’t as necessary; more tender greens can be tossed into the pesto raw.)

2Drain the greens well in a colander and set aside to cool. Place in the bowl of a food processor with the walnuts, Parmesan, garlic and lemon juice and pulse until well mulched. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil, blending and scraping down the side of the bowl, until well blended and roughly smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

3Serve immediately or refrigerate in a jar for up to a week.


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14 comments on “Kale & Spring Greens Pesto

  1. lyn
    March 21, 2013 at 6:58 am

    I have some spinach and parmesan that I need to use up. This looks awesome. thanks.

  2. Hayley
    March 21, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Do you think this would be good without nuts? My son is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.

    • Esther
      May 29, 2019 at 8:49 pm

      This pesto can certainly be modified to be nut free. Toast up some sunflower or pumpkin seeds in stead. Super tasty! Good luck!

      • Julie
        May 30, 2019 at 7:31 am

        Oh yes, definitely!

  3. Carolyn
    March 21, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Wow — this is beautiful. I recently made a minestrone soup (from Ina Garten) that added pesto. It added something that made it extra good… I’ve become a pesto convert.

  4. Nicole Boyhouse
    March 21, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Okay, Julie. This looks amazing. I’m making this for sure. I love kale.

  5. Michelle V-W
    March 21, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Sometimes it’s like you can read the mind of my fridge… I’ve been staring at the tubs of arugula and spinach for the past few days, lacking inspiration, but wanting desperately for them not to end up in the garbage. Thanks for your impeccable timing!

  6. molly
    March 21, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Yes to green pesto!

    And YES to Seattle! My hometown, my beat, my beloved. I’ve no idea of your length of stay, or agenda, but if you can swing it? CAFE BESALU! It’s a tiny little sliver of a bakery, in Ballard, closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and with lines out the door, all the rest. BUT, it has the best croissants (plain and chocolate) anywhere–and I say this having lived 10 weeks in Paris, and having eaten my way through most of its bakeries. And, its GINGER BISCUITS are the stuff of dreams, weepingly good, outrageously delicious. (http://cafebesalu.com/). Naturally, there are a thousand places to go/people to see. Just my two cents.

    Have a ball, and please, say a hello to my sweet, wonderful hometown!


  7. Margaret
    March 21, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I’ve been growing Basil in my Aerogarden all winter long and have so much of it now – fresh and frozen. Wondering if I could add to this recipe to bump up the flavor. Can one add TOO much basil to a Pesto recipe?

  8. Kalyn
    March 22, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Sounds delicious!

  9. Rana@PrettyintheKitchen
    March 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    I recently just started my own food blog and always love checking out other food blogs for inspiration. Love trying different variations of pesto! Will have to try making this one soon!

  10. Mary Oxendale Spensley
    March 23, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    This looks like a really good idea! Will try very soon, as I mistakenly bought two giant bags of kale this week. So healthy! So tasty!

  11. connie
    March 24, 2013 at 9:02 am

    This looks tasty! It’s always great to sneak some leafy dark greens into dinner…well done 🙂

  12. ali
    March 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    WOW! this sounds good! I just posted a pesto recipe myself but this is definitely something different that I will have to try! I never even thought about using kale!

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