Is Pesto Fattening?

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Short answer
Many people ask us if pesto can make you fat, and the simple answer is that eating too much of it and not getting enough exercise can lead to weight gain.

Long answer
You may have seen jars of pesto in the supermarket slapped with red and amber warning labels, indicating high levels of fat and salt respectively. That's largely down to the fact that most pesto sauces contain generous amounts of oil, nuts and cheese. All three of these are high in fat and calories – so eating too much pesto, too regularly, and not getting enough exercise can ultimately be fattening.

There is one major caveat though. There are so many pestos for sale these days that you cannot assume that they are all created equal. We've seen a truffle pesto that contains a whopping 61% fat, whilst we've seen a low-fat vegan pesto containing just 18%. Look at all the pestos for sale in the UK though, and you'll find that, on average, they have a fat content of around 35%. In anyone's book, that's clearly a very high fat foodstuff.

On the flip side, it's important to bear in mind that a little pesto goes a long way and most of the time people don’t need to use as much of it as they think. That's especially true if you stick to our recommended serving size and loosen your sauce with some of the starchy water your pasta cooked in.

Which brings us neatly onto pasta. One of the main problems with pesto is that it is mostly eaten with pasta. That means that you'll be eating a meal that is both high in fat and high in carbohydrates, and that’s not a great combination for people who are watching their weight.

Pesto is far more versatile than just being something to stir through pasta though. One of our favourite, guilt-free ways of eating pesto is to use it in place of other high-fat condiments such as mayonnaise. Pesto makes for a cracking BLT – and by switching the mayonnaise for pesto, you’ll probably find you’ll be using less and therefore actually saving calories.

It doesn't stop at sandwiches though. A little dollop of pesto can instantly improve dips, soups, marinades and so much more. We have a whole bunch of suggestions for other ways to use pesto here.