How to Make Quinoa with Kale Stem Pesto

Dinner, Lunch, Recipes

Quick and easy Quinoa with Kale Stem Pesto is loaded with healthy sweet potatoes, whole grains, and fibrous green veggies. It’s perfect for a filling plant-based lunch, side dish or light dinner. 

overhead of quinoa with kale stem pesto and sweet potato in an orange bowl

This healthy vegetarian recipe is not only packed with nutrition, but it also has tons of flavor.  Plus, it’s fully kid-approved, so it’s a great dish to help get some extra veggies on your kids’ plates.

Why Use Kale Stems for Pesto?

Kale gets plenty of praise for its nutritional benefits. We’ve all been told to eat more kale for its ample supply of antioxidants and fiber. But too often, we pull off the soft green leaves and the stems end up composted or trashed.

Making a big batch of bright green pesto is an excellent way to reduce food waste in your kitchen and take advantage of all the health benefits in those woody stems. They still contain a great deal of gut-healthy fiber and nutrients, so don’t toss them!

How to Make Easy Kale Stem Pesto

If you have a food processor, this kale stem pesto is a breeze to make.

Before you start blending, however, you want to soften up the kale stems. I’m sure you know how tough and woody they can be. By blanching the stems in boiling water for a few minutes, you’ll break down some of the tough fibers in the stems. That way, you’ll get a nice bright green bunch of kale stems to blend into pesto.

After blanching the kale stems, add them to a food processor along with scallions, fresh basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, and olive oil. Season the pesto to taste with salt and let it blend away. You can stop the food processor whenever the pesto consistency is to your liking.

If you like a super smooth sauce, you can add an extra drizzle of olive oil to help smooth things out a bit. For fans of a thicker or chunkier pesto, check the sauce after a few pulses.

Assembling Kale Stem Pesto Quinoa Bowls

I love the addition of sweet potato to my quinoa with kale pesto. It adds the health benefits of extra fiber and vitamins, but most importantly, sweet potato lends a wonderful flavor. Topped with scallion-flavored basil and kale stem pesto, the hint of sweetness is a delicious combination.

To assemble this easy dish, simply toss tender quinoa with your kale stem pesto and steamed cubed sweet potatoes together in a large serving bowl. Top with a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts for extra crunch and you’re ready to serve. I like to serve this dish warm, but you can also make it ahead of time and chill it before serving. It will taste just as good cold or room temperature.

How to Serve Quinoa with Kale Stem Pesto

My daughter and I both love to dig into a big bowl of quinoa with kale stem pesto and sweet potato for a filling vegan lunch. If you want to make it even more satisfying, you can add your favorite protein sources, like a fried egg or a scoop of crispy tofu or even chicken.

Of course, this recipe is also a great side dish to please vegetarians. Here are some delicious entrée ideas to serve alongside your quinoa dish:

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overhead of quinoa with kale stem pesto and sweet potato in an orange bowl

Quinoa with Kale Stem Pesto

  • Author: Christine Waltermyer
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x


Quinoa with Kale Stem Pesto is a protein-packed recipe for a healthy plant-based meal that helps reduce food waste while keeping you full and satisfied.



  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (I prefer Ancient Harvest brand)
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • Sea salt
  • 3 kale stems, chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallions (white only), chopped 
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped 
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  1. Place the quinoa, water or broth and a pinch of salt in a small pot.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. The quinoa should be nice and fluffy.
  2. Place the kale stems in a pot with about an inch of water. Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until tender. When finished, drain and set aside.
  3. Place the sweet potatoes in a small pot and almost cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to simmer on medium for 10 to 15 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain and set aside.
  4. Make the pesto: In a food processor, combine the scallions, basil, 1 tablespoon pine nuts, olive oil, cooked kale stems and a pinch of sea salt. Blend until you reach your desired consistency, either slightly chunky or totally smooth.
  5. In a large bowl, place the cooked quinoa, remaining 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, sweet potato, and pesto. Mix together and serve.

Keywords: kale stem pesto, quinoa

Christine Waltermyer

Christine Waltermyer

Christine Waltermyer


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