Best of Basic: Kale Pesto (df | vegan | gf)

Pesto, like any sauce, adds life to whatever it touches. But unlike many other sauces, pesto takes virtually no time to whip up, making it the perfect choice for a quick meal or appetizer. Here, I’ve made a couple of changes to the traditional basil pesto. First, I don’t use basil. I use kale, and only kale. Why? Because it’s delicious, more economical and more versatile than a basil pesto. But trust me, it’s still super tasty and you’re gonna love it.

My second adjustment to the classic pesto is that I nix the pine nuts and replace them with toasted pumpkin seeds. Why? Again, because it’s delicious. But also to make this a nut-free recipe. Why pumpkin seeds? Because they taste rich and nutty, without actually being, well, nutty. This also makes them one of my go-to nut replacements.

And finally, the third change to a traditional basil pesto. Sorry, there’s no parm cheese in this one. The good news is that this pesto really doesn’t need cheese to be flavorful and addicting (in fact, my boyfriend Matt was shocked to find out there was no parmesan in this recipe). The other good news is that this pesto is not only nut-free, but it’s also now dairy free (aka vegan). And there you have it. An allergy friendly pesto that everyone and anyone will love.

Want more to love about this quick, simple, allergy-friendly wondersauce that can go with just about anything? It’s packed with nutrition! Let’s take a look…

Kale is a cruciferous vegetable rich in vitamins, particularly vitamins-k, -a and -c. Kale also contains particularly high concentrations of carotenoids and flavonoids, both of which are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants are an extremely important part of a healthy and thriving body because they protect against harmful free radical molecules. Free radicals cause chain reactions in a human cell that can end up altering the cell, eventually leading to disease and illness. Consuming plenty of antioxidants is important in order to stop these chain reactions and to keep dangerous free-radicals under control.

Pumpkin Seeds are rich in minerals such as magnesium and zinc. The magnesium in pumpkin seeds contributes to healthy metabolism, proper muscle function and bone formation, while zinc plays a role in a healthy and functioning immune system.

Best of Basic: Kale Pesto

Start to Finish:
10 minutes Yield: 2+ cups


6-7 oz kale leaves, thick stems removed/discarded, leaves torn or roughly chopped
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (approx. 1 large lemon)
2 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
1 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon sea salt, fine grain, plus more to taste
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to consistency

To Make

Toast pumpkin seeds. This can be done over medium-low heat in a cast iron skillet (stirred around frequently) or in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, they burn quickly.

Add 1/3 cup olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, toasted pumpkin seeds and salt to a food processor. Fill processor with a couple handfuls of kale. Process mixture, adding kale leaves gradually, until well combined. With the machine on, stream in remaining olive oil, plus more, to reach desired consistency.

Side note, it took me about 3 stages to get all the kale in. I also had to manually toss the leaves around a few times and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.

Use this pesto for just about anything! Toss with pasta, stir into soups, pour over meat or eggs, dollop onto pizza, spread onto sandwiches or serve with crackers/crudités.

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