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Easy Vegan Kale Pesto Recipe with Cashews

This vegan kale pesto recipe yields a delicious pesto bursting with flavor and packed with healthy nutrients from kale and cashews. It makes a delicious and versatile condiment that can brighten up the flavor of any dish, from sandwiches and wraps to pastas and soups.

Vegan pesto recipe with kale and cashews

The classic pesto recipe calls for pine nuts and parmesan cheese. I’m one of those people who doesn’t tolerate pine nuts very well, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that raw cashews make a great substitution for pine nuts while adding to the creaminess of the final product.

As for parmesan cheese, I didn’t miss it at all in this recipe. I used to be a huge fan of cheese even though dairy made my stomach misbehave and my skin break out pretty bad. Switching to a vegan diet helped me overcome those issues as well as recalibrated my taste buds.

No cheese in my pesto? No problem, it’s still delicious!

Vegan kale and cashew pesto recipe

Adding kale to this pesto was another liberty I took while experimenting with the recipe. Kale leaves add to the bright green color of this pesto while adding even more fiber and nutrients to this already healthy recipe.

This kale pesto recipe is very easy to follow. First I boiled the kale leaves for 30 seconds to bring out their bright green color. Then I processed them in a food processor equipped with an S blade along with the rest of the ingredients. And just like that, the pesto is ready!

This pesto works well with a variety of recipes: use it in my cold vegan pesto pasta salad, or toss it with hot pasta and blanched broccoli for an easy and delicious meal.

Vegan dairy-free pesto recipe with kale and cashews

Pasta is a natural fit for this kale and cashew pesto. If I’m in a hurry, I just boil half a package of spaghetti, adding some chopped broccoli and a cup of frozen peas a copuple minutes before the pasta is ready. Once the spaghetti is drained, I toss it with this pesto, and voilà – a healthy and quick dinner is on the table.

Can I use a blender instead of food processor to make this pesto?

Yes! However, you may find it easier to add up to 1/2 cup of water to get things running smoother. The resulting pesto will be a bit thinner, but it’s still perfect to use on pasta.

Can I skip boiling and use fresh kale leaves in this pesto recipe?

Sure! The color of your pesto may be a bit less bright, but the flavor will be the same.

Can I skip nutritional yeast in this pesto recipe?

Yes. The flavor will be less “cheesy”, but the basil leaves, garlic and lemon juice still make it delicious.

Can I use Anything else instead of cashews?

Yes. If you are allergic to nuts but can eat seeds, I suggest using pumpkin seeds instead of cashews here. The flavor may be a bit different since pumpkin seeds have a stronger taste than cashews, but they will still work here.

Watch me make an easy vegan pesto pasta salad using this kale cashew pesto in episode 17 of my vegan cooking show on YouTube:

Yield: Yield: About 1 cup

Easy Vegan Kale & Cashew Pesto Recipe

Vegan kale pesto with cashews

Classic pesto gets a delicious vegan makeover in this recipe and becomes even healthier with the addition of kale leaves. This vegan kale pesto can be spread on sandwiches, added to soups and pastas - the choice is yours!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 8 minutes


  • 1 cup kale leaves, packed, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 2-3 garlic cloves (more or less to taste), peeled and halved
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (omit if you are oil-free)
  • pinch of salt, to taste


  1. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Throw in kale leaves, cook for 30 seconds until bright green, drain.
  2. Add cooked kale to the bowl of a food processor equipped with an S blade. Add basil, cashews, halved garlic cloves, optional nutritional yeast, and lemon juice. Blend until the mixture forms a coarse paste, 1-2 min. Scrape the sides as needed. Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice.
  3. If using olive oil, pour it in slowly while the food processor is running.
  4. The pesto is done once the mixture forms a smoother paste.
  5. Use in any recipes that call for pesto. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.


*This pesto can be blended in a blender instead of a food processor. If using a blender, add up to 1/2 cup of water to get it to run smoothly.

**For a nut-free pesto, use pumpkin seeds instead of cashews.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 194Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 44mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 4g

Please note that the provided nutritional information data is approximate.

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Kale and cashew pesto recipe - vegan pesto recipe with kale, basil and pesto

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Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats
Alina first made a switch to a vegan diet in 2013 to optimize her athletic performance as a marathon runner. Eventually she embraced veganism as a way to be kinder to fellow living beings and the environment. Alina hopes that this blog helps its readers on their path to becoming vegan and making this world a better place.

Laura Weber

Tuesday 20th of November 2018

This recipe has amazing flavor. Only modification was I added probably 3-4x the amount of Olive Oil. Love this and will definitely be adding it to my frequent recipes! Thanks!

Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats

Tuesday 20th of November 2018

Awww so glad to hear that, Laura! Thank you for letting me know!


Thursday 8th of March 2018

Hi Alina,

I love your kale and cashew pesto recipe. And I would love to feature it in our website, GreenThickies.

I won't be posting the actual recipe. I will only post a small snippet and one image from the post, and give credits back to you and link back to the recipe page. Would that be okay with you?

Thanks a lot :) Katherine

Alina Zavatsky - Vegan Runner Eats

Thursday 8th of March 2018

Hi Katherine, thank you for asking! Sure, feel free to share the link to this recipe in your post!


Tuesday 28th of January 2014

Hello ! I love pesto and have tried every recipe. I made small modifications to this one. I split the cashew amount with walnuts, and added a TB of Nutritional yeast. One of my best pesto's ever! Thanks for the tip about adding the kale!


Wednesday 29th of January 2014

That's interesting - I didn't think of adding nutritional yeast to this pesto, but it sounds like it could be delicious! Thanks for the tip Elisabeth!


Wednesday 13th of November 2013

Alina, This is the best recipe! I live in a warm climate and have kale and basil in the garden. I make it about every 3 days. The fresh garlic and kale are great for the immune system and so tasty too. Thank you for a delicious and very healthy recipe.


Thursday 14th of November 2013

Thank you Barbette, glad you liked the recipe!

Sue Walker

Tuesday 5th of November 2013

Looks yummy!!


Wednesday 6th of November 2013

Thank you Sue!

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