Kale Pesto and Other Winter Pesto

This Kale Pesto is a tasty winter pesto when the cold and snow makes you ache for summer produce. We might not have the berries and peaches, fresh corn, and basil for basil pesto, but homemade pesto doesn’t have to disappear from your table in winter.

Read on for all the detailed tips and tricks for making kale pesto and what you can do with winter pesto. Or just grab your food processor, hit that Jump to Recipe button, and let’s make pesto!

fusilli with pesto in a pasta bowl.
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kale, lemon, Parmesan, pine nuts, and other pesto ingredients on a countertop.

Kale – I grow or buy Lacinto kale, also known as Tuscan or dinosaur kale, because it is less bitter than other varietals. It’s great raw in a kale salad, cooked in a kale frittata, or even baked into a kale quick bread.


Lemon – a little lemon juice brightens up the flavor of a winter pesto.

The other ingredients for the kale pesto are the same as in basil pesto.

Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.

Variations and substitutions

  • Sub out kale for a variety of other greens, like arugula or spinach.
  • You can also make broccoli pesto or asparagus pesto or even green bean pesto.
  • Combine two for a kale and broccoli pesto or arugula and kale pesto!
  • Sub in walnuts or pistachios, or use pumpkin seeds in place of the pine nuts.

Recipe tips and tricks

If you are making this kale pesto or using other greens like basil or spinach, wash or dry them well and then add them directly to the food processor without cooking. If you want to combine your kale pesto with a more substantial vegetable like broccoli, parboil or roast it first.

a salad spinner filled with kale leaves.

A food processor is the easiest way to make pesto. Or you can make your pesto the traditional way with a mortar and pestle if you are so inclined.

Pesto recipes all use variations of the same formula. Use a clove of garlic, an ounce or two of Parmesan, a few tablespoons of toasted pine nuts or other toasted nuts or seeds, a half teaspoon of salt or so, maybe a tablespoon or so of lemon juice. Then drizzle olive oil into your food processor to get to your preferred consistency as you blitz it all together.

a bowl filled with kale pesto and a spatula.

How to serve winter pesto

Use this kale pesto or any winter pesto to

a plate of cavatappi with broccoli pesto and a side salad.

Recipe FAQs

How do you roast pine nuts?

You can toast nuts and seeds on the stove top or in the oven, though I think you get more even toasting using the oven. This is one of those times where you just have to use your nose. Nuts are toasted when they smell … nutty.

How should I store this kale pesto?

If you want to make pesto in advance, you can store your kale pesto or any winter pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Can pesto be frozen?

Absolutely. I save any extra pesto in a plastic container in the freezer and just use it as needed. You can freeze it in ice cube trays to make it easier to defrost.

Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.


Kale Pesto and Other Winter Pesto

5 from 1 vote
Category: Side Dish
Cuisine: Unspecified
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 137kcal
Pesto doesn't have to be just basil. Make a kale pesto or other winter pesto with any of a variety of greens or green vegetables.
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  • Food processor


  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 ounce Parmesan plus more if serving with pasta
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 bunch kale (about ½ pound including stems), trimmed from stems
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed


  • Put the garlic, Parmesan, pine nuts, and salt into the food processor and pulverize.
    1 clove garlic, 1 ounce Parmesan, 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted, ½ teaspoon salt
  • Add kale leaves, lemon juice, and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and process for about 10 seconds.
    1 bunch kale (about ½ pound including stems), trimmed from stems, 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed, 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Scrape down sides of food processor and process for another 10 seconds.
  • Adjust to taste with additional olive oil, salt, or lemon juice as desired.


This recipe makes about 1 cup of kale pesto.
You don’t need to cook your kale or other greens for pesto. If making a variation with broccoli or other more substantial winter pesto, parboil or roast the vegetable before adding it to the food processor.
Use your kale pesto in the same way you would basil pesto – make a pesto pasta, turn it into a pesto salad dressing, add it to eggs or swirl into soups.


Calories: 137kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 422mg | Potassium: 156mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 3304IU | Vitamin C: 32mg | Calcium: 169mg | Iron: 1mg
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