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Walnut-Kale Vegan Pesto

This vegan pesto recipe with walnuts and Italian kale is silky with olive oil and boasts plenty of umami, too, thanks to a good shake of nutritional yeast.


walnut kale vegan pesto in a glass jar with a spoon

Italian Kale, By Any Other Name.

If we’re going to make a classic Italian sauce with kale, it seems only fitting that we’d use Italian kale to at least pay homage to the home country of the classic sauce that inspired this vegan pesto recipe. Not all kale is created equal, and we particularly love Italian kale because this cruciferous vegetable is a little less bitter than some other varieties of kale, and the leaves are nicely tender, too. This type of kale is also very widely available and easy to find—however, it goes by quite a few different names, so be on the lookout! Italian kale is also known as Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale, lacinato kale, black kale and cavolo nero—phew! Slightly nutty and even sweet, this many-monikered kale pairs perfectly with mild, earthy walnuts and grassy fresh parsley—a deeply-flavorful winter pesto to carry you through until basil season hits again.

ingredients for walnut kale vegan pesto in a food procesor
walnut kale vegan pesto in a food processor

How to Make Vegan Pesto:

While some might argue that calling this sauce a “pesto” without the traditional ingredient of fresh basil is blasphemy, we feel like a green and herby sauce like this—rich with honey-colored olive oil and walnuts—certainly counts. After all, the word “pesto” comes from the Italian verb “pestare”, which simply means to pound or grind. And that’s precisely the process for making this vegan pesto recipe! Simply combine all of this in a food processor and use it to make our Pesto Spaghetti!

  • Italian kale.
  • Fresh parsley
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Walnuts
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Garlic cloves
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
walnut kale vegan pesto in a glass jar with a spoon

Tools You’ll Need:

Other Vegan Sauces To Try:

We’re pretty excited about the fact that this dairy free pesto is as delicious as it is healthy and inclusive—there aren’t many people who can’t eat this lovely yummy, vibrant walnut pesto sauce. Here are a couple of our other favorite vegan sauces, dressings and dips to liven up just about any meal:

Kale-Walnut Pesto—Surprise Hit?

Snap a photo of your finished walnut-kale pesto, and show us how you served it! Over vegan pesto pasta? Or slathered on a sandwich? Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproperand #themodernproperso we can see how you pesto! Happy eating!

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Walnut-Kale Vegan Pesto

  • Serves: 10
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  5 min
  • Calories: 151


  • 2 cups Italian kale, ribs removed
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup parsley, stems removed
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


In a food processor blend all ingredients except olive oil until finely chopped. Slowly pour in olive oil while blending on high. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories151
  • Protein3 g
  • Carbohydrates2 g
  • Total Fat15 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium239 mg
  • Total Sugars0 g

Walnut-Kale Vegan Pesto

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Megan

    Is there a substitute for nutritional yeast? or could I just omit?
    Looks so good!

    Not a great sub in this recipe for that, it adds a lot of the flavor.

  • Jessica

    Does this freeze well? I don't image we will use an entire recipe.

    It should freeze ok but we haven't personally tried it!

  • Shy

    We ran out of olive oil, so I added half olive oil and a half water, and more lemon juice instead and it still turned up surprisingly great! Oh, we also substituted a pinch of asefoedita instead of garlic for a low FODMAP diet. Who knew walnuts would be so tasty in pesto!

    Thanks Shy, we are so happy you loved it! Glad to hear the substitutes worked.

  • Alli

    This (and the accompanying cauliflower steak recipe) have become a regular in our rotation! So yummy and comes together a lot quicker than it sounds; perfect for a working family with a toddler. I've really enjoyed having a dairy free pesto option that tastes so good I don't miss the parmesan! We usually served over "buttered" herbed noodles.

    Thank Alli! We love that it's part of your regular rotation!