Easy Kale and Basil Pesto

I love pesto. When I was in high school, swimming competitively, I survived off of pasta and bread, all smothered with whole tubs of pesto. It’s delicious and beautiful and the answer to “how can I eat straight olive oil but make it seem healthy?”

Now, however, a few things stand between me and my love. The first is that I’m not exercising vigorously in cold water for 10+ hours every week. I don’t want to or need to eat white carbs and plain fat every day. Is this what growing up feels like? Yuck.

Most store bought pesto has Parmesan in it anyway, which is obviously a no for me. So if I want it, I have to make it.

Part three: basil and olive oil are expensive, and even if I were to buy $15 of fresh basil leaves, it would blend down to a few sad tablespoons. My solution? This healthier, definitely cheaper alternative to traditional pesto (with all the flavor, of course!). By adding in kale (which is about $1-$2 a bunch, depending on the season) and water (practically free), it cuts the calories and cost, and boosts your greens intake for the day. What’s not to love?

Easy Kale and Basil Pesto

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


1 bunch raw kale leaves (about 3-4 cups)

2 tbs basil paste (the kind in the tubes- or use a handful of fresh leaves)

1 tbs olive oil

1 tsp nutritional yeast

3 cloves of garlic (or to taste)

1 tbs raw cashews (or almonds, sunflower seeds– whatever you have on hand)

Water (see instructions)


Add all ingredients EXCEPT WATER to a blender or food processor– if not all the kale fits, slowly add it as the mixture is blended. Starting with about a tablespoon, slowly add the water until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Pour over pasta (I love chickpea pasta, like Banza or Thrive Market brand) or top garlic bread, use as a salad dressing.

Notes: feel free to use spinach or any other dark leafy green you like! This keeps well on the fridge for a few days, but I haven’t tried freezing it yet.

Happy baking!


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