Pesto Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits (2024)

Pesto is a thick, green sauce that originates from Genoa, Italy. Traditionally made with garlic, pine nuts, basil, cheese, and olive oil, pesto has a strong, rich flavor. This flavorful sauce can be used as a pasta sauce, tasty dip, pizza sauce, spread, salad dressing, and more.

You can find premade pesto, including some vegan varieties, in most grocery stores. While homemade and store-bought pesto sauces can vary in nutrition facts, pesto is generally a rich source of healthy fats.

Because it is made with nutritious ingredients, pesto can be consumed as part of a balanced diet. It is also part of the Mediterranean Diet.

Pesto Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information for 1 tablespoon (16g) of pesto is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) FoodData Central.

Pesto Nutrition Facts


A spoonful of pesto contains just under 1 gram of carbohydrates. Pesto is not a significant source of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, or sugar. However, it is often paired with foods rich in carbs, such as pasta, pizza, and sandwiches.


Nearly 60% of the calories in pesto are from fats, which come from olive oil, cheese, and pine nuts. There are 9.47 grams of fats per spoonful, which includes 5.63 grams of monounsaturated fatty acids, 1.53 grams of saturated fatty acids, and 1.68 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Pesto also contains 2.56mg of cholesterol. According to the 2020-2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 20% to 35% of daily calories should come from fat.


With 1.38 grams of protein per tablespoon of pesto, this sauce is not a protein-rich food. Because it is treated as a condiment, it can be used to add flavor to other foods that are higher in protein.

Vitamins and Minerals

Pesto is typically not consumed in large amounts. Some may consume more than a serving size. Some nutrients are present. Pesto contains 33.1mg of calcium, 36.8mg of phosphorus, 31.8mg of potassium, and 9.76mg of magnesium.


A tablespoon of pesto made with parmesan cheese, basil, olive oil, salt, garlic, and pine nuts contains just under 92 calories. More than half of the calories comes from fats.

Health Benefits

Some of the ingredients in pesto—mainly olive oil—may provide some health benefits. Here are some of the potential health benefits of pesto.

May Have Antioxidant Properties

Garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and basil are rich sources of antioxidants. Diets high in antioxidants may reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

Antioxidants play a critical role in defending against free radical damage, which can lead to disease. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods like pesto on a regular basis may contribute to an increased level of antioxidants in the body, which may protect against disease.

May Have Cardiovascular Benefits

There are many health benefits of olive oil, and the reduced risk of heart disease may be one of them. Substituting other high-fat foods like margarine, butter, dairy, and mayonnaise with olive oil could lower the risk of heart disease and the risk of stroke.

Olive Oil Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

May Help Lower Cholesterol

There are four different types of fats—saturated fats, trans fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. While saturated fats may raise your LDL cholesterol levels (considered "bad" cholesterol), foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like pesto can help lower LDL cholesterol levels in the blood and can support HDL (considered "good" cholesterol) levels.

What Is Monounsaturated Fat?

May Help With Weight Management

Pesto is a traditional Italian food, and it is commonly consumed on the Mediterranean diet. Research has shown that following a Mediterranean diet can lead to long-term changes in weight and waist circumference. Pesto can be part of a nutritious lifestyle that supports healthy weight management.


Pesto traditionally contains parmesan cheese (a milk product) and pine nuts (a tree nut), which are common food allergens. It is possible that an allergic reaction may occur in people allergic to dairy products and nuts.

While parmesan cheese and pine nuts are tolerated by some people, caution is advised. Symptoms of food allergies include hives, swelling, itching, shortness of breath, stomach pain, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and lightheadedness.

You should contact a healthcare provider if you experience symptoms of food allergies. The provider can do skin testing to determine which food allergens you are allergic to.

Adverse Effects

Store-bought pesto can contain a large amount of sodium. Those following a low-sodium diet or taking any heart medications should check with their doctor before adding these products to their diet. To control the amount of sodium in your pesto, consider making a homemade pesto recipe that uses less salt.


Grocery stores generally carry several varieties of pesto. While pesto is a vegetarian-friendly sauce, vegans can look for cheese- and dairy-free versions. People who are allergic to nuts can also opt for nut-free varieties.

While basil is the main ingredient in pesto, some products are made with other herbs in its place. To have more control over the ingredients in your pesto, try a homemade recipe that aligns with your dietary preferences.

Storage and Food Safety

Store homemade pesto in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to 5 days. Check the label on your container of store bought pesto for expiration dates or best before dates.

How to Prepare

Pesto can be added as a sauce on top of any dish you desire. It is mainly associated with Italian dishes like pasta and pizza, but it can also be used as a dip, salad dressing, sandwich spread, and more.

6 Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. USDA FoodData Central. Pesto sauce.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 9th Edition.

