Learn how to make delicious vegan kale pesto with this quick and easy recipe. Enjoy the fresh flavors of this Italian-style sauce on your favourite pasta.
A vegan-friendly variant of an Italian classic, this vegan kale pesto recipe is a remarkably simple way to add a healthy, flavorful element to a dish.
Made with fresh, nutritious greens, this pesto is beautifully vibrant in color and makes the perfect accompaniment to pasta.
Fresh garlic and basil add the signature flavors of this much-loved sauce. Plus it’s made with pumpkin seeds so it’s nut-free.
With the help of a food processor or blender, this recipe is practically effortless.
Key tips to follow
- If you do not have a food processor, a handheld or immersion blender can be used. Or you can try the traditional method of grinding with a pestle and mortar.
- Blanching the kale in hot water is optional but it does boost the green color and reduces the bitterness.
Ingredients you’ll need
- Fresh Kale and basil as the base of the pesto. These nutritious greens provide flavor and a wonderful vibrancy to the dish. I used a mix of Red Russian and Curly Kale.
- Garlic cloves for a hit of flavor
- Pumpkin seeds
- Fresh lemon juice
- Salt and black pepper for seasoning
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Pasta – Pesto works well with most types of pasta shape, so feel free to use whichever you have on hand.
I find that small pastas such as fusilli, rotini and farfalle are all great with pesto, with their twists and grooves to hold the sauce. Conchiglie and penne are also perfect, as pesto tends to fill these pastas.
How to make Vegan Kale Pesto
1. Remove the kale leaves from the stem and place in a large bowl. Rinse under cool water to remove any dirt or debris.
2. Blanch the kale. This step is optional, but it brightens the green color of the kale and reduces bitterness.
Add the rinsed leaves to boiling water for 2 minutes then carefully remove and add to into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
3. Drain and add the kale to the food processor along with all the other ingredients except olive oil.
4. Blend for a minute, stopping to scrape the sides if needed. Then slowly stream in the olive oil and blend until smooth. Taste and season as required.
5. Toss with cooked pasta or store for later.
Recipe Variations and Substitutions
- Hemp seeds are a great alternative to pumpkin seeds.
- If you do not require a nut-free dish, walnuts, pine nuts and brazil nuts can be used. Pine nuts are the traditional choice in Italian pesto.
- A whole array of other tender greens and herbs could be used in pesto instead of basil and kale. Spinach, parsley, cilantro and arugula are all great substitutions.
- For an oil-free version, omit the olive oil and use avocado to provide the creamy texture and an extra nutritional boost. My nut-free and oil-free pesto recipe is a great one to follow.
- Nutritional yeast could be added if you desire a more “cheesy” flavor.
Can this recipe be prepared in advance?
Pesto can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for up to 5 days in an air-tight container. It can also be stored in the freezer for a month.
If storing the pesto mixed with cooked pasta, then refrigerate and eat within 2-3 days.
If you would like to reheat the pasta, you can reheat in a skillet with a small amount of water or microwave.
Pesto is very versatile and can be used in many different dishes:
- Add to cooked pasta.
- Dot onto pizza or this Vegan Meatball Sub for a pleasant kick of flavor.
- Swirl into soups or mashed potato for a boost of color and flavor.
- Serve as a delicious dip for vegetables.
- Spread onto bread for sandwiches.
More vegan pesto recipes
Vegan Kale Pesto
Baking Recipes: For more accuracy, use Metric measurements and measuring spoons.
- 8 cups (150 g) kale, I used Red Russian and curly kale
- 1 bunch (30 g) fresh basil
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ cup (60 g) pumpkin seeds
- 1 tbsp (20 ml) fresh lemon juice
- ¾ teaspoon (4 g) salt
- ¼ teaspoon (1 g) black pepper
- ½ cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 12 oz (340 g) pasta of your choice, cooked according to package directions
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Get a large bowl and fill with ice cubes and cool water. Set aside.
- Remove the kale leaves from the stems and place in a large bowl. Rinse under cool running water to remove any dirt or debris then drain.8 cups (150 g) kale
- Remove the boiling water from the heat and carefully pour over the kale. If the pot is large enough you could add the kale to the pot instead. Allow it to sit for just 2 seconds.
- Using a wooden spoon or tongs, remove the kale leaves and add to the bowl ice water. Once the kale leaves are cooled down, drain the water.
- Add the kale leaves and the remaining ingredients, except for the oil, to a food processor. Cover and blend for 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl.3 cloves garlic ,½ cup (60 g) pumpkin seeds ,1 tbsp (20 ml) fresh lemon juice ,¾ teaspoon (4 g) salt ,¼ teaspoon (1 g) black pepper ,1 bunch (30 g) fresh basil
- Run the food processor again while streaming in the olive oil through the feed chute. Blend until smooth and scrape down the sides if needed.½ cup (120 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Toss with some cooked and drained pasta to serve.12 oz (340 g) pasta of your choice
- Blanching the kale in hot water is optional but it does boost the green colour and reduces the bitterness.