Vegan Kale Pesto, a plant-based pesto with kale instead of basil! Fresh kale, pine nuts, and nutritional yeast put a much welcomed spin on traditional pesto.
Pesto is one of our favorite go-to recipes due to its versatility. And the beauty of pesto is that you don’t have to go traditional and can instead make it your own by using leafy greens like kale instead of traditional herbs like basil.
👉 Here are four reasons why you should be making pesto with kale:
- It’s tasty! Hardy greens like kale hold their own against the garlic and pine nuts in pesto, resulting in a delicious combination.
- It keeps things fresh. Nothing beats fresh pesto, and the fact that you can mix things up with different greens ensures you’ll never get bored in the kitchen.
- It’s vegan. Most pestos use parmesan cheese, but this pesto swaps it out for nutritional yeast. The cheesy, nutty flavor is the perfect substitute for parmesan when making a vegan sauce.
- It’s incredibly easy and versatile. A food processor makes this a quick, easy sauce that you can also use as a pasta sauce, marinade, or even just a sauce for drizzling extra flavor.
Ready to try this 5-minute plant-based pesto with kale? Let us show you how!
🥬 Vegan kale pesto ingredients
- Kale: Kale makes up the bulk of the pesto, providing beneficial vitamins such as A, K, C, and folate along with necessary minerals including calcium and potassium. We used curly kale, but you can use any type – curly, dinosaur, redbor, or Russian.
- Pine nuts: Pine nuts are traditional to pesto and give it the texture and crunch we’ve become accustomed to. We stick with pine nuts to mimic customary flavors, but if you are looking for a nut-free version, try substituting pine nuts with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.
- Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast is a savory substitute for parmesan cheese. It is also a vegan staple because it contains vitamin B12, which is commonly lacking in vegan diets.
- Oil: The proper amount of oil allows pesto to have a loose consistency instead of being a thick puree. It adds flavor to the pesto as well, so quality oil like extra virgin olive oil should be used in pestos.
- Garlic, salt, and pepper: Common seasonings for pesto include garlic, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust as needed!
- Optional ingredients: Acid is often left out of pesto, but adding lemon at the end will balance out this pesto.
🥣 How to make (step-by-step photos)
1️⃣ Step One: Wash and prep the kale
First, wash, prep, and dry the kale. It’s best to submerge the kale in a bowl of water. Gently move it around with your hand, then lay flat to dry or spin in a salad spinner.
2️⃣ Step Two: Blend the greens, nuts, garlic, and oil
Next process the kale, pine nuts, and garlic cloves in a food processor until finely chopped. Continue to pulse while adding in olive oil. You want a texture that is chunky and well coated with oil.
3️⃣ Step Three: Add nutritional yeast, spices, and lemon juice
Finally, add in the the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and lemon juice, tasting until seasoned according to your own personal pesto preference.
🌱 Storage + freezing
One of the great things about pesto is that you can freeze it and store for later! Simply pull out frozen pesto and thaw in the refrigerator or simply heat it through before using as a sauce.
Pesto can be stored for:
- Refrigerator: 1 week in a airtight container.
- Freezer: 6 months in a sealed freezer-safe container.
👉 Pro tip: Keep your pesto from browning by pouring a thin layer of olive oil on top of your pesto before storing.
Never get bored of pesto! Below are a few ideas to make this pesto recipe your own.
- Switch up the nuts: Use almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds for a different crunchy base.
- Play with the greens: Parsley, carrot tops, beet leaves, radish greens – any leafy green or leafy herb will work in pesto.
- Do a combo: Try using more than one green or nut in your pesto. Consider pine nut and almond kale pesto or try parsley and carrot top pesto for a fun twist that reduces food waste.
🌱 More vegan pesto recipes
We hope you enjoy making pesto – we love how quick, easy, and versatile it is! Check out our other non-traditional pestos:
- Carrot Leaves Pesto
- Radish Top Pesto
- Beet Greens Pesto Sauce
- Plant-Based Arugula Pesto
- Vegan Pesto with Spinach
- Nut-Free Chickpea Basil Pesto
- Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Vegan Kale Pesto Recipe
- 2 cups kale washed and stems removed
- ⅓ cups pine nuts or sunflower seeds if nut-free
- 2 whole garlic cloves
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- Optional: squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- Wash and prep the kale: First, wash, prep, and dry the kale. It's best to submerge the kale in a bowl of water. Gently move it around with your hand, then lay flat to dry or spin in a salad spinner.
- Blend the greens, nuts, garlic, and oil: Next process the kale, pine nuts, and garlic cloves in a food processor until finely chopped. Continue to pulse while adding in olive oil. You want a texture that is chunky and well coated with oil.
- Add nutritional yeast, spices, and lemon juice: Finally, add in the the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and lemon juice, tasting until seasoned according to your own personal pesto preference.
- Nuts or seeds? Traditional pesto sauce uses pine nuts, but any nut or seeds will be delicious in this pesto. We used sunflower seeds in this recipe (as shown in the accompanying photos) to make this pesto nut-free.
- Tools Needed: food processor or blender, knife set, cutting board, salad spinner
- Prep Ahead: Make this simple pesto up to 2-3 days before serving, or freeze until ready to use.
- Leftovers and Storage: Leftover pesto should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days, and in the freezer for up to 2 months (possibly longer).
- Nutrition notes: This recipe made as written (with vegan cheese and seeds) is plant-based, gluten-free, and nut-free. It is a good source of vitamin C, plant-based protein, and fiber.