is homemade pesto unhealthy

Is pesto healthy? Learn about this popular Mediterranean sauce here, including its nutritional benefits, types, and how to make it at home.

Pesto is a vibrant green sauce used in Mediterranean cooking. It’s versatile and delicious, but somewhere between the push for fat-free everything in the nineties and contemporary nutritional trends, it lost its reputation as a healthy food.

In reality, pesto contains nutrients to support health and can be part of a diet to support a healthy weight. The trick (as with nearly everything else in the nutrition world) is to keep tabs on portions and balance it out with other nutrient-dense foods.

In this article, you’ll find all you need to know about pesto—including different varieties, benefits, and delicious recipes you can add to your weekly meal rotation.

Marinara sauce may be your go-to for pasta dishes but don’t forget about pesto. This bright green, fragrant sauce comes from Italian kitchens dating back to Roman times. Pesto’s versatility means you don’t have to limit it to dishes with noodles—it also makes a fantastic sauce or marinade for poultry, fish, and veggies.

Most people no longer have a mortar and pestle in their kitchen (these tools were used to make pesto traditionally), but it’s surprisingly simple to make the sauce in a blender or food processor. A basic pesto sauce usually contains the following:

Pesto nutrition facts will differ depending on whether it is store-bought, homemade, shelf-stable, or refrigerated. For example, if you make pesto at home, you have more control over how much salt you add or the type of oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the usual choice, but some brands may use different vegetable oils to reduce costs.

Pesto also contains other essential nutrients like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids from basil, nuts, and olive oil, and vitamins and minerals from all the ingredients.

Since pesto is naturally low in carbohydrates, it’s considered a low glycemic index (GI) food, making it less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

Traditional pesto uses fresh basil leaves and pine nuts, but there are plenty of ways to mix it up and create variations you enjoy. Creativity is encouraged in the kitchen, so don’t feel limited to the ingredients above. Here are some delicious variations:

If you make pesto at home, stick with high-quality extra virgin olive oil for the health benefits and aromatic flavor.

Because its ingredients include olive oil, nuts, and cheese, pesto can be high in calories and fat. However, the fat is primarily unsaturated and may have heart health benefits. Pesto is also full of antioxidants that can help protect your cells from damage.
is homemade pesto unhealthy

Is Pesto Good for Weight Loss?

Given all of the above, pesto can undoubtedly be considered a healthy food, and as long as you keep track of portions, it can also be part of a diet that supports a healthy weight.

Pesto is nutrient-dense, and because of its fat content, it’s also calorically dense. Calorically dense foods provide a lot of calories in a small serving—think nuts, seeds, and oils. There’s no need to avoid these foods, but if overall calories are something you’re watching, you may want to keep track of the amount you’re eating.

Luckily a little pesto goes a long way, so you won’t need to use much to add flavor to your dish. Interestingly, studies suggest that people who include olive oil in their diet tend to have a lower BMI (and a lower risk of dying from any cause) than those who don’t.¹⁴ As with all foods, the key is balance and moderation.

Learn more: salmon-and-broccoli-with-pumpkin-seed-pesto“>Salmon and Broccoli With Pumpkin Seed Pesto.

How to Prepare Healthy Pesto at Home

Making pesto at home requires a few simple tools and ingredients. Use the following recipe to get started. Once you’ve got the basics down, try using some of the swaps above to create your favorite version.


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt


  • Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until combined.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  • Place pesto in an airtight container or jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Does pesto go bad?


Is Homemade pesto bad for you?

It is healthy for you as long as you eat it moderately. Traditionally, you can make pesto from extra virgin olive oil, basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, and pine nuts. However, every brand has a different mix of ingredients, which means each pesto sauce product has a varying number of calories, fat content and sodium.

Is Homemade pesto good for weight loss?

Is Pesto OK for Weight Loss? I’m a true believer that any food can fit into your diet, even if you’re trying to lose weight. Pesto is flavorful and bright and can liven up vegetables, pizza, potatoes and pasta. It’s also high in healthy fats, which help keep you satisfied.

Is homemade pesto high in calories?

A tablespoon of pesto made with parmesan cheese, basil, olive oil, salt, garlic, and pine nuts contains just under 92 calories. More than half of the calories comes from fats.

How unhealthy is pesto pasta?

Given all of the above, pesto can undoubtedly be considered a healthy food, and as long as you keep track of portions, it can also be part of a diet that supports a healthy weight. Pesto is nutrient-dense, and because of its fat content, it’s also calorically dense.

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