This vegan kale pesto is blended with fresh garlic, pine nuts, cashew parmesan, and olive oil for a savory, delicious winter-friendly pesto!
Basil is hands down my favorite fresh herb, and pesto is one of my favorite comfort foods. It’s sad that it requires copious amounts of fresh basil to make pesto, reserving pesto pasta for summer when you can get your hands on lots of fresh basil for a good price. When I made my lasagna recipe in December, I didn’t have any basil reserves in the freezer and was not about spending $10 on “fresh” basil in a plastic container from the grocery store to make an adequate amount of pesto. So I replaced the basil in my pesto recipe with kale for the photos. And it was delicious. I searched for kale pesto and learned that it is indeed already a thing, but I’m still glad I made this little discovery.
Pesto without basil?!
I get super excited when I see vegan pesto on the menu at a restaurant because pesto usually contains cheese, and it’s not always available year round. There have been multiple occasions where I ordered a sandwich or other dish made with pesto, and received something that was definitely not pesto. It was mushy, light in color, and had no texture. It was spinach pesto, and a bait and switch. Truly duplicitous.
I used to be personally offended by “pesto” made with anything other than basil, and I’m still not a fan of most alternative pestos such as spinach pesto. It does not resemble basil pesto in any way. Also, you know how it takes 15 seconds for spinach to go bad, especially if you smash it? That flavor ends up in the pesto. Ew.
Kale pesto, on the other hand, looks like traditional pesto and has the same, slightly gritty texture that adheres to pasta nicely. Looks are not deceiving either—this stuff is tasty. You get the satisfaction of eating pesto, but it’s a different version of pesto that’s delicious in its own right. I’m not going to pretend that it tastes just like basil pesto because there is no basil, but the pine nuts and cashew Parmesan give it a savory, addictive flavor. I fooled myself!
Toppings for your kale pesto
Top your kale pesto pasta with veggies and a sprinkle of vegan cheese, or keep it simple and serve it with just a coating of your pesto. I topped my pasta with sautéed red onions, garlic, sundried tomatoes, and a sprinkle of my homemade cashew almond Parmesan. I highly recommend making a big batch of Parmesan and keeping it in your fridge to top your pasta and pizza. It will keep well for 2-3 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.
This recipe is super flexible, and you can add more or less kale. Start by using the base 2 cups of kale, taste your pesto, then add more kale if desired. More greens will give the pesto a more vegetal flavor, but it’s a great way to get more veggies on your plate, or if you don’t like your pesto to be too rich. It will also make your pesto thicker, but you can always thin it out with water, lemon juice, or olive oil.
- 3 tablespoons raw cashews
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2-3 cups kale pieces, tightly packed
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 lbs pasta, any kind
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
For the pesto:
- Combine the cashews, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, and garlic in a food processor or blender.
- Pulse until the nuts and garlic are coarsely ground.
- Gradually add the 2 cups of kale, pulsing until finely chopped.
- Add the salt and lemon juice.
- Drizzle in the olive oil while blending the pesto until smooth.
- Taste and adjust the flavors to your preferences. Add more olive oil or lemon if it's too thick, or add more kale if desired.
For the pasta:
- Boil the pasta according to the package instructions and reserve some of the pasta water when draining.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil for the veggies in a pan over low-medium heat, then add the sliced onions.
- Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring infrequently.
- Add the garlic and sundried tomatoes and cook for 30 more seconds.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, then remove from heat.
- Add the pesto to the pasta, stirring to coat. If it's too thick or dry, add a splash or two of the pasta water to smooth it out.
- Plate your pesto pasta, then top each plate with some of the veggies
- This recipe doubles well if you're feeding more people, want larger portions, or need leftovers for lunch!
- You can add more or less kale to the pesto depending on your preferences. Using more kale will give the pesto a more vegetal taste, but you'll get more pesto and more veggies on your plate. Using less kale will make the pesto even more flavorful.
- Any leftover pesto keeps well in the fridge in an airtight container. It doesn't brown like basil pesto typically would, so no need to cover the top with a layer of olive oil.
- Use any veggies you like for the pasta, or skip the veggies altogether. I also topped my pasta with vegan Parmesan. I used my recipe for cashew and almond Parmesan if you'd like to try it too!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 479Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 261mgCarbohydrates: 55gFiber: 8gSugar: 6gProtein: 14g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on seitanbeatsyourmeat.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates.
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