How to Make Healthy Recipes with Pesto to Spice Up Your Diet

If you’re looking for a way to add flavor to your dishes while maintaining a healthy diet, then pesto is a great ingredient to try. Pesto is a versatile and delicious sauce made from basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. Not only is pesto a great way to spice up your meals, but it also comes with some health benefits. Basil, a main ingredient of pesto, is packed with antioxidants that can help protect your body from free radicals. Plus, olive oil is loaded with healthy fats that can lower your risk of heart disease. In this article, we’ll share some tasty and healthy recipes that use pesto as the star ingredient.

What is Pesto?

Pesto is a versatile and delicious Italian sauce that has been around for centuries. The word “pesto” comes from “pestare,” which is Italian for “to pound” or “crush,” and it’s made by grinding together fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. The result is a bright green, aromatic paste that can be used in a variety of ways.

The History of Pesto

The origins of pesto can be traced back to ancient Rome, where a similar sauce was made using herbs and cheese. However, the modern version of pesto that we know and love today originated in the Liguria region of Italy, specifically in Genoa. This area is known for its abundance of fresh basil, which is one of the main ingredients in pesto.

Traditionally, pesto was made using a mortar and pestle, which allowed the ingredients to be crushed together and thoroughly mixed. While this method is still used by some purists today, most people now use a food processor or blender to make their pesto. This makes the process much faster and easier, but some argue that it can also affect the texture and flavor of the sauce.

Health Benefits of Pesto

When made with fresh, high-quality ingredients, pesto can be a healthy addition to any meal. Some of the health benefits of pesto include:

  • It’s packed with nutrients: Basil is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin K, and calcium. Pine nuts are a good source of heart-healthy fats and protein, while olive oil provides healthy monounsaturated fats.
  • It can help prevent disease: Some studies have shown that the compounds found in basil, especially the essential oils, may have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. These properties may help protect against certain diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
  • It’s low in calories: Pesto is a relatively low-calorie sauce, with most recipes containing less than 100 calories per serving. This makes it a great choice for those watching their weight.

Healthy Recipes with Pesto

If you’re looking for healthy recipes that use pesto, you’re in luck! There are many ways to incorporate this flavorful sauce into your meals. Here are a few ideas:

Recipe Description Link
Grilled Chicken with Pesto This simple and flavorful recipe features grilled chicken topped with homemade pesto. Serve with a side of roasted vegetables for a healthy, satisfying meal.
Zucchini Noodles with Pesto If you’re looking for a low-carb, veggie-packed dish, try zucchini noodles with pesto. This recipe is easy to make and perfect for a quick weeknight dinner.
Salmon with Pesto This flavorful and healthy recipe features baked salmon topped with pesto and served with a side of roasted sweet potatoes. It’s a great choice for a special occasion or dinner party.

The Health Benefits of Pesto

Pesto is a delicious Italian sauce made from fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. It is commonly used as a pasta sauce or dip but can also be a great addition to sandwiches, salads, and roasted vegetables. Aside from its bold and refreshing flavor, pesto is also known for its various health benefits.

Heart-Healthy Monounsaturated Fats

The primary ingredient in pesto, olive oil, is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, which are essential for maintaining good heart health. These fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart diseases. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, like those in olive oil, may also help improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

A Source of Antioxidants

Basil, the main herb in pesto, is abundant in antioxidants, which are essential for neutralizing free radicals and protecting the body from oxidative stress. The antioxidants found in basil can help prevent cellular damage and promote healthy aging. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that basil extracts had potent antioxidant activity, mainly due to their high content of phenolic compounds.

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals

Pesto is rich in various vitamins and minerals essential for good health. For instance, basil is abundant in vitamin K, which is essential for healthy blood clotting and bone health. Pine nuts, on the other hand, are abundant in magnesium, which plays a vital role in several physiological processes, including muscle and nerve function, blood sugar control, and blood pressure regulation. Additionally, olive oil is rich in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant and helps protect the body from cellular damage.

A Good Source of Protein and Fiber

Pesto contains pine nuts, which are an excellent source of protein and fiber. Protein is essential for building and repairing body tissues, while fiber promotes healthy digestion and helps keep you feeling full and satiated for longer. According to the USDA, one ounce of pine nuts contains approximately four grams of protein and one gram of fiber, making it a good addition to a well-balanced diet.

In conclusion, pesto is not only a delicious and versatile sauce but also a nutrient-dense addition to any meal. Its various health benefits, including heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and vitamins, make it a perfect choice for anyone looking to improve their overall health and well-being.

Healthy Recipes with Pesto

Healthy eating is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Finding healthy recipes that are delicious and easy to make can be a challenge. However, incorporating pesto into your meals can make healthy eating much more enjoyable. Pesto is not only a flavorful addition to any dish, but it also has many health benefits. It is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help keep your body healthy and strong.

Pesto Grilled Chicken

Pesto grilled chicken is a perfect dish for summer barbecues. This dish is healthy and packed with flavor. To create this dish, you will need boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pesto sauce, salt, and pepper. Begin by marinating the chicken in pesto sauce for at least an hour. Once the chicken has marinated, grill it over medium heat for 6-8 minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. This dish is perfect for a healthy and delicious meal.

Pesto Quinoa Salad

Pesto quinoa salad is an excellent option for a healthy lunch or dinner. This dish is packed with protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. To prepare this dish, you will need quinoa, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, pesto sauce, olive oil, and lemon juice. Cook the quinoa and let it cool. Then, chop the vegetables and mix them together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix the pesto sauce, olive oil, and lemon juice to create the dressing. Add the dressing to the vegetables and quinoa and stir until everything is well combined. This dish is perfect for a healthy and filling meal.

