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I love pesto. It is one of my favorite ways to eat pasta – hot or cold, pesto adds great flavor and is easy to make. The problem with many store bought pestos is two fold. First they tend to be oily, and most importantly they generally have pine nuts or tree nuts of some sort. I am, unfortunately, allergic to pine nuts so it’s quite a hassle to find pesto that is nut free. Fortunately, it takes very little time to make a delicious homemade pesto and I’m going to show you how (including easy substitutes).

how to make homemade kale pesto

Homemade Pesto Base

Let’s start with the green. I love a super strong basily pesto. However, it can be hard to get a good 3-4 cups of fresh basil leaves for a good price unless you’re growing your own so I came up with this kale pesto recipe. I swap out part of the basil for hearty kale. It works perfectly in pesto and doesn’t mute the basil. You may want to give spinach a try in place of kale and that’s great. Go for it. Just know that it will have ahigher water content and stronger flavor.

Kale Pesto Ingredients Food Processor

Boost Your Homemade Pesto with Flavor!

Every dish tastes better with a dash or two of salt and pepper. Plus, pasta and garlic go hand in hand, right?! I’m all for “more garlic, please” but a couple cloves will do perfectly in this recipe. You don’t want to taste just the garlic. If you can’t have garlic, try adding a tablespoon of diced onion.

kale garlic and basil for kale pesto

Add some Nuttiness to Your Homemade Pesto.

Or not (I didn’t add them this time). Adding nuts is optional, and if you have a tree nut allergy you definitely aren’t going to want to add nuts. However, I find hempseed to be the perfect substitute. If you don’t have it you can skip, but you could also try adding pumpkin or sunflower seeds. If you have nothing against tree nuts you could also sub out pine nuts for walnuts. That sounds like an intrersting flavor combo to me.

Homemade Kale Pesto in food processor

Cheese or no Cheese in Your Homemade Pesto?

Handsdown, we say cheese please! But perhaps there’s a dairy allergy in your family or you simply don’t like cheese (say it ain’t so!). You can totally skip the cheese but I recommend adding a bit more salt since some of this pesto’s salt comes from a good Parmesan cheese. If you don’t have Parmesan you can substitute with Grana Padano or pecorino.

Grated Parmesan

How do I use my Homemade Pesto?

I mean, pasta tossed with kale pesto is always the perfect answer here. You can also use it to top grilled or roasted chicken or garlic bread, toss it with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, or top slices of fresh tomatoes (perfect for summer!) I happen to think it also makes the perfect sandwich spread, especially with a homemade grilled cheese. And on that note, I’ll give you the recipe and go make myself a sandwich.

Kale Pesto Spaghetti


Kale Pesto

Delicious nut-free pesto recipe that is hearty with kale and full of flavor from the basil and garlic that it’s made with. Easy to adapt to make dairy allergy-friendly also.

  • Author: Heather L McCurdy
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup (approx.) 1x
  • Category: Condiment


  • 2 cups kale – washed and pulled off the stem
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup hempseed (can skip or swap for another seed or nut)
  • 1/4 cup pecorino or parmesan (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 TBS oil – olive or hempseed
  • 1/2 tsp.  salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper


  1. Throw kale, basil, and garlic in the food processor or blender and process until fine – not liquid. Add oil, and mix just until blended. Add salt, hempseed and cheese and mix all together.
  2. Refrigerate until using.

Keywords: pesto, nut-free pesto recipe

Don’t forget to save this tasty homemade kale pesto recipe for later!

Original image and post published: August 30, 2013. Republished 4/8/19
Hempseed Kale Pesto is full of nutritiona nd a great subsitute for those with nut allergies. It's our favorite! #pesto #recipes

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  1. I made this last weekend and it was perfect! Added it as a base to some healthified pita pizzas and they were delicious!

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