A bowl of Kale and Walnut Pesto sits with a spoon, on a white background.

Ah, the things you learn from years of gardening. When we first started gardening, we got a little carried away, and planted sixteen kale plants. SIXTEEN. Now, those of you who don’t do a lot of gardening might not know this, but kale is incredibly prolific, easy to grow, hardy, and pretty much impossible to kill. So we had to get creative.

We were eating kale smoothies for every breakfast. Kale salads at every lunch. Kale hash for supper. I made kale chips. I froze kale. I donated kale (by the bushel—literally) to our local food pantry. I came *thisclose* to setting up a kale stand at the end of my driveway. If that’s not a thing, it totally should be.

Washed kale and chopped nuts sit together on a white background.
One of my favorite discoveries from the summer of kale is this kale and walnut pesto. Now, kale pesto is nothing new, and I’m not even a little bit claiming it to be “mine.” In fact, I was making kale pesto way before the Year of Kale. But what I did do was really perfect my kale pesto recipe that summer. And I’ve been making it ever since.

Do I need pine nuts for this kale pesto?

Negative, captain. Pine nuts can be super pricey, and more difficult to find, so I skipped them entirely here, and used walnuts instead. I also like that the walnuts have a more earthy, deep flavor, which goes well with the kale. So no need for expensive pine nuts!

A split image shows a picture of a food processor on the left with ingredients for pesto. Picture on right shows final processed pesto.A spoon sits in a bowl of Kale and Walnut Pesto on a white background.

Don’t I need basil to make pesto?

One of the issues I have with many of the kale pesto recipes out there is that they still call for fresh herbs like basil or parsley, which is all well and good if you live in Southern California, but here in the Midwest, when kale is at its peak, fresh basil is not.

I know, I know, I can buy it for $5 an ounce at the grocery store, and that’s good in a pinch if you need a little for a recipe, but I longed for a kale pesto that was, um, just kale. I wanted a pesto that was in-season in the spring and fall, and this Kale and Walnut Pesto is it!

Can I make this kale and walnut pesto vegan?

You sure can! Leave out the Parmesan, and instead add in 1/4 cup nutritional yeast.

A bowl of pasta sits covered in the pesto and topped with parmesan shavings. A bowl of pesto sits in the distance.

Can I freeze this walnut pesto?

You absolutely can. In fact, this is a great way to preserve some kale for winter. Portion it into mason jars or other freezer-safe containers, leaving about a quarter-inch of empty space on top. Pour a thin layer of oil on top, and freeze until solid before adding the lid. You can also freeze pesto in ice cube trays or these herb saver trays, so you can add small amounts of pesto to all your future soups and pasta dishes.

How do I serve this kale and walnut pesto?

You can use this kale and walnut pesto for just about whatever you want to drizzle a flavorful sauce on, but the classic (and, let’s be honest, best) way to serve it is on some hot, piping pasta. Pesto pasta is one of my absolute favorite easy weeknight dinners. Boil some pasta. Drain, but reserve a bit of the cooking water. Toss pasta with pesto and cooking water. Serve. You can top it with meat, if you like, or a runny egg, or nothing at all. And it’s always delicious.

A spoon sits in a bowl of Kale and Walnut Pesto on a white background.

Kale and Walnut Pesto

Yield: 1 cup pesto
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes

This Kale and Walnut Pesto is a great seasonal recipe for Spring and Fall. Mix it with pasta for an easy weeknight dinner!


  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed, leaves torn into pieces (about 3 cups worth)
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add in the walnuts, and toast until just fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. In the basin of a food processor, add in the walnuts, kale, garlic, cheese, and lemon juice. Pulse until everything is well-chopped. You may need to stop and scrape the sides a few times.
  3. With the food processor running on low, stream in the olive oil, until all is mixed in. Season with salt and pepper.


To use on pasta: Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water before draining. Toss drained pasta with desired amount of pesto and cooking water to create a sauce.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 381Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 28gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 272mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 2gSugar: 8gProtein: 5g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.


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  1. you are so right about $$$$$ for little bit of herbs in a recipe. i have a mini herb patio garden going this year,.i have some basil, which i might use for this recipe.

    1. Yes! If you have basil or parsley, definitely throw it in. It’ll just add some nice brightness to it!

  2. We always grow a lot of kale too, though not quite as much as you! Did you dehydrate any? That’s something I want to try this summer. Pinning your recipe to try–we have walnut trees too, so it’s perfect!

    1. I’ve been meaning to try dehydrating it, but we need to get some expansion trays for our dehydrator. At the current size, we’d be able to dry like six leaves at a time!