Kale Almond Pesto with Mint

Kale Almond Pesto with Mint
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pasta with kale almond pesto with mint.
Stirring a bit of pesto into pasta makes a quick and tasty meal.

We have a bunch of kale in the refrigerator and we’re not sure what to make from it. Any ideas? Anyone? We know we could make sautéed kale — boring — or kale chips — tasty — but how about something new and different? Such as pesto? So, can you make pesto from kale? Let’s find out.

The short answer is, yes, of course you can make pesto from kale. You can make pesto from just about anything. All pesto means is pounded (as in pounding and mashing in mortar and pestle) and, heck, you can pound nails, by golly. So, the real question is, will kale make a good pesto? Let’s scratch it up.

Kale Almond Pesto with Mint

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

Kale Almond Pesto with Mint


  • 45 g (1/3 cup) almonds
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed
  • 1/2 bunch mint, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Abbreviated Instructions

Place almonds in a skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant and golden, 10 minutes.

Place almonds, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse/run until ground.

Add kale and mint and pulse food processor until coarsely chopped. Add cheese and run processor until incorporated.

With the food processor running, drizzle in olive oil until you have a paste-like consistency.

Taste, adding salt, pepper, and more cheese as needed.


Ingredient discussion:

pesto ingredients
Pesto can be made from almost anything, so change the ingredients as needed.

As with most pestos, you can change  anything you want. Use basil instead of mint, spinach instead of kale, walnuts instead of almonds. We do suggest that you stick with extra-virgin olive oil, as it adds a crucial amount of flavor. Oh, and you do know that many extra-virgin olive oils aren’t really extra-virgin olive oil. Taste your oil. If it’s extra-virgin olive oil, it should be full of flavor, not bland and oily.

Procedure in detail:

Really, this isn’t much more than adding ingredients and chopping, but we can point out a few things along the way.

toasting almonds
We almost always toast our nuts before using them. It brings out the nuttiness.

Toast nuts. Whatever kind of nuts you’re using, toast them. It’s simple. Place the nuts in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often until they’ve turned golden and smell like toasted nuts. It takes about 10 minutes from start to finish and brings out the nuttiness, making it worth the effort.

chopped nuts and garlic
We like to get started by grinding the nuts and garlic; that way, we don’t hit big old garlic bombs in our pesto.

Process nuts and garlic. While you could put everything into the food processor at once and start pulsing away, we like to start with the nuts and garlic. That way, the nuts and garlic are finely chopped by the time the pesto is finished. So, place those toasted nuts, the salt, and the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and start it running. We like to set the food processor in the sink while doing this: the lid on ours doesn’t fit tightly enough to keep in all the ingredients. Placing it in the sink makes for easy cleanup.

making pesto
A minute or so of chopping and the kale and mint are incorporated.

Add greens. Now, we didn’t do this, to our regret, but we suggest that you take a knife and coarsely chop the kale and mint before adding them to the food processor. If not, you’ll end up taking the lid off and pushing the greens down to get them all chopped. It will be less frustrating to hit them up with a knife first.

adding cheese
Use a hard, strong flavored cheese. We chose Pecorino Romano.

Add cheese. Toss in whatever type of hard cheese you’re using, put the lid back on the food processor bowl, and pulse it into smithereens. If need be, use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.

adding olive oil
Don’t neglect the quality of the olive oil you use. It should be adding flavor, and not just oiliness.

Add olive oil. With the processor running, add enough olive oil to make a paste the consistency of, well, pesto. We don’t really measure here;  in fact, we don’t measure any of the ingredients for pesto, we just wing it.

adjusting flavors
A taste, a bit more of this, a bit more of that, pulse, taste, perfect.

Taste and season. Give that pesto a taste and act like the great chef your are. Critically assess the flavors and determine what’s lacking. Salt? Add more. A bit more cheese? Sure. Black pepper? Absolutely. Each time you add something, pulse it in, and, in a few minutes, you’ll have created a great-tasting pesto. Pack and refrigerate.

From the kale we didn’t know how to use comes a nice little batch of pesto that we can eat on pieces of bread, or for dinner, stirred into a bowl of gemelli pasta. And, we figure that this pesto’s made from that superfood, kale, so how can you go wrong? Not only is it good for you, it’s pretty darn tasty, too (but not as good as basil pesto). The hardest part is washing out the food processor after you’re finished. Let’s say four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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