Healthy Pesto Sauce | Ready in Less Than 5 Minutes!

This Healthy Pesto Sauce is about to become your new favorite sauce. It’s simple to make, yet packed with good-for-you ingredients. Use it with your favorite pastas, on salads, and as a savory spread for sandwiches!

This Healthy Pesto Sauce is about to become your next favorite. It’s simple to make, yet packed with good-for-you ingredients. Use it with your favorite dish, on salads, and as a savory spread for sandwiches!

To me, pesto used to be one of those things that sounded mysterious and difficult to make.

However, I have found that pesto sauce is actually super easy.

Homemade pesto is also a great way to use up extra basil you don’t want to waste. Is your garden in abundance of basil? Pesto time!

Since I usually keep a box of pine nuts or walnuts in my pantry for just that occasion, it’s a quick toss in the ol’ food processor and poof: pesto!

Now, “traditionalists” would say it’s not “real” pesto unless it is made with a mortar and pestle, but I’m surely no traditionalist and my food processor does a fine job.

Just stick all the ingredients in, shut, and pulse.

Easy, right?

Try not to puree the pesto sauce to an entirely smooth consistency.  Instead, try to keep it coarse…as though it was made with the mortar and pestle.  Sneaky, I know.

Though, if you like it smooth, go right ahead!

Pesto has its use in many dishes.  I spread it on my turkey, pesto and cheddar panini, use it as a sauce on my pesto and goat cheese pizza, combine it with freshly cooked pasta and add a few tablespoons to my tomato sauce for a good basil kick, just to name a few.

Overhead view of fresh basil leaves in a glass bowl.Overhead view of garlic bulb, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and fresh basil to make Healthy Pesto Sauce

IS PESTO HEALTHY?

Pesto is indeed healthy. It’s made with basil, which has a lotta good things going for it! Basil has tons of nutrients:

  • Basil is especially high in Vitamin K and has Vitamin A as well
  • Basil contains calcium, manganese, and iron
  • Basil is known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

This pesto contains olive oil, too. And that’s another food that benefits you in many ways. Not only is it tasty, but it also contains polyphenols that prevent inflammatory compounds from being released into the body. 

Overhead view of Pesto Sauce Ingredients, which are garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan, and fresh basil.

ARE PINE NUTS GOOD FOR YOU?

Pine nuts have lots of Vitamin E and magnesium. They are also a source of monounsaturated fats, so are Did you know that pine nuts are actually a seed? Who knew, right? But although they come from certain species of pine trees, it is often advised that people who are allergic to nuts avoid them. In that case, you could simply leave them out of the recipe.

HOW TO STORE PESTO SAUCE

Pesto can be saved in the fridge for up to a week. When you store it, keep it in an airtight container. Make sure there is oil on the top of the pesto to maintain the freshness and consistency. If there is no oil rising to the top on its own, just add a little before putting it in the fridge.

Overhead view of Pesto Sauce ingredients in the food processor, including grated parmesan cheese, pine nuts, basil, and garlic.Close up view of Pesto Sauce ingredients in the food processor and the oil being poured in, ready to blend.

CAN YOU FREEZE PESTO SAUCE?

You can freeze this yummy pesto sauce. If you’ve got a garden and an abundance of basil, why not make a batch to freeze?

Harvest your basil leaves by cutting the stems, always leaving a couple of leaves on the plant. Store the stems in water for a few days if you cannot use them right away. Leave them on the counter as the cold fridge may discolor the leaves.

After you have made the pesto recipe, store in meal-sized portions in an airtight container or resealable freezer bag for up to a month.

Overhead view of the food processor containing pesto sauce, processed and ready to serve.

RECIPE SUBSTITUTIONS FOR HEALTHY PESTO SAUCE

Sometimes we want to vary a recipe because of differences in taste or because we are short a needed item. Here are a few substitutions:

  • Walnuts, almonds, or pistachios can be substituted for the pine nuts
  • Nutritional yeast can replace the parmesan
  • Pecorino Romano cheese subs well for parmesan
  • Avocado oil can replace the olive oil
  • Extra pine nuts can replace parmesan

Overhead view of the food processor containing ready to serve pesto sauce.Overhead view if a small bowl of Healthy Pesto Sauce on a white plate, with a spoon of pesto off to the side.

CAN YOU MAKE HEALTHY PESTO SAUCE VEGAN AND DAIRY-FREE?

