Kale and walnut pesto recipe

I’ve been experimenting with different types of pesto. Once you start making your own pesto you’ll realise just how artificial shop bought ones are, and how overpriced market or deli bought ones are! This really is super, simple – you can have delicious, fresh pesto in 15 minutes.

I absolutely love kale. The former black sheep of the brassica family – broccoli and cauliflower always being asked out to play, whilst kale sat there, looking all shrivelled and unapproachable. Gillian ‘not a doctor’ McKeith would sing kale’s praises on You Are What You Eat but nobody really trusted a lady who wanted to inspect your poo. But then actual celebrities began to endorse kale and it became a ‘thing’. The obvious culprits included the super-health conscious Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow, but then everyman’s chef Jamie Oliver got in on the action and a Ryan Gosling meme was created, and thus kale was taken up by the masses.

Credit: Vegan Ryan Gosling Tumblr

Kale is full of vitamins: A (healthy skin, eye sight, immune system), B (energy, mood, immune system), C (immune system, healing) and K (healthy bones and blood clotting), as well iron, fibre and even packs in some protein. But most of all, kale makes you HAPPY! No, seriously, it does. The vitamins alone can help to lift mood, but kale is also a good source of carotenoids (a type of pigment) which has been scientifically linked to increased optimism.

How you cook or prepare kale is vital to your enjoyment. It can have a bitter taste and bland on it’s own, especially if undercooked, but it’s great in curry, stews, soups and of course, pesto.

This recipe is vegan as I’m not eating cheese this month (more on that next week…) but you can easily add Parmesan or vegetarian hard cheese if you want. If there are nut allergies, you can omit the nuts, adding seeds or even roasted chickpeas instead for that crunch and nutty flavour. Equally, if walnuts are not your nut of choice, pine nuts or hazelnuts would also work really well here.

I used a food processor here, but if you don’t have one then you can make pesto using a good knife and a pestle and mortar. You will need to quite finely chop the kale though and it might take an extra 10-15 minutes. But look at the results – most definitely worth it!


Kale and walnut pesto

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print


  • 100g of kale
  • ¼ cup (or handful) of walnuts
  • 15-25 basil leaves
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Note: start with these amounts but you can add more basil, oil and garlic to taste.


Remove the kale from the stems (the hard, stalky bits in the middle). Massage the kale with a little bit of olive oil (1 tbsp). This helps to reduce the bitter taste. If you’re not using a food processor you need to chop these really finely.

Roast the walnuts in the oven for 10 minutes, or toast in a dry frying pan, until they are slightly golden and crunchy. If you’re short of time you can easily omit this step.

Tear up the basil leaves. If you’re not using a processor then chop these very finely.

Crush and chop the garlic. Again, do this very fine if not using a processor, otherwise just crush gently.

If using a food processor throw all the ingredients in and pulse for a minute or two until it’s the texture you want. Add more olive oil if you want it wetter. If making by hand first chop the walnuts then add the already prepared kale, basil and garlic to the chopping board and start chopping further together to help it all mix. You can then use a pestle and mortar for some final crushing, which is when you would add the olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning. Note that depending on the kale you buy it could be quite bitter or strong, and kale is not to everyone’s taste, so do taste it and amend as required – by adding more basil, garlic or oil based on your preferences.

Et voila! You can now keep this in an airtight jar or tub for two weeks, although I always get through it much quicker than that! Or freeze in ice cube trays and just stir through your dish whilst cooking.

Apologies for the awful photo quality but here it is stirred through homemade pasta, with roasted broccoli and courgette. Super green Gosling-approved goodness!




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