Recipe: Cranberry Hazelnut Holiday Pesto

17 Dec

I’m a really big fan of pesto and the endless possibilities to make it! This pesto is a mild version with all of your holiday favorites coming together for one delicious dish. I served it at my holiday party and it was a huge hit!

Unfortunately (for you and me), because of the stress of working an 8 hour day then coming home to host a party, I don’t have any pictures to show you. With any luck, I’ll make it again before the end of the year and then you can see how beautiful this dish is. And I DO mean beautiful…it brings together the classic green and red we think of for Christmas.

When I was experimenting with ingredients for this pesto, I tried to make it season-appropriate, sticking with ingredients you see a lot of in the winter. I think I captured the holiday spirit well, and I really think you should make this at your next get together! Spring and summer are all about fresh and bright, and fall is a very earthy, warm season. Winter though, while warm, also is a lot about sweets and dessert, so I definitely made it a point to channel that into this recipe. This particular pesto is probably served best on bread or crackers, but you might also be able to do some interesting pizza-dessert type things with it, too.


Cranberry Hazelnut Holiday Pesto:

1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup fresh kale
1/2 cup hazelnuts, shelled and roasted
1/4 cup canola oil (or more)
2 Tbs homemade salted caramel drizzle (more or less to taste)
dried cranberries (I used Craisins)
1/8 cup Welsh cheddar, grated
sea salt/kosher salt/coarse salt

2 french baguettes OR whole wheat crackers OR salted caramel crackers

Homemade salted caramel drizzle:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbs butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt


First, take the cranberries and toss them into the food processor. Make sure that you don’t leave behind any large pieces. If you only have one food processor, spoon out the cranberries into a bowl and set aside. Rinse out your food processor to get the remaining cranberries. We are going to process the kale and the cranberries separately to maintain the red and green – if you process them at the same time, your pesto will turn a brown color, and while it will taste the same, it isn’t going to be as visually appealing!

Next, you’ll want to blanch the kale. I removed the large stem parts of the kale so that only the leaves were left. Boil a small pot of water and have a bowl of cold (or ice) water handy. Dunk the kale in the boiling water for about 10 seconds. At the end of the 10 seconds, immediately take it out and dip it into the cold water (this will stop the cooking process). Take the kale out of the cold water, and gently pat the excess water off with a paper towel.

While the kale dries off a bit, take your hazelnuts and shell them (this is assuming you bought them in the shell – I couldn’t find any already shelled). Take these and toss them into a skillet over medium-high heat. Move these around in your pan while they are toasting until the get a deep, brown color. Make sure not to char them!

Now, toss the kale and the hazelnuts into the food processor. Once everything is pretty well processed, add your oil. You are going to want a smooth, easily spreadable consistency, but not liquid. Once you get there, add just a little more.

Take this out of the food processor, and grab the cranberries you processed and set aside earlier. Put these in the same bowl, and using a spoon, mix. You’ll see that really pretty red and green come together. I’m pretty sure this is what Christmas should taste like. This is your pesto! You can set this aside, because now we have to make the caramel!

(Don’t be scared, its easy!)

Grab a large saucepan, and toss in your sugar. Turn up the heat to high and stir, stir, stir! The sugar is going to clump, but keep on stirring and eventually it will melt. Once the sugar melts, keep stirring until it turns into your desired caramel color (light, medium, dark). Mine was classic medium.

Once you’ve reached your desired color, add your butter. It is going to bubble, but keep stirring until everything is melted together.

Now, you’ll slowly add the cream to this mixture. Cook for another minute, and then remove from the heat.

Stir in the salt. Allow to cool – for our purposes you don’t need to have it cool all the way because we will have to be able to pour it and we don’t want to have to warm it back up.

Now, its time to assemble everything! If you are using bread, I highly recommend cutting the bread, then toasting it in the oven until its a nice golden color. Because pesto is so versatile by nature, you can definitely use something other than bread if you’d like!

Take a spoonful of the pesto and spread it onto your bread or cracker. This next part is to taste, so more or less depending on what tastes good to you:

Take 2-4 Craisins and sprinkle them over the top of the pesto. Now take a pinch of the Welsh cheddar, and sprinkle it evenly over the top of the pesto. Finally, you’ll take a spoonful of the caramel and drizzle it in a zig-zag pattern over the top of everything. To top it off, take a pinch of coarse salt and sprinkle it over the caramel.

Voila! Your cranberry hazelnut holiday pesto is complete!

If you don’t want to assemble this for everyone, you can put your pesto into a bowl, toss the Craisins, cheddar, and caramel on top and folks can use it as a dip for their bread and crackers.


Tried my recipe? Sound off in the comments!

2 Responses to “Recipe: Cranberry Hazelnut Holiday Pesto”

  1. L December 18, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

    Haven’t tried it yet but I might just have to. That sounds really good.

    • mishie1 December 18, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

      I hope you do! It is really easy and it was SO delicious!

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