The Washington Post

Kale Pesto

Kale Pesto 0.000

Rey Lopez for The Washington Post; styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Eat Voraciously Newsletter Jan 27, 2022

Deep green, thanks to hardy leaves of kale, this is a pesto designed to brighten the dark days of winter. Any kale will work, but lacinato kale’s dark green, almost purple leaves make an especially eye-catching sauce. Ensure the kale is tender enough to blend into a smooth sauce by first cooking it in boiling water. This will also set the pesto’s dark green color and help keep it fresh for almost a week. Any dark leafy greens will work in place of kale, including collards and chard.

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Total time: 30 mins

Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Yield: Makes 1 1/3 cup

  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 teaspoons fine salt, plus more as needed
  • 8 ounces kale, preferably lacinato, thick stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) chopped walnuts, toasted (see NOTE)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated parmesan cheese, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper


In a large pot over high heat, bring the water and salt to a rolling boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, prepare an ice bath.

Add the kale to the boiling water and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the kale to the prepared ice bath and let cool completely, then strain and, using your hands, squeeze as much water from it as possible.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, walnuts and kale and whiz until well combined. Pour in the oil in a steady stream, and pulse until a smooth puree forms. If the pesto seems too thick, add additional oil until it reaches your desired consistency.

Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the cheese. Taste, and season with additional cheese and/or salt, and pepper, if desired.

NOTE: To toast walnuts: Heat a heavy skillet, such as cast-iron, over medium heat. Add the chopped walnuts and stir constantly until they start to brown and become fragrant, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, place them on a baking sheet and toast at 325 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly, which will make them taste bitter.

Recipe Source

Adapted from “The Real Dirt on Vegetables” by John Peterson (Gibbs Smith, 2006).

Tested by G. Daniela Galarza and Kara Elder.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per 1 tablespoon : 73

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 7g 11%

Saturated Fat: 1g 5%

Cholesterol: 2mg 1%

Sodium: 64mg 3%

Total Carbohydrates: 2g 1%

Dietary Fiber: 1g 4%

Sugar: 0g

Protein: 1g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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