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Kale Cilantro Pesto

This Kale Cilantro Pesto is a tasty substitute for your ordinary pesto sauce. It features plenty of fresh, healthy kale, cilantro, pepitas, garlic and olive oil, and has a variety of uses!

Kale Cilantro Pesto in glass jar

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Creating This Kale Cilantro Pesto

I love the flavor of pesto sauce. Unfortunately, I discovered when I was in high school that I’m allergic to pine nuts. Pesto sauce, traditionally, contains pine nuts.

So I usually avoid ordering anything at restaurants that contains pesto, unless it is specifically made clear that they’ve used an alternate nut (or seed) in the recipe.

Years ago, during my second visit to San Diego, I had a sandwich at Cucina Urbana that had a pesto on it that contained pepitas instead of the traditional pine nuts. It was so delicious, like everything at Cucina Urbana. It is one of my favorite places I’ve ever eaten! If you’re interested in San Diego restaurants, you can read more about my San Diego restaurant experience here.

I can’t remember everything on the sandwich now. I’m pretty sure goat cheese and grilled squash were both involved, but I made a mental note in the back of my head to try pepitas in place of pine nuts when I made pesto at home.

Recently, I made this tasty Kale Cilantro Pesto, using pepitas. I loved it so much that I was putting it on everything! Even though the most traditional use for pesto is with pasta, there are tons of other ways you can use it!

What’s in Pesto?

This is an accidentally vegan pesto recipe. It uses kale, cilantro, pepitas, and olive oil as the base, and I’ve flavored it with salt, pepper, garlic, and my secret ingredient — nutritional yeast.

I’ve taken a lot of liberties with this kale pesto recipe, but something tells me you won’t mind once you taste this delicious homemade pesto yourself!

Kale Cilantro Pesto ingredients in bowl of food processor

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How to Make Pesto Sauce

Making this kale cilantro pesto couldn’t be simpler! Just add all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. You may need to stop the food processor to scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through, just to make sure everything gets blended up.

My Favorite Pesto Uses

Sure, you can use pesto the traditional way, tossed with pasta, but there are tons of other ways to enjoy this fresh, flavorful sauce. A few of my all-time favorite pesto uses are:

1. Pizza Sauce

Rather than a marinara, try using pesto as a sauce for your next pizza. It would be really good on this Flatbread Pizza with Sausage and Zucchini.

2. Sandwich Spread

Instead of mayo on your sandwich, try pesto. A few ideas to get you started include: Roasted Red Pepper and Prosciutto Grilled CheeseGrilled Summer Squash SandwichTurkey with Artichoke and Sun Dried Tomato.

3. Dip

Making vegetables more exciting is easy when you serve them with a delicious pesto dipping sauce. Pesto goes especially well with grilled veggies during the summer.

4. Bread

Slice a loaf of your favorite rustic bread, like this Rustic Rosemary Garlic Bread, in half and spread it with a generous amount of your favorite pesto. Sprinkle with some fresh parmesan cheese and broil until toasted and warm.

5. Marinade or Meat Sauce

Marinade meat in pesto with a some kind of acid (vinegar or citrus juice) and a little extra olive oil added to thin it out. Or, top already prepared meat, such as a Seared Filet Mignon, with some fresh pesto before serving.

6. Quick Potato Salad

Prepare some simple roasted potatoes (boiled works well too), cool them completely, and toss with a generous amount of pesto sauce for a quick, no-fuss summer potato salad recipe.

Kale Cilantro Pesto in glass jar with spoon and fresh kale on countertop

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Can You Freeze Pesto?

Yes, freezing pesto is a great way to store it. To freeze this kale cilantro pesto, I recommend first freezing it in ice cube trays and then transferring the pesto cubes to a freezer bag once hard.

This way, you can thaw the exact amount of pesto you want and don’t have to worry about using all of it up at once.

More Pesto Recipes:

If you’re looking for another vegan option, make this Classic Vegan Pesto. It’s just as easy to make, but tastes more like the pesto you’re served at Italian restaurants.

These Roasted Tomato Crostini are topped with homemade pesto and goat cheese. They’re a great summer appetizer option!

Summer dinners don’t get much easier than these Pesto Pork Chop and Vegetable Foil Dinners. You can have dinner on the table in just 30 minutes!

Switch things up a bit by making this Walnut Almond Pesto. It’s made with grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and a blend of nuts.

This Greek Yogurt Pesto Dip uses just two ingredients and is the perfect dip for grilled veggies and chips.

What is your favorite use for pesto?

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Kale Cilantro Pesto - 6 Ways to Use Pesto (Besides Pasta)

Kale Cilantro Pesto

Yield: serves 10
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

This Kale Cilantro Pesto is a tasty substitute for your ordinary pesto sauce. It features plenty of fresh, healthy kale, cilantro, pepitas, garlic and olive oil, and has a variety of uses!


  • 2 1/2 cups Kale leaves
  • 1/3 cup Cilantro Leaves
  • 1/3 cup Pepitas
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Nutritional Yeast


  1. Combine all of the listed ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender fitted with a blade.
  2. With the lid in place as directed by your appliance manual, process the ingredients until smooth, making sure to stop the blade and scrape the sides of the food processor (as needed) throughout the processing.
  3. Turn the food processor off, remove the blade, and scrape the pesto out (using a spatula) and into a bowl. Serve.


Homemade pesto stays fresh refrigerated and covered for up to 3 days. May be frozen as well (ice cube trays work great).

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Nutrition Information
Yield 10 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 178Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 0mgSodium 62mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 1gSugar 0gProtein 2g offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.

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Tag @goodlifeeats and include the hashtag #goodlifeeatsrecipes so I can see what you’re cooking up in YOUR kitchen!

Click HERE to save this recipe for Kale Cilantro Pesto!

Heidi Attwood

Monday 31st of August 2020

Are you aware the icons for social media to the left of the screen are very irritating as they cover the text, and generally get in the way?


Tuesday 1st of September 2020

thank you for that feedback! Are you viewing on mobile or on desktop? Any specifics about your device would be very helpful to troubleshoot this so that it isn't a problem for the user.

Tabytha Arthur

Wednesday 22nd of April 2020

I know this recipe is four years old but I'm so excited I came across it! I'm also allergic to pine nuts and usually use almonds or pistachios. Can't wait to try this!


Thursday 23rd of April 2020

I'm so glad! You can use pepitas in a traditional basil pesto, too. I am allergic to pine nuts too, which is partially why I wrote this recipe My son is allergic to peanuts and most tree nuts are labeled as "processed with peanuts," so pepitas are a great substitute because I can usually find them without peanut contamination. Enjoy!

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