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Kale Stem Pesto With Basil

Kale Stem Pesto over Pasta

Not sure what to do with those leftover kale stems once you’ve eaten the leafy greens?

How about making this delicious Kale Stem Pesto?! I’ve been playing around with this recipe for months and think I finally nailed it! This pesto is delicious with pasta, crackers, and on sandwiches. 


  • 1 bunch kale stems, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 23 bunches basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh parmesan, cut into small cubes or grated
  • 23 garlic cloves, blanched
  • salt/pepper to taste


  1. Remove kale leaves from stems and set aside. Cut stems into small pieces. Tip: To remove kale leaves from stem, hold kale stem in one hand and with the other strip leaves by pulling away from you. You can also use a knife but it takes longer. 
  2. Blanch garlic cloves. Note: I like to blanch garlic cloves for this pesto as I find raw garlic too overpowering and harsh. Blanching garlic helps to mellow the taste without losing the delicious garlic flavor.
    How to blanche garlic cloves? In a medium saucepan, add water and bring to a boil. Once boiling drop garlic cloves (with skin on) into the water.  Boil garlic for about 5 minutes. Remove garlic cloves from saucepan and once cooled, remove peel. 
  3. Place kale stems, walnuts, basil, blanched garlic cloves, and parmesan in a food processor and pulse until ingredients are finely ground.
  4. Slowly add olive oil.  
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Process mixture until ingredients are fully combined and you obtain a smooth consistency. 


Do you have to use walnuts? Short answer, no. I’ll often use whatever nuts I have on hand. I’ve found sunflower seeds, almonds, and pecans taste just as delicious as walnuts.

Additionally, if you’re avoiding animal products you can also forgo the parmesan. I’ve heard nutritional yeast is often used as a substitute for parmesan but haven’t experimented with this vegan alternative in this recipe yet. Will update this recipe once having done so though as I think it could be a great and tasty substitute for anyone who is vegan and nut free. 


Keywords: Kale Stem Pesto, Zero-Waste Recipe, Kale Pesto