12 Healthy Pesto Recipes You Need to Try
Easy pesto recipes
Although it usually features basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese, there are countless ways to make pesto. You can substitute in different herbs (from arugula to parsley to green veggies like peas), nuts (pistachios, almonds, and walnuts are all delicious), and even oils (we love avocado or sesame) to give the classic dish new life. Next time you have a craving for pesto, try one of these variations on the quintessential sauce—they're all packed with flavor and can complement anything from pasta to pizza to grilled veggies.
Whether it’s being used as an alternative, healthy ingredient in brownies and pudding, or as a beauty product, it seems there isn’t anything avocados can’t do. In fact, here’s another delectable avocado substitution that you’ll love. It takes a favorite Italian sauce—pesto—and makes it even tastier by swapping the olive oil for avocado to make a creamy sauce that will enhance your pasta, zucchini noodles and more. Watch the video to follow our simple recipe.
Try this recipe: Vietnamese Pesto
This sweet and sour Asian-inspired pesto is sure to be a hit. Spread on fish before baking or grilling, or slather it on a banh mi.
Ingredients: Sesame oil, dry-roasted peanuts, Vietnamese fish sauce, light brown sugar, fresh garlic, serrano chili, fresh basil leaves, fresh cilantro sprigs, flat-leaf parsley flakes, fresh lime juice
Try this recipe: Pesto Verde
Enjoy this south-of-the-border-flavored sauce on tacos or grilled corn, or mixed into rice. It's bright, zesty, and sure to impress your dinner guests.
Ingredients: Avocado oil, pepitas, ground cumin, lime zest, garlic, anchovy fillets, cilantro leaves, fresh lime juice, Cotija cheese, crushed red pepper
Get the recipe: Mediterranean Pesto
Consider this a new take on an old classic: Of course, you can toss with whole-grain pasta (warm or cold) and veggies. But we also recommend stirring it into bean salad or drizzling it on pizza.
Ingredients: Extra-virgin olive oil, blanched almonds, brined capers, garlic, fresh basil leaves, fresh oregano leaves, fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, crumbled feta cheese, Castelvetrano or kalamata olives, fresh lemon juice, black pepper
Try this recipe: Spaghetti With Wilted Greens and Walnut-Parsley Pesto
Pesto gets a protein-packed upgrade in this recipe, which is made with chopped walnuts. Serve over spaghetti with an egg on top for the perfect post-workout dinner (bonus: this meal contains one-third of your daily iron needs!).
Ingredients: Parsley, spinach, walnuts, garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, water, salt and pepper
Calories: 439 (with pasta)
Classic Parmesan Pesto
Try this recipe: Grilled Zucchini with Parmesan Pesto
Fresh homemade pesto with basil, garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts—is there anything better? This classic version complements everything from pasta to grilled fish. We love it spread on zucchini roll-ups for a light appetizer that's packed with flavor and heart-healthy fatty acids.
Ingredients: Basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper
Smoky Almond-Parsley Pesto
Try this recipe: Smoky Almond-Parsley Pesto
Smoked almonds give this version a serious kick. Have leftovers? It's delicious spread over sandwiches, tossed with whole-grain pasta, or on a veggie-packed pizza.
Ingredients: Smoked almonds, garlic, flat-leaf parsley, extra-virgin olive oil, Parmiggiano-Reggiano, black pepper
Try this recipe: Golden Beets with Parsley Pesto and Fregola
Instead of basil and pine nuts, this recipe uses parsley and crunchy pistachios. Serve over golden beets for a nutrient-packed vegetarian salad.
Ingredients: Garlic, flat-leaf parsley leaves, salt, shelled unsalted pistachios, grated Parmesan, extra-virgin olive oil
Calories: 315 (with beets)
Adapted with permission from Eating in Color, by Frances Largeman-Roth. Stewart, Tabori & Chang; January 2014.
Try this recipe: Arugula Pesto, Ricotta, and Smoked Mozzarella Pizza
This arugula pesto recipe is extra-cheesy, thanks to the addition of ricotta and smoked mozzarella. Spread over pizza dough and top with tomato slices for the perfect weeknight meal.
Ingredients: Ricotta, garlic cloves, kosher salt, black pepper, smoked mozzarella, arugula
Calories: 303 (with pizza)
Spicy Tomato Pesto
Try this recipe: Whole Wheat Pasta with Spicy Tomato Pesto
Sun-dried tomatoes and sliced almonds give this pesto unexpected texture and a boost of flavor. Serve over this vegetable-rich pasta dish with Swiss chard that's the perfect entree to bring to a party.
Ingredients: Boiling water, sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, Parmesan cheese, basil, garlic cloves, salt, red pepper, extra-virgin olive oil
Try this recipe: Gnocchi with Walnut-Argula Pesto
This recipe calls for arugula instead of basil for a zesty kick. Pair with Italian potato dumplings for a delicious, filling, superfast meal.
Ingredients: Arugula, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, salt, black pepper, and olive oil
Calories: 358 (with gnocchi)
Try this recipe: Spaghetti With Ricotta and Pea Pesto
This recipe by Joe Bastianich, a restaurateur, winemaker, author, and judge on Fox’s MasterChef, is a genius way to use up the frozen peas in your freezer.
Ingredients: Frozen peas, pine nuts, Grana Padano cheese, fresh lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil, reserved pesto, part-skim ricotta, mint leaves
Calories: 511 (with pasta)