Healthy, Hearty Kale Pesto

Update: See my cooking video for this kale pesto recipe here!

One of my favorite on-line recipe sites is 101 cookbooks. Heidi is a culinary master and prolific photographer who shares her many recipes and photos with her readers, offering up some of the easiest, most delicious vegetarian recipes I have ever come across. I often go to her website when I need ideas for dinner. In fact, I owe this years Thanksgiving menu to her having made her Red Curry Pumpkin Soup, Kale Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Brussel Sprouts.

But Heidi’s recipes often include dairy products which I am not a big advocate of so I find that I sometimes need to make adjustments to accommodate my diet. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not, but in this case I have to say, I hit it out of the ballpark.

When I came across her winter green pasta recipe I wanted to try it but I had to come up with an alternative to the goat cheese she used in the recipe. I thought about the qualities goat cheese would offer the end result: oils, creaminess and a smooth texture, and set about thinking of alternatives that were part of my culinary repertoire. What I came up with was toasted pine nuts or walnuts. Toasting them gives the dish a distinct smoky flavor and the oils from the nuts allows the flavors to blend while providing the fat the recipe required. The end result is out of this world and chock full of nutrition.

Kale is a dark green leafy vegetable that has been shown to have cancer fighting properties and immune boosting benefits. I encourage my clients to eat it often for it’s health benefits and calcium content but many complain of its tough texture and bitterness. It is true, kale can be difficult to make delicious especially if you are not big into cooking. But this is one simple, delicious way to cook kale while maintaining a lot of its health benefits that could be lost through sautéing or over-boiling.

Pine nuts contain pinolenic acid, a beneficial fatty acid that helps control appetite by stimulating the satiety center in the brain. Delicious as this dish is, it is one pasta dish that may not prompt you to overeat, thanks to the oils in the pine nuts.

Makingthis recipe with walnuts is an equally delicious option, as walnuts are a great source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent inflammation and are wonderful for balancing mood and brain chemistry because of their ability to boost serotonin levels!

Shallots and garlic belong to the Allium vegetable family and contain sulfur compounds that help detox the liver, build connective tissue and nourish your hair, skin, nails and bone. While regular pasta can be used in this recipe, I prefer a less allergenic grain like brown rice pasta. Quinoa pasta would go well too.

Delicious, easy and quick to make, this recipe could be had on it’s own or as a side dish. Another option is to toss the kale pesto with cubes of cooked chicken and have with a side of rice and vegetables. Either way, a yummy meal at the end of a long day… Enjoy!


  • 1 head kale, cleaned with stems removed
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts
  • 3 small shallots, peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 package brown rice pasta (Tinkyada Brand)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice of ½ lemon


In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over low to medium heat, stirring continuously to avoid burning. Remove from heat when nuts are toasted and set aside. In a sauce pan, boil water and then add the garlic and shallots, boiling them for 3 minutes. Add the kale and allow to simmer for 10 seconds. Remove kale, shallots and garlic with a slotted spoon and add to a food processor. Add pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to the food processor and pulse until smooth. In the water that was used for boiling kale, garlic and shallots, add the brown rice pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and combine with kale pesto. Serves 4.

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8 comments on “Healthy, Hearty Kale Pesto

  1. AvatarCheryl Suddarth

    I am happy I found your blog, I love listening to you teach how to eat. I love all the foods that you encourage us to eat. I need a good fresh pear recipe, right now the red pears are in season and they are so delicious . Thanks so much for all the help. Cheryl

    1. AvatarBarbara Mendez, RPh, MS Post author

      Thank you for your comment Cheryl! I’m so glad that you enjoy the blog~
      Stay on the lookout for an apple compote recipe that can easily be made with pears and I am working on a healthy cobbler recipe that would also go well with pears…. stay tuned…
      Have a great week~

  2. AvatarAngela

    Hey B – I made the pesto right after you gave us the recipe and loved it! J & G loved it too (and the neighbor kid). I had no idea what kale was until I tried it this way. We’ve used it on chicken and pasta. I made enough to freeze as well. I used the pine nuts (no cheese), and a lot more garlic than you suggested.

    I was pleasantly suprised that my mom & dad enjoyed it too….who would have thought old Italians would enjoy a new spin on their standard basil pesto?

    Thanks again for the recipe.

  3. AvatarDonna

    Lovely alternative to Summer Basil, thank you! And may I suggest adding potatoes and green beans or zucchini to boiling water as they do in Genoa where pesto originates.

  4. Avatarlia

    made this as a side dish with pasta, for Mom’s birthday party tonght. HUGE hit!! I did however put about 1/4 cup feta cheese in it too. LOVED by all (even some of the kids). Thanks so much for sharing. Hugs.


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