This kale pesto with walnuts and sage is easy to make, full of fall flavor, and delicious drizzled over roasted squash, tossed with pasta, or added to paninis.


From pastas and pizzas to salads, bruschetta, and more, pesto is a stellar way to brighten up a dish. In particular, homemade pesto is one of those recipes to sub in different ingredients for distinct but familiar flavors. Case in point? This kale pesto with walnuts and sage.

This kale version doesn’t stray too far from my traditional pesto recipe or my arugula pesto recipe. It tastes very similar to regular Italian Genovese pesto but is slightly earthier and warmer thanks to the kale, walnuts, and sage. With a quick blitz in the food processor, this pesto comes together super fast. Plus, since kale is a superfood full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, it’s good for you too. Oh, kale yeah!


What’s In Kale Pesto

This kale pesto only has a few ingredients, so choose the freshest you can find to make them count.

Here’s what you’ll need to make kale pesto:

  • Walnuts—Toast them to deepen their nutty flavor. I like using walnuts in this kale pesto versus pine nuts for a more toasty, fall flavor
  • Parmesan cheese—Skip the pre-grated green can and use freshly grated instead
  • Garlic
  • Kale—I use lacinato/Tuscan/dinosaur kale in this recipe for it’s softer texture (you could use Swiss chard as well.)
  • Fresh sage leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil—Use a fresh and fruity olive oil for the lightest flavor.
  • Fresh lemon juice

How to Make Kale Pesto

This kale pesto is a breeze to make. Here’s how:

First, toast your nuts. Toasting nuts first brings a deeper nutty flavor to the forefront of the sauce.

  • To toast your walnuts on the stovetop: Place them in a dry skillet or fry pan over medium-high, and cook for a few minutes or until you can smell their toasted aroma, shaking the pan or stirring as they cook. Be sure to keep a watchful eye. Once they’re evenly toasted and aromatic, remove them from the hot pan into a bowl or plate so they don’t continue to toast.
  • To toast your walnuts in the oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Arrange the walnuts on a sheet pan and place in the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye so they don’t over-toast.

Blitz and Blend

I make this pesto recipe in the food processor. Blending this sauce in a food processor makes this recipe extra quick to make. I prefer using the food processor over a blender because the large bladed processor quickly minces the ingredients with just a smidge of cleanup after.

So what about using a mortar and pestle? Sure! Absolutely do if you’re up for the arm workout. But for me, I go the lazy way and just hit the ON button instead.

Here’s how to make this kale pesto:

  • Add the toasted walnuts, Parmesan cheese, and garlic to the bowl of the food processor and process until finely minced. (Or, if you like your pesto on the chunkier side, throw all of the dry ingredients in the processor at once and pulse until smooth.)
  • Add the kale and sage and process.
  • While the processor is still running, slowly drizzle the olive oil through the chute.
  • Season with fresh lemon juice, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust if necessary.

Why is My Kale Pesto Bitter?

This pesto shouldn’t taste bitter, but if it does, add a bit more lemon juice to help mellow it out (the acid from the lemon helps balance the flavors).

How to Store Pesto

Eat the pesto straight away or store it in a jar with a tightly fitted lid for up to 1 week. If storing for later, add a generous drizzle of olive oil to the top of the pesto. This will form an oily seal so it doesn’t turn dark. Simply stir the oil into the sauce before using.

Can You Freeze Pesto?

Pesto freezes beautifully, and is a great option to keep in mind if you plan on making lots of pesto sauce this summer. Freeze the pesto in ice cube trays then transfer to freezer-safe bags to keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. If you store this easy pesto in larger containers, keep in mind you’ll have to thaw the pesto out all at once.


More Pesto Recipes

More Kale Recipes to Try

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