Pesto Zucchini Noodles

Pesto zucchini noodles are a healthy and low-carb alternative to traditional pasta. This dish is perfect for those who are trying to eat healthier but still want to enjoy their favorite pasta dishes. To prepare this dish, you will need zucchini, pesto sauce, cherry tomatoes, garlic powder, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Using a spiralizer, create zucchini noodles. In a pan, heat olive oil and garlic powder. Once the pan is hot, add the zucchini noodles and cherry tomatoes and sauté for 5-7 minutes or until the zucchini noodles are tender. Add pesto sauce and Parmesan cheese to the pan and stir until everything is well combined. This dish is perfect for a healthy and tasty meal.

How to Make Homemade Pesto

Making homemade pesto is a great way to add flavor to your healthy recipes and is easy to make with just a few simple ingredients. Whether you prefer a classic traditional pesto or variations with different ingredients, knowing how to make homemade pesto will open up a wide range of delicious healthy options for your meals.

Ingredients for Classic Pesto

Traditional pesto includes fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Make sure to use fresh ingredients for the best flavors. You can also use different types of nuts or cheeses to give your pesto a unique touch. For a vegan or dairy-free option, you can omit the Parmesan and use nutritional yeast instead.

Preparation Steps

  1. To start, wash the fresh basil leaves and gently pat dry using paper towels.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves and cut off the ends.
  3. Place the basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese in a blender or food processor.
  4. Pulse the ingredients until they are roughly chopped.
  5. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the blender is running.
  6. Blend until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Uses for Pesto in Healthy Recipes

Pesto can be used in a variety of healthy recipes, from pasta dishes to vegetable sides to salads. Here are some ideas:

  • Toss with whole grain pasta and vegetables for a flavorful and healthy meal.
  • Top grilled chicken, fish, or tofu with pesto for a burst of flavor.
  • Spread pesto on whole grain bread and add your favorite veggies for a delicious sandwich.
  • Add to roasted vegetables for a flavorful side dish.
  • Mix pesto with Greek yogurt for a healthy and delicious dip for veggies or crackers.

Alternatives to Traditional Pesto

If you’re looking for a healthier or vegan option, try making pesto with spinach, kale, or arugula instead of basil. You can also substitute walnuts or almonds for pine nuts.

1. Spinach Pesto

Spinach pesto is a great alternative for those who want a milder taste compared to traditional basil pesto. It also offers an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, potassium, and iron.

  • 2 cups spinach, packed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

2. Kale Pesto

Kale is packed with nutrients; it’s an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K; it’s also a good source of calcium, magnesium, and iron. Using kale as a base for pesto will add a unique and flavorful twist on the classic recipe.

  • 2 cups kale, packed
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

3. Arugula Pesto

Arugula is a peppery and tangy leafy green that works incredibly well for pesto. It contains vitamin A and vitamin C and is also rich in potassium.

  • 2 cups arugula, packed
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

4. Vegan Pesto

If you’re looking for a vegan option, you can make pesto without cheese altogether. Nutritional yeast flakes can be used to add a cheesy taste to the pesto without compromising its vegan status.

  • 2 cups basil, packed
  • 1/2 cup almonds or pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

5. Walnut Pesto

Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein. Substituting pine nuts with walnuts in the pesto recipe will add a healthy and tasty twist to the traditional pesto recipe.

  • 2 cups basil, packed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

These alternatives to traditional pesto are a healthier and delicious way to enjoy this popular sauce. Experiment with the recipe and make it your go-to healthy sauce for pasta, salad and sandwich fillings.


Healthy food does not always have to be bland or tasteless. One popular ingredient for making healthy and tasty meals is pesto. Pesto is a sauce made from fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. It is commonly used as a pasta sauce, but there are many other ways to incorporate pesto into your meals. Here are some frequently asked questions about pesto:

Can I freeze leftover pesto?

Yes, you can freeze leftover pesto to use at a later time. However, it is important to note that pesto may change texture and flavor once frozen. You may notice some separation or discoloration, but this is normal. It is recommended to freeze pesto in small batches or in ice cube trays for easy portioning. When you are ready to use the frozen pesto, simply thaw it in the refrigerator or at room temperature and give it a good stir before using.

What can I use pesto for besides pasta?

Aside from using pesto as a pasta sauce, there are many other dishes you can make with it. Here are some ideas:

  • Spread it on toast or crackers for a quick and easy appetizer
  • Use it as a marinade or sauce for grilled chicken, fish, or veggies
  • Mix it with mayo or Greek yogurt for a flavorful sandwich or wrap spread
  • Toss it with roasted potatoes or vegetables for a delicious side dish
  • Use it as a pizza sauce or topping
  • Stir it into soups or stews for added flavor

Is store-bought pesto healthy?

Store-bought pesto can be a convenient option, but it’s important to read the nutrition label and ingredients list to ensure you’re choosing a healthy option. Some store-bought pesto can be high in added sodium, preservatives, and unhealthy oils. Look for pesto made with fresh, natural ingredients and minimal added preservatives or additives. Better yet, make your own pesto at home so you can control the ingredients and ensure it’s a healthy option.

Time to Cook Up Some Pesto Goodness

Thanks for taking the time to read about some of the tastiest and healthiest recipes that feature pesto. Now that you know how to make flavorful dishes from healthy ingredients, it’s time to put your culinary skills to the test! Remember that cooking healthy meals doesn’t have to be boring – experiment with different recipes and ingredients to find the flavors that appeal to you. And don’t forget to check back here for more amazing recipes and tips on eating healthy.

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