Who else loves a good basil pesto?! These Easy Kale & Walnut Pesto Zucchini noodles might just be your new favorite dish! Perfect as a side or light meal, gluten-free, paleo and vegan friendly.
Zucchini had a real glow up awhile back, didn’t it?
If you’ve tried to make zoodles in the past, but didn’t love it because it was watery or a funny texture, don’t leave now. These zucchini noodles with my homemade pesto sauce will definitely change your mind!!
Pesto is one of those things that I never knew I needed in my life, but once I realized how simple it was to make, I’ve been making so many variations. Like this macadamia basil pesto!
This homemade vegan version is a delicious spin off of a traditional pesto. If this is your first time making pesto at home, don’t let it intimidate you – it’s really hard to ruin it! This is one of my favorite easy recipes and BONUS: it’s great for baby led weaning too! More notes on that in the recipe card.
What is Pesto?
Classic pesto is made of fresh basil, toasted pine nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, garlic, and a hard cheese, such as Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano. When you buy store-bought pesto, those are usually the ingredients you’ll find on the jar. It’s a simple mix of ingredients all processed together for one delicious bright green sauce, delicious in pasta dishes, salads, a pizza drizzle, baked into lasagna and more.
What is so great about pesto recipes is they can be made with a variety of ingredients. I’ve used this recipe as a base for changing out the nuts (i.e. keeping it nut-free and using sunflower seeds), adding in a bit of cilantro for another flavor dynamic, using both spinach and kale, as well as subbing in parmesan for the nutritional yeast.
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- Utilizes fresh herbs and simple ingredients
- Comes together in minutes
- Freezes well for leftovers
- Great to use in all kinds of your favorite dishes
Vegan Pesto Ingredients
I’m obsessed with homemade pesto and love that there are so many ways to make it! You just need a handful of ingredients and you can often sub in what you have on hand.
You really just need greens, basil, nuts, olive oil, garlic, and salt… but for this particular pesto sauce recipe, we’re using kale and walnuts. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of what you need for this walnut pesto.
- kale – love adding kale to this pesto for a nutritional boost. I used lacinato kale but you can also use curly kale. Just make sure to wash and dry it well before using in the recipe.
- basil – fresh basil leaves keeps the flavor of this pesto on the more traditional side and is a key ingredient.
- walnuts – walnuts are so good for you! A great source of omega-3, AKA healthy fats. You can use raw walnuts and roast them for more flavor. Or buy roasted walnuts from the store. (Traditional pesto calls for pine nuts.)
- extra virgin olive oil – using extra virgin olive oil will give this pesto a more robust flavor, but you can also use light olive oil. A good quality olive oil will make all the difference in flavor, too.
- garlic cloves – using fresh garlic cloves of garlic will give this pesto the freshest flavor, but jarred minced garlic works if you usually have that on hand.
- nutritional yeast – this takes the place of the traditional parmesan cheese and keeps this recipe dairy free and vegan. It’s not 100% needed but it does add some good flavor, in my opinion.
- salt – balances and increases flavor. You can always start with a smaller amount and add more after testing it.
Making Pesto Zucchini Noodles
Have you made your own pesto sauce before? If not I’ll show you just how easy it is…
Step 1 – Make the Pesto Sauce
This kale pesto recipe is really easy to throw together in a small blender (i.e. NutriBullet) or small food processor. It literally takes seconds.
- First pulse the walnuts down into a coarse meal.
- Then add the rest of your ingredients – chopped kale, fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, salt and nutritional yeast.
- Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl/cup as needed.
- Taste test for more salt or if you’d like a hint more of garlic or nutritional yeast.
That’s it! It takes hardly any time at all and it is sooo delicious.
And now you’re ready to serve it with the zoodles!
Step 2 – Make the Zucchini Noodles
- Chop ends off of zucchini
- Attach to Spiralizer (noodle maker, spiral slicer, etc. – whatever tool you’re using. I use the The Inspiralizer.)
- Select blade thickness (spaghetti style in this case).
- Spin to create the zoodles.
Once you’ve got your zoodles, lay on a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.
TIP: Make sure to chop the ends of the zucchini flat and even, so when you stick the zucchini on the Inspiralizer, you don’t end up with half moons. You may find you have to adjust the zucchini throughout making the noodles.
Step 3 – Add Pesto to Zucchini Noodles
Now just combine the noodles with basil walnut pesto, add sliced cherry tomatoes, maybe some extra walnuts and you’ve got yourself a delicious dish!
Now I am not one to say these vegetable noodles taste just like pasta… because that just wouldn’t be right.
But what I AM saying is that vegetable or not, these pesto zoodles are pretty damn good.
Basil pesto sauce is delicious on these zoodles finished with cherry tomatoes and served with your favorite protein, such as balsamic grilled chicken, salmon or this perfect air fryer shrimp.
Or even served with a pasta dish. I’m thinking my Caprese Pasta Salad would be delicious with this walnut pesto recipe. Oh, and how about as a side dish to reader favorite Greek Stuffed Turkey Burgers – YUM. If you are chicken fan, try serving the zucchini noodles with this Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken for the ultimate satisfying meal.
To add a little heat to your favorite dish, sprinkle on some red pepper flakes.
Baby-Led Weaning Adaptation
Looking for a healthy baby-led weaning recipe? I made this for Finn all the time when we started introducing him to new foods. It’s a great way to incorporate healthy fats and slowly test out introducing nuts and seeds into their diet! Just omit the salt and nutritional yeast, and cut down on the garlic. I have more notes on this in the recipe card as well.
Store any leftover pesto in a glass jar, sealed tightly and enjoy within one week.
You can also freeze the pesto in a freezer-safe airtight container, label and use within 3 months. Let come to room temperature before using.
If you want to make a double or triple batch, you can also add the sauce into an ice cube tray to freeze individual cubes.
More Healthy Recipes using Pesto
Let me know if you make this recipe by leaving a comment and star rating below! It helps others learn more about the recipe too! Xx AshleyPrint
Walnut Pesto Zucchini Noodles
These Quick and Easy Kale Walnut Pesto Zucchini Noodles might just be your new favorite dish. Made in 5 minutes, full of flavor and delicious used in a variety of ways. Vegan, gluten free, paleo and Whole30® compliant.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 2 1x
- Category: sides
- Method: food processor
- Cuisine: Italian Inspired
- Diet: Gluten Free
- 2/3 cup roasted walnuts
- 1 cup packed fresh basil
- 1 cup torn lacinato kale
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- 2 medium zucchini, spiralized
- sliced cherry tomatoes
- roasted walnuts
- Prepare zucchini noodles and lay on tea towel to absorb excess moisture; set aside.
- Make pesto: Place walnuts in blender cup; pulse just until nuts have broken down into a coarse meal. Don’t overprocess because you’ll process again with the rest of the ingredients. Add in kale, fresh basil, olive oil, minced garlic, nutritional yeast and salt; pulse until ingredients have combined and no big pieces of basil or kale remain.
- Combine & serve: Toss about 1/4 cup of kale walnut pesto with zucchini noodles, adding more as desired. Serve with sliced cherry tomatoes and top with walnuts.
Store leftover pesto in the refrigerator, use within about 2 weeks.
Some of my favorite jars to use for storing are these weck jars.
For a baby-led weaning and toddler friendly pesto, you can omit salt, reduce or omit nutritional yeast and reduce garlic to one clove. Feel free to sub in different nuts or seeds as well.
Keywords: kale pesto, zucchini noodles,