Don’t you just love pesto? One of the tastiest sauces to exist, pesto is loved by many. Whether you coat pasta with it, add it to soup, spread it on the bread, or use it as a dip, pesto can make anything taste good.
Being on a keto diet is challenging. You have to be patient and can’t risk indulging in what you usually like to eat. Pesto can be added to almost everything, but this brings the question, is pesto keto friendly?
Luckily for you and your taste buds, pesto is keto friendly and can be incorporated in most keto-friendly recipes. So, you might be cutting out a lot of dishes to complete your keto, but at least you won’t have to let that pestgo.
What is Pesto?
The creamy, green sauce you’ll find commonly served on pasta, mashed potatoes, bread and even stuffed inside a chicken breast is pesto.
From Where Did Pesto Originate?
Pesto sauce originates in the city of Genoa in Italy. The name pesto comes from the Genoese word pesta, which translates to “pound/crush.” As the name suggests, pesto is made by crushing and grinding its ingredients in a mortar.
Is It Necessary to Use a Mortar?
Traditionally, pesto (like most Italian sauces) is made in a mortar. But if you’re not comfortable with a mortar and would rather use a modern grinder, go right ahead.
What Are the Main Ingredients of Pesto?
Pesto gets its bright green color from basil, a primary ingredient mixed with garlic, cheese, pine nuts, and olive oil to give it a smooth finish.
Interestingly, basil was not always the core ingredient of pesto. Centuries ago, pesto was made by adding equal parts of cheese and olive oil and was mainly used as a topping for bread and pasta.
And although basil is now used as a base herb to make pesto, if you’re not a fan of pesto and forgo the ingredient while making the sauce, technically, you’d still be eating pesto.
What Kind of Cheese Is Used in Pesto?
Traditional pesto recipes recommend Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese) or Pecorino Romano cheese.
If you don’t have one of the two, you can substitute either with Asiago. But that wouldn’t give you the same flavor profile as the mix of parmesan and Romano would.
Is Pesto Keto Friendly?
Let’s trace back to the main question: is pesto keto-friendly, and can it be incorporated into your daily diet?
Thankfully, pesto is keto-friendly. Most keto diets encourage the use of pesto, even in large quantities.
Nutritional Profile of Pesto
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in one tablespoon of pesto, you’ll have:
|Nutritional Component||Weight per 16g|
|Fats Monounsaturated Fatty Acids Saturated Fatty Acids Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids||9.5g 5.63g 1.53g 1.68g|
|Minerals Calcium Phosphorus Potassium Magnesium||111-113mg 33.1mg 36.8mg 31.8mg 9.76mg|
Benefits of Pesto
Yes, pesto is keto friendly, and there are a lot of benefits to the sauce:
The core ingredients of pesto sauce, especially garlic, olive oil, and basil, are highly rich in antioxidants.
Eating food rich in antioxidants is recommended because they improve our immunity, help us fight against disturbing changes, and are a strong defense against diseases.
Pesto is not only keto-friendly but is recommended for dieters who want to control their weight.
Pesto contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can help reduce and control cholesterol levels.
Good for Your Heart
Olive oil is good for your heart and has additional health benefits.
When is Pesto Not Good?
It’s very rare for nutritionists to place pesto in the “no-no” zone, but if they do, it’s probably for a specific reason.
Pesto may be suitable for keto, but it’s not good for people allergic to nuts and dairy products. Pesto cannot be made without cheese, and finding suitable substitutes for pine nuts is equally tricky.
If you’re allergic to dairy products and most nuts and are on a keto diet, then, unfortunately, you won’t be able to eat any pesto. Of course, you can look for variations of pesto that use alternative ingredients.
Vegans on keto diets will probably skip pesto sauce because of its cheese. However, there are a lot of vegan-friendly pesto sauces that are readily available in the market.
If you’re eating store-bought pesto, you could experience adverse reactions like high blood pressure. Store-bought pesto contains a lot of sodium, which is not recommended for heart patients.
