Oil-Free Pesto

Pesto, Oil-Free Pesto

As promised, I have an oil-free pesto recipe for you this week.

I really like pesto and it’s a pretty healthy food, except for all the oil in it.  Some pesto recipes contain as much as 3/4 cup of oil (per 2 cups basil).  And while my Slimmed-Down Pesto has a lot less than that, if you’re trying to reduce how much oil you eat, pesto probably isn’t on your menu.

100% Refined Fat

Even so-called “healthy” oils, like olive oil and coconut oil, are still a refined food.  To get oil, the whole foods (olives, coconuts, walnuts, etc.) must be processed and stripped of most of their beneficial nutrients (fiber, calcium, iron, etc.). The result is a concentrated source of calories without the nutrients to manage those calories.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m not overly concerned about calories and fat grams, but I am concerned about eating too many refined and processed foods – including refined fat. And in traditional pesto recipes, that’s where most of the calories and fat grams come from!

Oil-Free Pesto to the rescue!

Oil-Free Pesto

Oil-Free Basil Pesto

Not your traditional pesto, but a delicious and healthy alternative.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Condiment
YIELD 1 cup
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  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts - or pine nuts โ€“ divided
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt - scant
  • 2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup mashed ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup cooked white beans with liquid - or mashed silken tofu
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice - scant


  • Place 1/4 cup walnuts, garlic, and salt in food processor and process until coarsely ground.
  • Add remaining nuts, basil, white beans (or tofu), avocado, and lemon juice and process until nuts and basil is finely chopped. Serve immediately.

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  1. Hi Jennifer:

    Is this oil-free pesto meant to be a dip or can it be mixed with pasta and served as a main course?

  2. As a nutrition and dietetics student, it irks me when people pertain fat or oils as something unhealthy and must be avoided. True, there are fats to avoid (trans fat and some saturated fat) but MUFA (olive oil is predominantly MUFA) is essential to health. Fat is just as important as fiber or any other nutrient though it does need to be taken at moderation. But I do like this no-oil recipe of yours and am going to try it out for one of my classes when they require us to find recipes for people with diet restrictions.

    1. Most so-called “wisdom” being taught to people these days is not science-based. Just because a lecturer tells you something, that doesn’t make it so. Learn to investigate and think for yourself. Extracted oils are similar to extracted sugars. You can eat fruit until the cows come home and you will not get fat or have a blood sugar problem. Remove the juice and drink that, and you have a problem. Even oils contained in very oily food like olives, avocado, nuts, etc, have to be avoided if you have circulatory disease. Investigate the brachial artery test. Oil in your bloodstream prevents the action of nitric oxide to repair the one cell thick epithelial lining of all your blood vessels. It’s a nasty substance and this myth of “good” fats continues to be perpetrated by the ignorant. Look at the “Blue zones” and see how much oil and animal foods are consumed in those.

  3. Hi Austin,

    Indeed, fats are an essential part of a healthy diet.

    However, there is a difference between refined (processed) fats (such as oils, margarine, etc.) and fats that come in whole foods (avocados, nuts, etc.)

    While some oils are healthier than others, all oils are refined (processed) and contribute to weight gain and other health problems to one degree or another.

    For the best health, the fats in our diet should be mostly unrefined fats – fats from whole foods.

    Here are some other posts you may be interested in:

    Why I Don’t Have Nutrition Info for My Recipes
    Butter vs Margarine
    The Truth About Butter
    Are All Calories Created Equal

  4. This sounds wonderful! Can it be frozen for later use- I’m thinking it would be a tasty treat this winter.

    1. That’s a good question. Since it gets devoured pretty quickly, I’ve never tried freezing it, so I don’t really know. I’ll try to pick up an avocado this weekend and try freezing some and let you know.

      1. Hi Maureen,

        I made some Oil-Free Pesto last week, put it in the freezer and kept it there for several days. It stayed a beautiful bright green and looked like it handled freezing just fine.

        But then when I took it out of the freezer to thaw, the top layer started turning brown. It tasted great, but the color of the top 1/4 inch was definitely off.

        I may try again, this time putting a layer of plastic wrap on top of the pesto to protect it from air and see how that works.

  5. Have had Pesto in the past and couldn’t abide the ‘greasy’ taste.
    I think I will HAVE to try this.
    If I like it, may I keep it in my private collection? Would be easier to find.

  6. Just fyi.. tofu is a refined soy product and worse than olive oil and coconut oil for reproductive health especially.

    1. Indeed, tofu is refined. It’s made by blending soybeans with water and then adding a coagulating agent like lemon, and then straining much of the liquid out of it. However, this processing is minimal and it still retains much of the fiber and other nutrients.

      Oil, on the other hand, is stripped of ALL of the fiber that was in the food it originally came from and most of the nutrients as well. All oils are very, very highly processed.

      I’ve made tofu at home; it’s quite simple because the process is minimal. Oil is a completely different story.

  7. 5 stars
    I just made this and it is amazing! I hope it does freeze well because I would like to make a big batch and keep some on hand. Itโ€™s more like a spread, with the consistency of hummus. Thanks for sharing!

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