Kale & Walnut Pesto

Kale & Walnut Pesto

Mark Hughes BBQ, Dips & sauces, Leftovers, Light Lunches, Main Courses, Oils, Salads 0 Comments

We love pesto! It’s one of the most versatile things you can have on hand & not just for pasta: brush some onto chicken or salmon fillets, stir a spoonful into a nice soup or mashed potato or simply dip crusty bread into it for a quick snack! There are fewer things that are cheaper or faster to make & I can promise that once you make your own, you won’t want shop-bought again! We wanted to try something different this time because the two main ingredients of a traditional pesto, basil & pine nuts, are expensive – so our Kale & Walnut Pesto was born!

Kale is a fantastic vegetable though I do prefer Cavalo Nero for actual cooking; wilted greens with a drizzle of oil & a few thin slices of garlic is a great side dish for anything. I’ve started to explore curly kale now though – it’s cheap (you can get a massive bag for around £1) & still has that fresh ‘green’ taste I like. If you’re going to cook it though, I think it does need almost-harsh treatment – it’s counter-intuitive to me to cook greens for 10 minutes, but I think it intensifies the flavour of curly kale. The times when I’ve not really enjoyed curly kale is when I’ve treated it like most greens & cooked it in 2-3 minutes. This time though, we’re going raw!

A quick note on the ingredients – this is the sort of dish you can improvise with. I made this on a whim to try it out, so didn’t have much to hand except for the kale. I had to cheat & use a drizzle of Garlic oil because I was missing a garlic clove; I even had to use a splash of Basil oil to replace the fresh basil. Add what you fancy, mix it up a bit – as long as you have some nuts for texture, some greens for body, parmesan for character & some cold-pressed oil, you can’t really go wrong.

Ingredients (enough for 8-10 meals)

  • a bag of curly kale, around 250g
  • about 100g walnuts, toasted in a dry pan then left to cool
  • 150-200ml rapeseed oil (I used 1 tbsp of Garlic, 1 tbsp of Basil & plain for the rest)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (or 1 tbsp of Garlic oil)
  • small handful of basil leaves (or 1 tbsp of Basil oil)
  • 75-100g finely grated parmesan
  • juice of 1 lemon & zest
  • 1 anchovy fillet (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste


  1. add the kale, walnuts, anchovy (if using) & basil to a food processor & pulse until finely chopped
  2. drizzle in the oil whilst the motor is slowly running until almost loose enough
  3. scrape into a big bowl & stir in the parmesan, lemon juice & zest
  4. season to taste, loosening with a touch more oil if preferred

Kale & Walnut Pesto 2It looks like a lot of cheese but it really isn’t, especially considering this will be split across 8-10 meals. I think it’s better folded in rather than whizzed up in the processor too.

A note about the lemon – it’s better to be too lemony than not lemony enough; it is oily, so needs a lift & something to cut through it. When you think you’ve added enough lemon juice, my advice would be to add another half a lemons’ worth – it’ll look like it’s too much, but it won’t be!

As a tip, I have a bottle of pure lemon juice (& lime juice) in the fridge – they’re less than £1 but it means you always have lemon juice to hand. Having these bottles makes such a difference to my cooking, you really should try it unless you always have fresh lemons in the house. In which case, well done you. 🙂

This is the perfect base for a zesty, green pesto packed full of nutrients & flavour. Cover it with oil & it’ll keep in the fridge for couple of days, but I tend to freeze it in small pots. I tweak it according to what I’m in the mood for – tonight I crumbled a dried chilli into it for a kick when I tossed a spoonful through freshly cooked pasta. I really enjoyed this recipe & it’s made me want to explore more with raw foods!

If you like this, why not try our Basil & Walnut Pesto too & compare?

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