The Best Vegan Kale Pesto

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Need a quick lunch or dinner idea? Try this hearty, creamy vegan kale pesto recipe. It takes only five minutes, from start to finish.

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Real, Healthy Vegan Pesto 

Confession: I am a huge fan of pesto. I have always preferred it on my pasta instead of tomato sauce. 

The problem is, store-bought pesto often contains preservatives, sweeteners, thickeners, and water. I was shocked to find out how these ingredients just crept into the bottled pesto I used to always buy. Bottled pesto was a lifesaver for the busier days until I realized how easily I could make healthy kale pesto – without all of the added “stuff”! 

Ever since then, I’ve always made my own pesto sauce (and I’ve been obsessed with it)!

How did I arrive at the perfect recipe? Well, I experimented with my ingredients (sneaking in healthy items) and tested multiple steps between preparing and serving a finished product. 

The leafiness of the kale (that health item!) had to be balanced with the buttery texture of pine nuts. And then the buttery pine nuts had to be balanced with olive oil. In the end, I had my hands full of what my daughters called… greenish paste.

But it was worth it! The result was a guilt-free, gluten-free, vegan pesto that’s rich and flavorful. My friends always reach for seconds!

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What’s in my vegan kale pesto?

My recipe for vegan pesto is extremely easy to follow using simple ingredients. On top of the veg, you’ll need olive oil, garlic, pine nuts (hello, buttery creamy texture!), some lemon, salt and pepper, plus nutritional yeast. 

While the majority of pesto recipes use basil, I find that kale makes an excellent addition. It makes the pesto 10 times healthier, too! 

Kale is high in antioxidants and loaded with vitamins. I know kale is notorious for having a bitter taste that people can’t stomach, especially when raw. But in kale pesto? It’s like magic – it loses its bitterness and enhances the flavor of all the other ingredients in this recipe. I was so amazed when I tasted my first batch of freshly blended pesto how little kale I actually tasted. 

If you’re looking for ways to sneak vegetables into your kids’ diets, this is it! My daughter loves this pesto on her pasta and I can be a happy mama knowing that I’m sneaking some kale into her diet. 

Traditionally, pesto is made with grated hard cheeses. But since I’m making vegan pesto, it has to be dairy-free. Instead of cheese, I use nutritional yeast seasoning, which is a popular vegan alternative. That fermented, cheesy flavor you get in this vegan pesto is all thanks to this one key ingredient. Here is the one that is stocked in my pantry. 

This spread will be perfect for someone vegan, lactose intolerant, or wants to cut back on their dairy consumption. This wholesome pesto is paleo-friendly and gluten-free as well! 

Have five minutes to spare? That’s all you need to make four servings of this heartwarming vegan pesto. No heat, cooking, or baking involved. Just grab a food processor and get to blending!

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Vegan Kale Pesto

Need a quick lunch or dinner idea? Try this hearty, creamy vegan kale pesto recipe. It takes only five minutes, from start to finish.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
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Ingredients

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  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • A squeeze of fresh lemon
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (toasted)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes (for cheesy flavor)
  • Pinch of pink sea salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Remove the stems of the kale and basil, keeping only leaves.  
  2. Rinse the kale and basil under cool water, removing any dirt in the leaves. Then, pat dry. Any excess water on your leaves will dilute a flavorful pesto. 
  3. Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until you get a green paste. (This usually takes about one minute.)
  4. If needed, add more salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast to taste.
  5. Enjoy over your favorite pasta (I prefer brown rice pasta or sprouted whole wheat pasta.)

Notes

What I love about this vegan kale pesto is how versatile it is. On days when pasta feels a bit heavy, I like to spread this pesto on toast. I also use it as a dip when I feel like snacking! So don’t forget to make spare servings for those peckish nights.

For storage, cover the pesto with a plastic film and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can freeze it for up to 1 month, but I recommend you divide it into portions before freezing. When you’re ready to eat, simply use a microwave oven to defrost to your desired temperature.

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