Making your own pesto is so quick and easy. It's also more flavorful and healthy than commercially produced brands, as they can get exceedingly high in sodium. Try making this Low-Sodium Pesto! It's creamy, full of flavor and it's vegan, vegetarian and gluten free!
There are so many different ways to enjoy homemade pesto. A classic side to pair it with is my Healthier Garlic Bread recipe. It's perfect for drizzling over the top or even for dipping.
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Basil- You must use fresh herbs for homemade pesto.
Salt- This recipe uses a small amount of salt, but if you need less you can make this pesto without salt. You may want to consider adding more spices and flavors such as extra nutritional yeast and lemon juice to taste.
Pine nuts- If you can't find any pine nuts at your local grocery store, you can find them online here.
Nutritional yeast is a flavor enhancer. It's a deactivated yeast (meaning you cannot use it for bread making) that is flaky and yellow in color. It is known for having a "cheesy" flavor. I describe its flavor as cheesy, a little salty (although it contains little to no sodium) with an umami flavor. If you cannot find it at your local grocery store, you can buy it online here.
Basil- Fresh parsley, cilantro or even mint will work instead of basil. Switch it up even more by using fresh spinach leaves or even kale (without the stems). You can definitely try different combinations of herbs, nuts and seeds for your pesto.
Pine nuts- Want to make this without pine nuts? Try using unsalted walnuts, pistachios, almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pecans or even hazelnuts. If you want to make it without nuts, try using unsalted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or even sesame seeds.
Olive oil- Avocado oil will also work instead of olive oil. Some have even used melted, unrefined coconut oil.
I like to use my Cuisinart Mini PREP Food Processor. It's the perfect size for making homemade pestos and mayo.
You can also use a small blender or even a mortar and pestle if you prefer to do it by hand.
Start by washing your fresh herbs in water and then pat them dry in a paper towel or use a salad spinner.
In a food processor, process the garlic first until its finely chopped. Or you can grate it in there to make sure there aren't any chunks of garlic, which is what I like to do.
Remove most of the stems from the basil (some are okay) and put the basil in the food processor. Add in the rest of the ingredients.
Process until the pesto comes out smooth.
Pesto will last in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to one week.
It also freezes well and will keep for months this way. You can place the pesto in a glass airtight container that is freezer safe or put it in ice cube trays. Let it thaw at room temperature when ready to eat. How long it takes to thaw depends on how large your batch is. A half of cup of pesto can typically take 30 minutes to thaw on the counter.
❓Frequently Asked Questions
Pesto is high in fat from the olive oil and pine nuts. They are a quality and heart-healthy source of fats so they do provide nutritional value. Because this is a vegan pesto, it's also low in saturated fats. This is because there's no cheese here. The high fat content means that one serving of pesto is pretty high in calories. While they come from a quality source, as always, it's important to just be mindful of how much you consume.
This homemade low-sodium pesto uses fresh ingredients such as fresh herbs, garlic and lemon juice, as well as nuts, extra virgin olive oil and nutritional yeast. These wholesome ingredients provide good nutritional value.
Store-bought pesto is high in sodium. On average, some can have a sodium content of over 500mg of per serving. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 mg per day. That's about 20% of your Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) in just one serving of pesto, which is pretty high.
This homemade low-sodium pesto has about 196 mg of sodium per serving which is about 8% of your RDI.
The pine nuts and extra virgin olive oil in this homemade pesto are heart healthy! A low-salt pesto is also healthier for the heart. The CDC says that most Americans consume too much sodium. High sodium levels can cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
The options with pesto are endless. You can make it for pasta, pasta salad, sandwiches, grilled cheese, flatbread, garlic bread, lasagna, pesto grilled chicken, zucchini noodles, on a wrap, over eggs, pizza or even pretzels.
Before you go! If you enjoyed this recipe for Low-Sodium Pesto, share your thoughts with me down below by leaving a review. I love to hear from you! Also, if you aren't following me on social media, search @thedairyfreemenu for more food inspiration!
- 2 cups fresh basil
- ½ cup pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ cup olive oil extra virgin
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt see notes*
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast optional
- pinch cayenne pepper powder optional
- Start by washing your fresh herbs in water and then pat them dry in a paper towel or use a salad spinner.
- In a food processor, process the garlic first until its finely chopped, or you can grate it in there to make sure there aren't any chunks of garlic.
- Remove most of the stems from the basil (some are okay) and put the basil in the food processor. Add in the rest of the ingredients and process until the pesto comes out smooth.
- If you need to further reduce the sodium in this pesto, you can leave out the salt altogether. This will put the sodium level at about 1 mg per tablespoon.
- Additionally, coarse kosher salt does not measure the same as a fine salt. If your salt is not coarse, consider using less as it can be saltier.
Note: The nutrition label is just an estimate. Amounts may vary.