How to Include Pesto in Your Keto Diet
Most recipes and dishes with pesto incorporate the flour, which isn’t suitable for a keto diet. But luckily for pesto lovers, there are alternative ways to incorporate the sauce into a keto diet very easily.
When you’re on a keto diet, you’re probably off of carbs which means no pasta and bread, but there are a lot of keto-friendly dishes to which you can add pesto sauce.
Pesto Stuffed Chicken
What better keto-friendly dish than chicken, right? There are many low-carb pesto chicken recipes, but the most straightforward recipe uses avocado oil, salt, pepper, mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil pesto.
Pesto Chicken Cauliflower Casserole
A pesto chicken cauliflower casserole is perfect for a keto diet. The dish is jam-packed with protein, flavor, and aroma.
These aren’t the only dishes you can make; there are a lot of dishes that you’ll find are keto-friendly and use pesto. Plus, you don’t have to back off of pasta for good because you can use keto-friendly flour to make the pasta.
How to Make Pesto Sauce?
You can easily make pesto sauce at home from scratch. Of course, you can opt for store-bought pesto for convenience, but if you’re looking for authentic Italian flavor and mouth-watering aroma, here’s a quick recipe:
- 60-70 basil leaves
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp Pecorino
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp pine nuts
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup Parmigiano
- Wash the basil leaves in cold water. Place the leaves in a bowl of ice for a few minutes to keep them cold and fresh.
- After 5 minutes, take the leaves out and dry them with a clean kitchen towel.
- Wash and peel the garlic cloves and dry them before using them in the recipe.
- Grate the parmigiana and cut the Pecorino into small cubes.
- Not many people prefer it, but you could lightly toast the nuts before using them in your recipe. This preparatory step is optional.
- Put the basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, and the grated parmigiana in a food processor. Give it a basic run until the ingredients are mixed and chopped well.
If you want, you could use a mortar instead. But, using a mortar takes a lot of time and effort, so go with what suits you best.
- Add the cubed Pecorino and blend for a minute or more when the ingredients are adequately chopped.
- Gradually add olive oil to your chopped mix. The olive oil will combine the ingredients into a paste. Keep adding the olive oil until you get a smooth, creamy texture.
- When the sauce reaches the right consistency, add salt and give it another round in the food processor.
Tips, Dos and Don’ts
- If using a food processor, place the blades in the freezer or a bowl of ice.
Cooling the blades is like preheating the oven before baking; it gets the job done quicker and better. It’s also recommended to keep the pesto sauce cool.
- Pesto is not made with warm ingredients or in a warm bowl. While prepping, we recommend keeping the leaves and the bowl cold, so your pesto doesn’t heat up when it’s being blended.
- Your food processor will heat up during the blending process, so take breaks in between. Do not make the sauce in one go, as the temperature can change the texture and taste of the basil leaves.
- If you like sour and tangy flavors, you could add a squeeze of lemon to your sauce. But this is optional. The original recipe does not call for lemons. The same goes for black pepper.
- The correct consistency of pesto is slightly thick, creamy, and smooth. This does not mean you make pesto like whipped cream or as runny as a watery sauce.
Similarly, smooth does not mean that it has to be like butter. If your pesto is very slightly grainy, it’s okay.
- To get the right pesto consistency, keep a close eye on when blending the ingredients. If the paste is too thick, add 2-3 tbsp of water.
Do not add the water in one go as you could make it too runny. If your sauce reaches the right consistency after half or a tablespoon of water, do not add more.
Is pesto keto friendly?
If you love pesto and are starting keto, you’re lucky because this creamy, delicious Italian sauce is keto friendly. There are tons of recipes you can find that use pesto and are purely keto friendly.
Making pesto from scratch is very simple, especially using a food processor. But you can also use a mortar to get an earthy flavor.
Of course, if you’re not fond of cooking, you can always opt for store-bought pesto, but keep an eye on the ingredients.