Is Pesto A Syn Food?

Making homemade syn-free pesto

Short answer
Classic basil pesto contains copious amounts of oil, nuts, and cheese, making it a high-syn food in the eyes of Slimming World. However, that doesn't mean that it's impossible to make a syn-free pesto.

Long answer
Alongside honey, avocado, and chocolate, pesto is one of the most popular syn foods that Slimming World dieters choose to treat themselves to. Just like any sauce, though, it can be hard to place a specific syn value on pesto because the recipe varies so much between different producers.

When Aldi studied the syn values of Sacla's range of pesto sauces, it found that their roasted red pepper pesto contained just 1.5 syn points per 15g, while their truffle pesto contained 4.5 syn points. On average, though, they concluded that pesto contains around 3 syns per 15g.

On that basis, if your Slimming World diet restricts you to 10 syns a day, you can enjoy our recommended serving size of 50g pesto per person completely guilt-free, providing you eat no other syn foods that day. (Luckily, pasta is a syn-free food, so you can indulge in that as much as you like.)

Although some dieters prefer to dodge the complicated syn calculations in favour of the simpler "1 syn = 20 calories" system, we don’t like that method. We're not sure how many boffins it took to develop the Slimming World plan, but there's some serious science going on behind the numbers, and we think people should either follow the diet to the letter or not bother at all.

Syn-free pesto
Sorry, dieters, but all our sauces are relatively high syn. However, that doesn't mean we're not prepared to use our pesto expertise to help you make a completely syn-free pesto at home.

The high moisture content of fresh cheese means you can get away without olive oil, but we must admit that we miss the nuttiness of classic pesto in our recipe below. At 3.5 syns per 10g, if you were to add 30g of pine nuts and follow our recommended 50g pesto serving size, you'd be consuming 3.5 syns, which we think makes for a good low-syn alternative.

Ingredients for 150g of no-syn pesto

Quark* 75g
Peas 50g
Basil 1 bunch
Garlic 1/2 clove
Lemon juice to taste
Seasoning to taste

* Feel free to substitute this for yogurt, mascarpone, or ricotta.

Add the quark, peas, basil, and garlic to a food processor and blend to your ideal consistency.

Season with a little salt and a generous squeeze of lemon, and stir through a piping hot bowl of perfectly al-dente fusilli for a completely syn-free supper.