Kale & Red Pepper Pesto

Before becoming a mom, Valentina Kenney Wein had her own catering business, ran Sur La Table’s cooking program in Santa Monica, and was a contributing recipe writer to the Los Angeles Times, Food Section. She currently lives in Southern California with her husband and two boys. Now that Valentina’s boys are both in school, you can always find her over at her blog, Cooking On The Weekends (and on Twitter and Facebook, of course).

Kale Pesto with Pecans and Roasted Red Peppers
While I think I’m a pretty healthy eater, I’m sometimes shocked to realize I’m eating things with an ingredient list a mile long. Something’s wrong if the list is that long — especially when you’re reading words you’ve never heard of!

It’s quite easy to move away from processed spreads and condiments by making your own. It’s lovely making your own foods with whole unprocessed ingredients — you know exactly what you’re eating. So let’s skip mayonnaise and jarred pasta sauces and throw a few healthy ingredients in our food processors to come up with our own tasty creations. It’s easy and fun — and can be an incredibly flavorful treat!

Pesto is a wonderful way to add rich flavors to foods. Traditional pesto is made with basil, but why not use kale? This pesto is like eating your vitamins — it is a nutritional stand-out!

In this recipe I love roasting some of the ingredients before adding them. It enhances their flavors, and will often eliminate the need to add sugar or too much sodium.

Kale Pesto with Pecans and Roasted Red Peppers

Kale Red Pepper Pesto
Prep Time: 
Total Time: 
Makes 1-1/4 cups.
  • ½ cup Pecans, roasted
  • 1 medium Red Bell Pepper, roasted
  • ⅓ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 to 4 large Garlic Cloves, roasted (here's how to roast garlic)
  • 4 cups packed green Kale Leaves (about ½ bunch)
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
  1. To roast the pecans: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and spread the nuts evenly on a baking sheet. When the oven is preheated, put the baking sheet in and roast until the nuts look a bit oily and are very aromatic, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. To roast the pepper: Place it directly on top of a high flame on the stove and let it cook for a few minutes. You'll hear it crackle as the skin begins to char. Use metal kitchen tongs to turn the pepper as each side chars. It should be mostly, but not completely black. Then place the pepper in a bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let steam for about 5 minutes. Remove the plastic and let the pepper become cool enough to handle. Gently peel the skin off the pepper. Break or cut the pepper into a few pieces and then use a paring knife on the inside to remove the white membranes and seeds. Set aside.
  3. Wash, dry, and remove any tough stems from the kale.
  4. In a food processor, make the pesto by blending the kale with the roasted pecans, roasted pepper, and roasted garlic. Once it's smooth, gradually pour in the olive oil and blend until it's fully incorporated. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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23 Responses to Kale & Red Pepper Pesto

  1. Glenda Cooley June 21, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Hi, I have just discovered Kale. I have fallen in love with it. I would like to make a Pesto, but am allergic to night shades and am looking for a replacement for the Bell Pepper. Do you have any recommendations?
    Thank you for sharing,

    • Andrew June 28, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      Hi Glenda,

      I’d suggest just skipping the bell pepper and giving it a try. One of the nice things about pesto is that you can adjust on-the-fly… so give it a try with everything else, and then if you find it needs more of one ingredient, you can just add a little more until the balance is right. Let us know how it turns out!

  2. Skyler November 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    I am just starting to can. Can I can something like this? I understand I would have to use a pressure canner and not just a boiling water bath…will it work?

    • Sean November 16, 2011 at 7:01 am #

      Skyler, there are no tested methods for canning anything with oil. Even with pressure canning, the anoxic conditions combined with oil and garlic make it extremely risky for botulism.

  3. sarah henry October 19, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    Kale pesto: Never occurred to me. Thanks for sharing your recipe, sounds like a winner.

  4. Getting ready to make your kale pesto today! This is a great source of information and recipes, THANKS TO ANDREW!

  5. Cookie and Kate October 6, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    I’m a huge fan of pesto, kale and red pepper. I’m just dying to try this recipe!

  6. Jennifer October 5, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    Just an FYI… your url link for SimpleBites is wrong. It’s simplebites.net. Just thought you should know! Love the blog, love the challenge!

    • Andrew October 5, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

      Whoops! Thanks for letting me know, Jennifer. It’s fixed!

  7. Valentina October 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    so happy to be on eating rules today! and even happier so many are excited about this pesto recipe!
    @amee – you are the sweetest! xo

  8. lynn @ the actor's diet October 5, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    i have never thought of using kale as pesto! brilliant

  9. amee October 5, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    To be plainly honest, how can you not love anything Valentina makes. Can’t you just see the heart she puts into her food and her blog? :)

  10. Paige October 5, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    You can also make awesome pesto with arugula or cilantro (I use walnuts, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste).

  11. Laney October 5, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    Hi Andrew, I was browsing around on Twitter and came across a link to your blog. I love pesto and have posted a few pesto recipes on my blog as well… but it never came across to me that I can use kale instead of herbs! I love kale and I buy them every single week, so this is a must try for me! Thanks for sharing!

    • Andrew October 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

      Thanks, Laney, and welcome! :)

  12. LiztheChef October 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    I cannot get it to print but it could be our printer – someone else try?

  13. LiztheChef October 5, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    I am printing out this pesto recipe of yours pronto – what a gift! Thanks –

  14. Tiffany {A Clove of Garlic} October 5, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    I really enjoy kale, and pesto is one of my favorites, so I think this is a winning combination. Thanks for sharing!


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