  3. Guasch-Ferré M, Liu G, Li Y, et al. Olive oil consumption and cardiovascular risk in U.S. adults. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2020;75(15):1729-1739. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2020.02.036

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Heart healthy eating to help lower cholesterol levels.

  5. Agnoli C, Sieri S, Ricceri F, et al. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and long-term changes in weight and waist circumference in the EPIC-Italy cohort. Nutr Diabetes. 2018;8(1):22. doi:10.1038/s41387-018-0023-3

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Food allergies.

Pesto Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits (1)

By Lacey Muinos
Lacey Muinos is a professional writer who specializes in fitness, nutrition, and health.

See Our Editorial Process

Meet Our Review Board

Was this page helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

What is your feedback?

Pesto Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits (2024)


Does pesto have any health benefits? ›

Because its ingredients include olive oil, nuts, and cheese, pesto can be high in calories and fat. However, the fat is primarily unsaturated and may have heart health benefits. Pesto is also full of antioxidants that can help protect your cells from damage.

What is pesto nutrition facts? ›

According to the USDA, in 1/4 cup of pesto, there is:
  • 263 calories.
  • 6g protein.
  • 24g fat.
  • 4g saturated fat.
  • 6g carbohydrate.
  • 1g fiber.
  • 4g sugar.
  • 380mg sodium.
Jun 26, 2023

Is pesto healthier than tomato? ›

As you would expect, pesto's wider variety of ingredients means it does slightly better in the vitamin and mineral stakes. Pesto outsmarts tomato sauce in many of these, but the pasta sauce still provides a sizeable chunk of your recommended daily targets.

How good is pesto pasta for you? ›

Given all of the above, pesto can undoubtedly be considered a healthy food, and as long as you keep track of portions, it can also be part of a diet that supports a healthy weight. Pesto is nutrient-dense, and because of its fat content, it's also calorically dense.

Is it okay to eat pesto every day? ›

While homemade and store-bought pesto sauces can vary in nutrition facts, pesto is generally a rich source of healthy fats. Because it is made with nutritious ingredients, pesto can be consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Is pesto good for arteries? ›

The pine nuts and garlic used to make pesto sauce can help to normalize your blood pressure and keep your arteries healthy.

Is pesto good for the liver? ›

Good news! The weeds in the garden can contribute to this delicious pesto that provides nourishing phyto-nutrients to support our liver health. This pesto goes well on crackers, in pasta dishes, or with vegetable sticks.

Is pesto good for inflammation? ›

Traditional pesto combines garlic (which, like all alliums, is powerfully anti-inflammatory) with basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.

Is pesto healthier than mayonnaise? ›

When you compare our pesto to classic Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise, there is no doubt that ours is lower in fat and calories, higher in nutrients, and, we think, a lot tastier too! Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise contains over 700 calories per 100g, while our sauces generally clock in around half of that. So, 1-0 to pesto.

What is so special about pesto? ›

Properly made pesto tastes fresh and zingy and balanced, not muddy. Each flavor component is identifiable—the fragrant basil, the pungent garlic, the buttery olive oil and sweet pine nuts, the tangy cheeses—and yet none dominates. Basil is the star, for sure, but its perfume works in balance with the other ingredients.

Why do I love pesto so much? ›

Pesto is that wonderfully green sauce that offers a flavor that can best be described as bright and pungent, with a basil-forward, herbaceous garden aroma suspended with delicate olive oil, enriched with pine nuts (pignoli), and kicked into overdrive with Italian cheeses and garlic.

Is pesto one of your 5 a day? ›

Even though pesto is packed full of vitamins, iron, calcium, and healthy fats, sadly, it doesn't contribute anything towards your 5 a day.

Does pesto have any nutritional value? ›

Pesto is laden with antioxidants. In addition, garlic, basil, olive oil, and pine nuts are rich in antioxidants which contribute to a healthy body to protect against such risks. And a study shows that basil is a rich source of nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, and beta carotene.

How long does pesto last in the fridge? ›

Pesto will last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. If you've stored it in the freezer, it will last for 6 months. When you're ready to use frozen pesto, thaw it overnight in the fridge or place the container of pesto in a bowl of warm water for a quicker thawing time.

Is supermarket pesto healthy? ›

On its own, pesto is a healthy ingredient, especially if made fresh and contains good quality olive oil. It's a fairly unprocessed sauce, but it can have levels of salt that are verging on high, so a healthier option is to go for 'low-salt' varieties.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tish Haag

Last Updated:

Views: 5753

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (47 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tish Haag

Birthday: 1999-11-18

Address: 30256 Tara Expressway, Kutchburgh, VT 92892-0078

Phone: +4215847628708

Job: Internal Consulting Engineer

Hobby: Roller skating, Roller skating, Kayaking, Flying, Graffiti, Ghost hunting, scrapbook

Introduction: My name is Tish Haag, I am a excited, delightful, curious, beautiful, agreeable, enchanting, fancy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.