Yes, you can easily make the healthy pesto sauce vegan or dairy-free. The only ingredient you will need to swap out is the parmesan cheese. Use nutritional yeast instead, which has a nutty flavor that fits right in with the taste of the pesto.

Overhead view if a small bowl of Healthy Pesto Sauce on a white plate, with a spoon of pesto off to the side.

MORE HEALTHY SAUCE RECIPES

A delicious sauce can make all the difference to a dish. Here are a few of my favorites. They are all versatile, good for you, and easy to make.

 

5 from 1 vote
Pesto Sauce Square Recipe Preview Image
Healthy Pesto Sauce
Prep Time
3 mins
Cook Time
1 min
Total Time
4 mins
 

This Healthy Pesto Sauce is about to become your new favorite sauce. It’s simple to make, yet packed with good-for-you ingredients. Use it with your favorite pasta, on salads, and as a savory spread for sandwiches!

Categories: Sauce
Difficulty: Easy
Keyword: how to make pesto sauce, pesto sauce, pesto sauce recipe
Servings: 12 tbsp
Calories: 132 kcal
Author: Lacey Baier
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 oz fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts can substitute walnuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 cloves garlic depending on how strong of a garlic taste you like
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper plus more to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse to your desired consistency.
  2. You can also pulse the garlic and pine nuts together before the other ingredients to break them down a little bit more.
  3. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
Nutrition Facts
Healthy Pesto Sauce
Amount Per Serving (1 tbsp)
Calories 132 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Fat 14g22%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Cholesterol 2mg1%
Sodium 140mg6%
Potassium 54mg2%
Carbohydrates 1g0%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 336IU7%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 43mg4%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

This post contains affiliate links for products I use often and highly recommend.

Lacey Baier

Hey y’all, I’m Lacey Baier and I’m so glad you’re here! I’m a healthy lifestyle influencer and the creator of this clean-eating blog and YouTube channel, A Sweet Pea Chef. My recipes have been published on Food Network, Good Morning America, FoxNews, Tastemade, Fitness Magazine, and much more. I live in Dallas, Texas with my husband and four kiddos. Let’s get started!

19 thoughts on “Healthy Pesto Sauce | Ready in Less Than 5 Minutes!

  1. ok, i’ve just started getting in the kitchen for real in the past 6 months. I’ve learned a lot just by watching the chefs at the fine dining restaurant where i bartend. I try a lot of things and fail at a lot of things. I am so thrilled I found your blog! I can definitely see how it will really help me.

    Thanks!!!

  2. As one who cans ALL THE TIME, I would advise against canning pesto… it’s not acidic enough, and has a higher risk of growing yucky things. Better to freeze it or give it as a fresh gift. The reason you can purchase it on the shelf at the store is because it has lots (and I do mean lots) of extra stuff added that you really don’t want to add to your homemade pesto. It does, however, make a fantastic gift when given fresh with some pasta in a strainer!

  3. This sounds delicious! I have been growing my own Basil and thought that giving homemade pesto would be a great gifts. Will this recipe can well or would it be better to give it fresh? Thank you!

    1. Hi Debora! You know, I’ve never tried freezing my pesto, but I did some research for you and found it can freeze up to 3-6 months. If you intend to freeze the pesto, leave out the parmesan and add it when you thaw and use the pesto because cheese doesn’t tend to freeze well. Good luck!

  4. Just wondering, do you have a basic measurement for about how many cups 2 1/2 ounces of fresh basil would be once it was all chopped up? I don’t have a way to determine how many ounces I’d have, but I’m definitely wanting to try this.

    1. Hi Laura. Very good question! Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact measurement (but I will pay attention next time I make pesto!), However, I would estimate it is between 3-5 cups if that helps you. I typically buy fresh basil in a 3-oz. container. I hope that helps.

  5. I love pesto! I like to add a little citrus to mine…either a squeeze of a lemon or even an orange! I think it really lightens it up!

    love your blog…just discovered it 🙂

  6. I LOVE LOVE LOVE pesto, and I am definitely going to have to try your recipe this weekend. Also, Love your blog, I always look forward to seeing what you cook up next

  7. Yum! This is the exact pesto recipe that I usually make. But just recently, someone gave me a tip to try using roasted pine nuts. I normally just used raw, but I thought I’d give it a try. While I was whizzing them in my food processor, they gave off the most indescribably delectable smell, and my pesto tasted amazing! I highly recommend it, as it only takes a minute to toast them dry in a frying pan. 🙂

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