Kalyn's Kitchen

Kale and Basil Pesto with Lemon and Parmesan

Kale and Basil Pesto with Lemon and Parmesan is a delicious way to eat your greens and this pesto is a great idea whether you have too much kale or not enough basil.  Eat over grilled chicken, fish or veggies for a low-carb meal. Use Fresh Herbs to find more recipes like this one.

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Kale and Basil Pesto with Lemon and Parmesan found on KalynsKitchen.com

This recipe for Kale and Basil Pesto with Lemon and Parmesan is a Public Service Announcement for all those lucky people who are growing kale in their gardens. I actually made the pesto in these photos last September when my garden at the old house was bursting with kale. Since I was giving kale away to anyone who stopped by, the abundance of kale led me to experiment with using it as an ingredient in pesto.

Kale is a strong flavor, so I froze my pesto in this mini-muffin tin, and each little ball of pesto was about three tablespoons, just the right amount to stir into a soup or toss with some pasta or rice.  If you have kale growing in your garden, or if your CSA or Farmer’s Market gives you more kale than you know what to do with this summer, I highly recommend making this as soon as possible. And it’s also a great way to stretch out the basil if you want to make pesto but don’t have that much basil yet.

Kale and Basil Pesto with Lemon and Parmesan found on KalynsKitchen.com

Start with 4 cups of chopped kale leaves, packed tightly into the measuring cup. Give the kale a good wash in the salad spinner if it needs it. Then heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan, and add the kale. Cook kale just 2-3 minutes, until it’s wilted like this. I used 2 cups of basil leaves, not packed quite as tightly as the kale.

Kale and Basil Pesto with Lemon and Parmesan found on KalynsKitchen.com

Add the kale and garlic to the food processor and process until both are finely chopped.  (I didn’t use pine nuts in this pesto, but if you wanted some I would add them now.) Then add the basil and process while you add the olive oil and lemon juice through the feed tube. I used a cup of shredded Parmesan.  (If you only have finely-grated Parmesan I’d use a little less.) Add the Parmesan and salt to taste and process until it’s as smooth as you’d like it. Freeze the pesto in ice cube trays or mini-muffin trays so you have small cubes of Kale and Basil Pesto to add to dishes whenever you want a little touch of greens flavor.  (When the balls of pesto are frozen, I seal them inside plastic bags with my FoodSaver.)

Kale and Basil Pesto with Lemon and Parmesan found on KalynsKitchen.com

Who Else Made Pesto with Kale?

Pasta with Kale Pesto, Shrimp, and Tomato ~ The Perfect Pantry
Kale Almond Pesto ~ Food Loves Writing
Kale Pesto for Quick Summer Meals ~ Always Order Dessert
Kale Pesto ~ Christine Cooks
Kale Pesto ~ Sarah’s Cucina Bella

Kale and Basil Pesto with Lemon and Parmesan

This Kale and Basil Pesto with Lemon and Parmesan is great served over grilled chicken, fish or veggies.


  • 4 cups (tightly packed) chopped kale leaves
  • 2 tsp. + 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 large cloves garlic (to taste; I like this heavy on the garlic)
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice (see notes)
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan (If you only have fine-grated Parmesan, I would use a little less.)
  • salt to taste (I used about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.)


  1. Coarsely chop the kale leaves and measure out 4 cups of packed chopped kale.
  2. Give the kale a good wash in the salad spinner if it needs it and spin dry .
  3. Heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan.
  4. Saute the kale just until it wilts, about 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
  5. Put the wilted kale and garlic into the food processor (using the steel blade.)
  6. Chop until it’s finely chopped.
  7. Then add the basil leaves, put the lid on the food processor.
  8. Add the olive oil and lemon juice through the feed tube while you process the mixture.
  9. When it’s fairly well combined, add the coarsely grated Parmesan and salt and process until the pesto is as smooth as you’d like it (about 1 minute for me.)


You’ll need a food processor to make this recipe successfully.  I use this Cuisinart Food Processor  that I’ve had for many years.

I use my fresh-frozen lemon juice for this recipe.

This pesto can be frozen in ice-cube trays or small mini-muffin tin cups.  I put the frozen cubes of pesto into plastic bags and seal with my FoodSaver.  The Kale and Basil pesto is a delicious addition to soups or salad dressings, stirred into hot rice or cooked beans, or it can be eaten with pasta.

Recipe created by Kalyn.

All images and text ©

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
Pesto is not used in large amounts, so even though this Kale and Basil Pesto recipe has a generous amount of cheese, I would eat it for any phase of the South Beach Diet and it’s also great for other low-carb eating plans.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use the Recipes by Diet Type photo index pages to find more recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn’t have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you. Or if you’re a member of Yummly, you can use the Yum button on my site to save the recipe and see the nutritional information there.

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    13 Comments on “Kale and Basil Pesto with Lemon and Parmesan”

  1. Katrina, hope you enjoy!

  2. I will be making this this week. Just bought an over abundance of kale for smoothies, but it's more than I can use for that. Love pesto. Just about have enough basil in my garden, too.

  3. Joanne and Kirsten, hope you enjoy. I am all about kale, lol. You can find my recipes using kale by entering "kale" into the search bar. There are a lot of good ones, if I do say so myself!

  4. Kalyn, I just bought myself another cookbook that's all about kale. Love to integrate kale in my diet. I will also try your kale pesto. Thanks!

  5. I just saw this pinned on Pinterest and I'm so happy to find it! I have two huge bags of kale I got from our farm share and an abundance of basil in our herb garden. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the kale. This sounds perfect. Thanks!

  6. Mistress Brownie, it's easy to grow if you have a sunny spot.

  7. I just wish Kale would be available in my part of the world (malaysia!)…sigh

  8. Joanne, so healthy compared to regular pesto! I see why you love it.

    Lisa, I think you could try making Egg Muffins with a little pesto mixed in, but the pesto would just melt unless there was a lot of something else to give it some body.

  9. This recipe looks great – I'm a big fan of pesto and kale and love the idea of combining the two. I have to admit that when I first saw your photo on Bloglovin, I thought it was a recipe for kale and basil pesto muffins. I'm still thinking about that idea. Do you think you could mix in a couple of eggs and sprinkle some more cheese on top and bake them? Lisa

  10. I love kale pesto! Maybe even more so than basil. 🙂

  11. Just when I thought that I had tried all the pesto variations out there 🙂

  12. Lydia, I use the kale pesto in smaller amounts, so the balls from the mini-muffin tins are just the right size!

  13. I just pulled a container of last summer's kale pesto out of my freezer, and I can't wait to make another batch this summer. Love your method of freezing it in a muffin tin!