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Skinny Pesto – Slender Kitchen

Skinny Pesto has all the flavor of your favorite basil pesto with half the calories and fat as traditional pesto. It works for all your favorite pesto recipes including this amazing Pesto Chicken and our favorite Pesto Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles.

We are drowning in basil over here and before watching our bumper crop wilt away, I am making this healthy skinny pesto by the bucket. It’s something our whole family loves and there are so many different ways to use it in meals.

It makes a great quick and easy pasta sauce, it divine as a marinade for chicken or beef, is the perfect pizza sauce, and even tastes amazing with your morning eggs. Seriously, this pesto tastes good on almost anything and has so many different uses. I recommend doubling or tripling the recipe and storing it for when you need some quick recipe inspiration. 

Skinny pesto sauce with chicken with tomatoes on a marble board.

Pesto has always been a refrigerator staple in our house. Before I started cooking, it was usually the store-bought variety and now that I cook all the time, it’s always a big jar of homemade pesto. It’s also almost always in my freezer. Yes, pesto is freezer friendly too and one of the best things to keep on hands for quick meals.

Speaking of freezers, there are certain things I always like to have in my freezer for quick meals when I need them. The first is a great homemade marinara sauce, usually with meatballs that can be quickly paired with pasta, spaghetti squash, or used for sandwiches or for quick stuffed peppers. The second is a homemade soup, usually chili, that can be used for lunches or dinner paired with a simple salad.

The third is a breakfast option – like these frozen breakfast quesadillas or DIY Egg McMuffins. Last on the list is today’s recipe for skinny pesto. I use it for pasta, simple stirfrys, homemade pizzas, sandwiches, baked potatoes, baked chicken, and more. I always have at least two or three containers frozen and ready to go. 

Want to use it right away? Here are some more delicious pesto recipes to try!

Is pesto healthy?

When it comes to pesto, it’s one of those ingredients that people almost always want to know if its healthy or not. This is actually a tricky question to answer and really depends on your diet and needs. On its own, pesto is relatively healthy. It contains fresh basil, garlic, lemon, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.

Other than the Parmesan cheese, all those ingredients are pretty healthy on their own. However, there is a lot of oil in traditional pesto. Although olive oil is a healthy fat, if you are trying to lose weight or watch calories, those extra calories can be a problem. Whether you make it the traditional way or use our skinny pesto recipe, here are some of the specific health benefits of pesto:

  • Fresh basil is a powerhouse when it comes to antioxidants and is also known to be anti-inflammatory and has natural anti-bacterial (or infection-fighting) properties. A recent study also showed that it may help reduce stress and have natural adaptogens.
  • Garlic has long been known as a medicinal food and has been used for centuries to treat infection and illness. In addition to its ability to help fight infections, it also has been shown to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, improve bone health, and lots of other benefits. 
  • Lemons are packed with Vitamin C, fiber, and contain many beneficial plant compounds. They have been shown to help with digestion and can also help detoxify the body.
  • Olive oil ranks as one of the healthiest choices when it comes to cooking oils/fats. It is full of monounsaturated fats, that are shown to help reduce cholesterol and promote heart health. It is also full of antioxidants and has been shown to help fight against numerous diseases.

Healthy pesto sauce with shrimp and zucchini noodles

What is pesto sauce made of? Can I use different herbs and greens?

Traditional pesto is an Italian sauce made with fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, lemon, garlic, and olive oil. It is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle but most people use a food processor or blender now for convenience. Although basil is the traditional herb used, you can make pesto with all kinds of different combinations herbs and greens. Considering making pesto with cilantro, arugula, parsley, spinach, kale, or arugula. You can also combine herbs/greens to create your own flavor combinations. 

Many people also like to switch out the nuts in pesto since pine nuts can be really expensive. You can use walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or cashews for different styles of pestos. You can also leave the nuts out entirely if you have a nut allergy.

How many calories are there in pesto?

Pesto traditionally has about 120 calories and 12 grams of fat for every two tablespoons. This lightened up skinny pesto has just 60 calories and 6 grams of fat since it uses less olive oil and cheese.

What are your favorite ways to use pesto?

This recipe originally appeared in 2014 but has been updated with new photos, tips, and ideas. Here is the original photo from the post. 

Skinny pesto sauce in a jar with lemon and basil on the side.