Everyone loves Homemade Pesto, but this Kale and Walnut Pesto is truly a treasure. Alive with fresh, bright, herby flavor, this will be your new favorite pesto recipe!
Question: When you open a jar of pesto, do you take a deep, slow inhale, smile, and dream about how amazing dinner is going to be?
If your answer is yes, we homies, and you are going to flip for this creative take on Homemade Pesto. It is hands down the best pesto, store-bought or homemade, I have ever made, with a smell so amazing I might have chased my kids around the kitchen with it yelling,
“Just smell it, I promise you'll love it! This isn't like the fish sauce trick! Just smell it!!!”
My daughter gave in and she proclaimed, “That is heavenly! Let's make twisted breadsticks with it!” Which we did, and they were to die for, of course.
Can she just be my sous chef for life?
WHY YOU WILL LOVE EASY HOMEMADE KALE PESTO
- The level of fresh, herby, bright flavor is like nothing you can find in a store. Basil brings home the traditional pesto flavor, kale makes it earthy, and the addition of arugula gives it an ever so slight kick. Truly a magical marriage of flavors!
- How many times do you buy a big container of kale then stare at the leftovers unsure of what to do? Well, here ya go, PESTO!
- Walnuts! I love the flavor the walnuts give this pesto, but you can swap with just about any nut. Bonus: walnuts are MUCH more affordable than the traditional pine nuts.
- Not excessively oily. I like my pesto thick with just enough oil to bring it together vs store-bought pestos that tend to be very oily and loose.
- Fresh pesto instantly brightens any dish. There's no such thing as a boring dinner with pesto on the table!
HOW TO MAKE PESTO AT HOME
- Add everything but the oil to a food processor (or blender) and start the processor
- Stream the oil into the mixture until it reaches your desired consistency
- That's it, you're done!
SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW FOR DETAILED COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
TIPS FOR MAKING THE BEST HOMEMADE PESTO
- Go light on the salt! Your food processor will be very full when you add the ingredients and a 1/2 teaspoon might not seem like much. The mixture reduces down a TON once everything is blended so wait until that point to taste and season some more if needed. Trust me, I've made this mistake . . . twice, ugh.
- I love the mixture of basil, kale, and arugula, but use what you have on hand! Swap kale for spinach, add extra basil, parsley maybe? Experimenting with pesto greens is one of my favorite past times 🙂
- I love using walnuts because they are more budget-friendly than pine nuts, but feel free to use a little creative freedom here as well. Pistachios, pecans, almonds, etc, they all work!
- If you prefer a milder, sweet garlic flavor, use roasted garlic. I like to bring home scoops of it from grocery store olive bars and freeze it. This is the only way I use garlic anymore, it's my favorite kitchen hack! Of course, you can always roast your own garlic too.
- Don't half the recipe. From my experience, if you don't have enough bulk in the food processor, it doesn't blend very well.
- Pesto freezes perfectly; another reason to refrain from halving the recipe. See below on how I like to freeze pesto.
HOW TO STORE AND FREEZE HOMEMADE KALE PESTO
- Store: Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week in a sealed container.
- Freeze: Freeze pesto flat in freezer safe ziplock bag for quicker thawing. If you want the option of using just a little at a time, line a sheet pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper and place 1-2 tablespoon scoops of pesto on top. Freeze, then place in a bag for another day. This is a great way to use only what you need without thawing an entire bag of pesto. An ice cube tray also works well for freezing portion sizes, especially if your pesto is more loose.
VARIATIONS OF KALE PESTO
- Traditional Basil Pesto: For a strong, traditional pesto flavor, use basil in place of all the greens and pine nuts in place of the walnuts.
- Mexican Style Pesto: Use cilantro for your greens, add a stemmed jalapeno, and use lime juice instead of lemon juice. Slather all over tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, etc!
- Oil-Free Pesto: Swap the oil for water. It sounds weird, I know, but it works!
- Creamy Pesto: Add yogurt, softened cream cheese, or a pureed avocado to make your pesto creamy. This is a great way to use your pesto as a dressing, pasta sauce, sandwich spread, etc.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE PESTO WITHOUT A FOOD PROCESSOR OR BLENDER
Making pesto without a food processor or blender is a little more work, but completely doable! Here are two options:
- Mortal and Pestle: Roughly chop your greens and nuts, then use the mortar and pestle to grind all of the ingredients into a smoother consistency. You may have to do this in batches. Add it to a bowl and stir in the olive oil.
- Chop, Chop, Chop: Use a sharp knife to finely chop all of the ingredients (this will take a good 10-15 minutes). Add olive oil and stir to combine.
- Mash it Up: If you want an even smoother texture after you've finely diced all of the ingredients, place the pesto in a sturdy ziplock bag. Remove all the air and seal shut. Use a mason jar or rolling pin to mash all the ingredients into a smoother consistency.
WAYS TO USE HOMEMADE PESTO
- Add it to pasta dishes to add an extra punch of flavor.
- Use it as a dip for Breadsticks, Focaccia Bread, or Homemade Crusty Artisan Bread.
- Use it as a sandwich or burger spread. Mixed with a little mayo, this is AMAZING!
- Use it as the “sauce” on a pizza. Top it with fresh mozzarella and slices of tomato.
How do you use your homemade pesto? I'd love to hear your ideas!
Get your Kale Walnut Pesto ready ASAP! I've got new Instant Pot recipes coming soon that will star this exact recipe. I can't wait for you to try it out!
Do you make your own pesto? Do you agree that it's the most heavenly condiment on the face of the earth?
TOOLS/INGREDIENTS USED TO MAKE HOMEMADE KALE PESTO
- Food Processor – I have a Magimix and a Breville and I love them both
- High Speed Blender (if you don't own a food processor)
Kale and Walnut Pesto
Bright, lemony fresh Homemade Pesto that can be whipped up in just a few minutes!
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Spread
- Method: Food Processor
- Cuisine: Italian
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cups packed baby arugula
- 2 cups packed baby kale
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ – ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- To the bowl of a food processor add walnuts, garlic, arugula, kale, basil, parmesan, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Start blending and with the motor running, slowly add oil until it’s the consistency you like.
- Scrape the bowl down. Taste and add extra salt or lemon juice if needed. Pulse a few more times to combine.
- Pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Freezes well.
- The combination of arugula and kale give this pesto a unique, delicious flavor. Feel free to switch up the greens with what you have on hand, just don’t omit the basil if you want the classic pesto flavor.
- Walnuts can be substituted with pecans, pine nuts, or almonds.
- Pesto stores great in the freezer. Store flat in a freezer safe bag or in an ice cube tray for smaller servings.
Keywords: Homemade pesto, walnut pesto, kale pesto