I still remember the day I made my first fresh pesto sauce from scratch. I dipped a small spoon into the blended sauce and offered the spoonful to my husband to try. He made a face at first (he usually does that as he is a cautious taste-tester) but that face turned into approval quickly once the spoon was in his mouth. Since then I have often made pesto pasta for his work lunches and these were always highly rated by him. From that first recipe long ago, I have now improved it into a simple recipe to make an easy aromatic pesto sauce for pasta dinners and to spread onto breads for breakfast or lunch. It is so delicious that I want to share it with you! Jump to Recipe
Using only 8 ingredients, this vegan, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free and gluten-free Simply Delicious Toasted Walnut, Basil & Kale Pesto recipe is extremely versatile. You can use this pesto sauce to make cold or hot pasta dishes for lunch or dinner, bring it for school or work lunches, or even to parties and potluck functions. Besides pastas, bagels and bread, you can also spread pesto sauce onto crackers or cut vegetables, or use it as a dip for baked potato fries. For those with gluten sensitivities, choose a gluten-free pasta, bread or cracker alternative to combine with this sauce.
Since fresh basil leaves and pine nuts can be expensive and also difficult to source readily, this recipe uses mostly kale leaves and toasted walnuts to achieve the same delicious effect. If you are toasting walnuts from scratch or already have some on hand, reserve a handful to sprinkle onto the finished pasta for a satisfying crunch. You can also sprinkle on toasted pumpkin seeds for more deliciousness. This recipe is extremely adaptable, so if you don’t have some of the listed ingredients, see the recipe and notes below for more ingredient substitutions and topping suggestions. Our family loves this recipe and I hope you do too!
- 9 large garlic cloves (chopped)
- 1 ½ cups toasted walnuts [222 g]
- 1 cup chopped fresh basil [30 g] (can include the stems if you are using a high speed blender)
- 4 cups fresh torn kale leaves [80 g] (or use a baby kale/spinach leaves mix)
- 10 tablespoons olive oil [150 mL, equivalent to about 1/2 a cup plus 2 tablespoons] (or another vegetable oil)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Toasted walnuts
- Toasted pumpkin seeds
- Ground flaxseed
- Vegan cheese shreds
- Toasted sunflower seeds
- Diced fresh apple cubes
If not already available, toast the measured amount of walnut pieces in a toaster oven or conventional oven. To do so, preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C and then toast the walnut pieces for about 6-8 minutes each side, or until browned. Set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, wash and quickly pat dry (using a paper towel or kitchen towel) the fresh kale leaves (does not need to be absolutely dry). Tear the kale leaves away from the stems, and then tear the leaves into smaller bite sized pieces. Measure out 4 cups and set this aside in a bowl.
Wash and quickly pat dry the basil leaves and stems (if using a high speed blender). These also do not need to be absolutely dry.
Peel and roughly chop the garlic cloves, then add this and all the other ingredients into a high speed blender or food processor (toasted walnuts, kale, basil leaves, salt, pepper and lemon juice).
Blend these ingredients on high speed, stopping a few times to scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl, until a smooth green sauce is formed.
Serve as is over pasta, bread, bagels, or crackers (for those with gluten sensitivities, use a gluten-free alternative). If you desire, sprinkle on a combination of toppings (optional). See the suggested toppings listed above. Spoon the extras into an ice cube tray and freeze for 48 hours in a freezer before removing the ‘cube portions’ to put into a zip fastened bag, for easy use in the months to come!
If you do not have a high speed blender or food processor, do not use basil stems in this recipe. Only use the basil leaves. For a smoother sauce, blend the ingredients for longer or add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into the food processor bowl during the blending process.
This recipe can be made with 5 cups of fresh basil leaves instead of a combination of kale and basil leaves. Alternatively, if you don’t have any basil on hand, you can use 5 cups of fresh kale leaves instead. For those that don’t have kale or basil leaves, you can substitute in an equivalent amount of a mix of washed and dried baby kale and spinach leaves. I have even made this recipe before using just spinach leaves instead of the kale leaves in this recipe, along with one cup of fresh basil leaves!
Although this is a dairy-free recipe, if you would like a more ‘cheesy’ pesto sauce flavor, feel free to add in a ¼ cup of vegan cheese shreds to this recipe during the blending process.
I love that this pesto sauce makes a large quantity so that it can be frozen into ice-cube portions for later use in the coming weeks and months. This pesto sauce freezes well for at least 3-4 months in a deep freezer, thaws quickly to room temperature once removed from the freezer and only a small portion is needed at a time (I find that often 2 tablespoons of this pesto sauce is already sufficient to deliciously flavor a bowl of pasta).
Enjoy this Simply Delicious Toasted Walnut, Basil & Kale Pesto with pasta as a hot or cold dish. My children and husband love it when I sprinkle on some toasted walnuts and pumpkin seeds, as well as ground flaxseed and sometimes a smattering of vegan cheese shreds to the pasta noodles. Feel free to be creative, using however much pesto sauce you desire and adding in whatever toppings you like. Recently we began adding in diced fresh apple cubes to a bowl of pesto smothered pasta noodles (pictured above), making a light and refreshing meal reminiscent of summer. Can’t wait to take this dish to the next party function!
The best part of this recipe to me? This is that I get to use my own homegrown basil leaves, harvested right from a pot near my living room window. Our children and I have had so much fun tending our little indoor home ‘garden’, watching these basil plants grow from seeds planted a year ago. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside (snow for us here) – we still get to harvest a plentiful amount of fresh basil leaves throughout the year!