Friends, if you have followed along with me even a little bit, chances are you are aware of my love for kale. I don’t know what it is, but I absolutely love kale. Yes, I love the texture, the flavor and the fact that it’s so darn good for me. All of it! If you’ve followed along a little bit closer, chances are you have seen me talk about kale pesto before, too. What can I say? It’s probably the best way I know of to serve kale, especially for people who are still haters, or on-the-fencers. Consider it a gateway recipe to the hardcore world of kale, if you will.
I originally shared this recipe on my website for Guest Chef, but as I continue to transition and build over here in The Craveable Kitchen, I feel this blog would not be totally complete without this dish. So, I am repurposing it here and I hope you love it as much as I do. Wondering what the heck you even do with kale pesto?! Well, I am thrilled you asked! I love to use it as a topping on salmon or chicken, or swirl it into some butternut squash soup, or toss it with pasta, or spread it on toast in the morning and put a poached egg on it. Those are just a few of the delicious ways to enjoy this kale pesto. If you have other ideas, I would love it if you posted them in the comments below!
One of the reasons people dislike kale so much is the texture. The reality is that it’s a hardy, thick, leafy green. All you have to do to combat this, though, is tenderize it. If serving raw in a salad for example, dress it ahead of time and let it hang out for awhile. Unlike other wimpier greens, kale will hold up to this pre-dressing and instead of getting soggy it will get more flavorful and more tender. Cool, eh?
In this recipe, we are going to tenderize the kale in the oven. Truthfully, I have skipped this step before and gone straight into the food processor, which is another tenderizing method, but I happen to love how the quick roasting brightens up the green color and helps soften the leaves, so we’re going for it here. To prep the kale, just tear the leaves off the thick stems and arrange them on a sheet tray. If your kale needs to be rinsed first, put the leaves in a bowl of cold water for a quick bath, then blot them dry before placing on the sheet pan.
Roast the kale leaves in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes. That’s it. You’ll see the leaves begin to wilt and become brighter green in color.
Now we can get to the “pesto” part. I use quotations because I am making some modifications to the more classically popular basil pesto. Traditionally, pesto is made with basil, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. But the word pesto really means “pounded” so basically we can pound whatever we want in our food processor and be legit! Enter, pistachios! Although walnuts and kale are a also a match made in heaven, so try those next time to keep things interesting.
Process the pistachios with a clove of peeled garlic until crumbly. Then, goes the kale, along with some salt, pepper and lemon juice. Or, for added depth, I love a few splashes of balsamic vinegar. Add a splash of extra virgin olive oil, then put on the lid and turn on the motor. While the blade is whirling, drizzle in more olive oil.
Honestly, this is where it comes down to taste and preference. If you want something thicker, more like a spread, add less oil. On the other hand, if you want something saucier add more oil for a looser final product. Stop to scrape the sides and check the texture, then call it done when you like it! You can add more salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste and of course, for a more garlicky finish toss in another clove or two!
Like so many recipes, this really is a formula that should be used as a guide more than a law. As I noted throughout the description above, you can feel free to get creative. If you don’t have pistachios, try walnuts or pine nuts or even almonds. While I’ve made kale the star of the show here, other greenery can be added or swapped. For example, I also love to add herbs, especially if I have extra in the fridge. Parsley or basil brighten the flavor, and baby spinach or arugula make great pesto, too. Lastly, while I didn’t use Parmesan here just to keep it über healthy, cheese always makes people happy. So, don’t feel restricted by this recipe. Instead, use it as a launching point for all the great pestos in your future!
Kale and pistachios blend together easily and deliciously for a healthy and enjoyable way to indulge on kale this week.
About 14 cups of Kale leaves, torn and clean
1/4–1/2 cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, peeled
1/3 cup pistachios, shelled and unsalted
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Tear kale leaves off the stems. If kale needs rinsing, set leaves in a large bowl of cold water and soak for a few minutes. Lift leaves out of the bowl onto some paper towel or a clean kitchen towel and blot dry. Arrange on a sheet tray, or two.
Roast the kale in the oven for about 5 minutes until slightly wilted and bright green in color.
In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, add the pistachios and clove of garlic. If you happen to love really garlicky pesto, add another clove. Process until crumbly.
Add the kale leaves, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Turn on the motor again, and start drizzling in more olive oil until desired consistency is reached. For a more spreadable thickness, use less oil. For something more saucy, add more oil.
Stop to scrape down the sides and check taste. Add more salt, pepper or lemon juice if, necessary.
Kale can be stored in the refrigerator for up to six days. Or, portion into an ice cube tray and freeze for future use.
5 thoughts on “Incredibly Easy Kale and Pistachio Pesto”
Love your take on pesto…Kale is such a great green to use, I also use kale to make pesto, love the additon of pistachios….great recipe
Thanks!! I appreciate it!
This looks just gorgeous! For my kale pesto I used walnuts (for one test) and hazelnuts (for another). Both were excellent but I imagine pistachios are just as good. They’ll be my next test! 🙂
Thanks so much, Cleo! I also really love walnuts in my pesto!
Using tongs, transfer pasta to bowl with pesto; add butter and ? cup pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding more pasta cooking liquid by the tablespoonful if needed, until sauce coats pasta. Divide among bowls; top with more Parmesan and a few grinds of pepper.