Have you ever seen an item of clothing that you like but think you can’t pull it off? For years, I was convinced I couldn’t be a hat person, despite loving hats, until one day I just started wearing them. Then, something magical happened–I became a hat person!
I’m often like that with foods, too. Despite loving pesto, for far too long I felt that homemade pesto was out of my reach. “Buy basil in the grocery store?! I can’t pull that off,” I thought. When I finally decided to buy basil for the first time, I felt just as intimidated as the first time I wore a wide-brimmed hat in public. But it turns out that basil and hats felt out of my comfort zone only because I told myself they were. Everything changed for the better when I decided to rezone my own levels of comfort. Now, delicious homemade pesto is a staple at our house.
So, I’m here to tell you that you, too, can pull off pesto! (And hats, if you want!) Not only is buying basil not scary at all, but making homemade pesto is one of the easiest things you can do in the kitchen. Our Vegan Pepita Kale Pesto is bright, garlicky, full of healthy greens, and swaps pine nuts for more affordable and heart-healthy pepitas. It’s got a high payoff and tons of flexibility–it can be impressive for guests and a go-to weeknight meal.
What Makes Vegan Pepita Kale Pesto Extra Special
I love exchanging pine nuts for pepitas. Pepitas give the sauce a nice sporadic crunch and earthy flavor, and, at least in our kitchen, have uses beyond pesto as well. We love sprinkling pepitas in oatmeal, on peanut butter toast, and to top off muffins. We are big fans of multi-functional foods around here!
We also pack in plenty of healthy greens to the Vegan Pepita Kale Pesto. Of course, it’s full of aromatic basil, but we also add a hearty serving of kale. We love adding extra veggies wherever possible, and kale gives this pesto extra nutrients without an overpowering flavor.
While parmesan cheese is a traditional ingredient in pesto, here, it’s optional. This pesto tastes full and flavorful without any cheese. If you don’t follow a vegan diet, see our note below about adding parmesan for extra saltiness.
Making Pesto in Five Minutes
As far as equipment goes, all you need to make this tasty pesto is a food processor or blender. I’ve made it in both, and both work well. Nothing needs pre-cooked, very little needs pre-cut, and once all of the ingredients are in the base of the food processor or blender, you are five minutes away from pesto.
To prep your ingredients, remove all of the large stems from the kale and basil. I used a pre-chopped mixture of red, green, and Lacinato kale, but any type of kale will work. I recommend giving your garlic clove a few rough chops, since it blends more quickly and consistently in the food processor rather than tossing in the clove whole.
Once all of your ingredients are in the base of the food processor or blender, pulse while streaming in olive oil. Your pesto will come together into a cross between a puree and a paste. If you like your pesto a little thinner, add more olive oil or water, one tablespoon at a time.
Because pepitas are small, a few may get stuck on the side or bottom of the bowl. Give your bowl a quick scrape with a spatula, pulse again, and you are back in business.
Plenty of Ways to Use Pesto
If it were up to us, we would put pesto on everything. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use this bright green sauce (note that not all are vegan):
- On Meu’s AMAZING Garden Fresh Pesto Pizza Perfection, the stuff pesto dreams are made of
- Tossed with pasta and cherry tomatoes or white cheddar macaroni & cheese and cherry tomatoes
- Drizzled over tomato soup, including our favorite Classic Tomato Soup (Lightened Up!) by Cookie and Kate
- On top of roasted potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, or other roasted veggies
- Smothered on top of a grilled cheese sandwich
- What’s your favorite pesto use? Let us know in the comments!