Is Pesto Whole30 Compliant?

Tofu, a good alternative for cheese on the Whole30 diet

Short answer
No, unfortunately most pesto sauces are not suitable for eating on the Whole30 diet due to their cheese content. However, some vegan versions that substitute the cheese for tofu or nutritional yeast are fine to be eaten on the diet.

Long answer
We're not fans of fad, weight-loss diets, but that’s not what the Whole30 plan is about. Rather than being designed for people to lose weight, the plan (which boasts millions of followers all over the world) is designed for those who want to give their body a nutritional reset by following 30 days of clean, healthy eating.

The diet is not without its critics. After all, any food plan that bans superfoods such as lentils whilst at the same time encouraging meat consumption is not something that has curried favour with doctors, vegans or climate change campaigners.

When it comes to pesto and Whole30, there's mixed news, so let's get the bad news out of the way first. Dairy is one of the foodstuffs - along with artificial sugar, grains, alcohol, legumes and additives - that must be avoided on the diet. This means that you cannot simply follow traditional pesto recipes because they contain Pecorino and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses which are made from sheep's and cow's milk respectively.

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Not only do Whole30 dieters have to avoid most pesto sauces, but they must also avoid pasta too. Some people try and cheat the system by using gluten-free or whole wheat pasta, but even these are not allowed. You'd think that pasta made from cassava flour (which is an allowed Whole30 foodstuff) would be a safe bet, but this falls fowl of the plan's "Pancake Rule". This rule dictates that you must avoid foods which you may traditionally have looked to for comfort. So there goes pizza, ice-cream, and biscuits too.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope. With more and more vegan pestos being launched - most of which switch the cheese for tofu or nutritional yeast - you can eat these within the Whole30 framework without any problems. Always read the label though; there are so many different types of pesto out there which may contain some unexpected ingredients - so always check before indulging.

Unfortunately, we can't do much to help you out with the pasta-ban. The nearest you're going to get is vegetable noodles, with courgette, squash and carrot being among the most popular. Don't lose heart though, the diet only lasts for 30-days, so you can start to introduce some of your favourite non-Whole30 foods the second your diet finishes.