Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jun 25, 2011 01:24 PM

Less Fattening Pesto Sauce?

I have a ton of fresh basil. Any ideas for a sauce that isn't quite as fattening as pesto? I'd like to serve it with grilled scallops. Thank you.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. What is it in pesto that is too fattening? If it is the olive oil, what would use instead of one the healthiest oils? Off the wall I would suggest low fat yogurt if you do not worry about being concerned that it is not typically Italian. Pine nuts are now so expensive that companies which produce commercial (store bought) pesto are substituting walnuts.

    23 Replies
    1. re: ChiliDude

      I wonder if you could do a pesto that was just a scant few drops of oil plus a bit of water, if the olive oil is indeed the problem? I'm thinking of course texture would suffer (as would flavor) but maybe the OP is used to such sacrifices if the amount of olive oil ingested (from what is typically a small serving) is enough to cause concern.

      FWIW, pesto should be about 80 calories per tablespoon according to

      In other news, ever since the pinenut mouth scare I tend to use whatever nut sounds good at the time, alternating between walnuts and pecans.

      1. re: shanagain

        I had pinenut mouth and it was awful! I haven't bought them since.

        1. re: DaisyM

          don't buy the chinese pine nuts.

          1. re: alkapal

            Is it just the Chinese pinenuts? I have some non-Chinese ones, but am afraid to use them. Are all others safe?

            1. re: Isolda

              the reports and threads on this have identified the chinese ones as the culprits.

          2. re: DaisyM

            me too! I had it for two weeks. Everything that I ate tasted bitter. For folks who love the taste of food it was AWFUL!!

            I have not tried pine nuts since. I am so worried that now that I have had it once I may have it again..........

            1. re: rjlebed

              I had never even heard of "pine mouth" until this happened to me. I haven't eaten any since.

              1. re: DaisyM

                Well, I had the very same experience. I was actually relieved to find out I could attribute it to the pine nuts. I was worried that I was sick....... Whew!!

                1. re: DaisyM

                  WTF? I have also never heard of pine nut mouth!!! I am going to do some searching now...freaky.

          3. re: ChiliDude

            Uh any kind of oil is equally fatty (100% fat). Some oils may have different balances of types of fats, but overall, mechanically extracted olive oil is probably one of the "healthiest" oils. Reducing the oil / nut content will probably reduce pesto's fat content somewhat (and reducing or eliminating the cheese, if you use it), but I wouldn't worry about the amount of fat in pesto to start with.

            You could also make a basil nage of some sort, and drizzle it over / around.

            1. re: will47

              I agree. You can make a simple basil sauce (not technically a pesto, of course) with a small amount of oil, lots of basil and a touch of salt - no nuts or Parmesan to suck up more of the oil.

              1. re: chefathome

                I found a recipe for pesto using chicken broth instead of olive oil. I ended up using just a teaspoon of olive oil and chicken broth, along with walnuts and parm. It was really good and very light. Just a dab on the grilled scallops.

                1. re: DaisyM

                  "Just a dab on the grilled scallops."

                  If all you used was a dab, may I ask why you needed a less fattening pesto sauce?

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    i was sort of wondering that as well, particularly since the scallops themselves are virtually fat-free.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Dealing with some family health issues.

                      1. re: DaisyM

                        gotcha. well i won't pull us too far off-topic here, but i can't think of a health "issue" in which one would benefit from eating aged cheese and nuts but not olive oil. anyway, i'm just glad you worked it out and got tasty results :)

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          I'm trying to reduce the fat and salt in recipes for health reasons while still making them delicious. So, low sodium chicken broth plus less oil, parm cheese and walnuts. Not going crazy with this...but the little changes to recipes are really working.

                          And I really appreciate everyone who gives me help. I always feel like I've got these generous souls hovering around me. Nice feeling.

                          1. re: DaisyM

                            ah, if sodium is a concern, definitely watch the cheese...lotta salt lurking in there! as Emme suggested, try replacing part or all of it with nutritional yeast - you'll get some of that umami flavor without the salt & fat.

                            1. re: DaisyM

                              We're not on a special diet or anything, but I've found that chicken broth can cut some of the bitterness of basil in a way that olive oil can't. Sometimes intense basil can be bitter, at least to me.

                            1. re: DaisyM

                              As mentioned in previous posts, olive oil is nearly 100% good fat. Almost all of the fat is very healthy and nutritious with the exception of maybe 2 grams per tablespoon. It's actually probably more heart healthy to stick with olive oil than chicken broth because the broth likely carries a good amount of sodium. I don't want to beat a dead horse here, but eliminating olive oil usually doesn't result in better health. Hope this helps.

                              1. re: tzanghi

                                I use low sodium chicken broth.

                2. Every time I have tried to make a pesto with water, yogurt, whatever I try instead of full olive oil I find that I am disappointed in the dish and eventually have to have it the full fat way. So now I just use less and have it less frequently but when I do there is no skimping.

                  1. You get a different result, but in a quest like yours, I have replaced most of the oil with artichoke hearts. You end up with an artichoke/basil pesto-y thing that is actually quite good, and would be great with scallops.

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: katecm

                        I do the same as katecm, but use frozen green peas instead of artichoke hearts. Just boil until thawed and bright green, then strain and dump right into the food processor with the basil. Sometimes I include the parmesan and nuts (again, sometimes the traditional pine nuts, but I've also had success with walnuts and pistacchios), other times it's just peas and basil. Depending on what consistency you're looking for, I thin kmine with chicken broth or water from the peas.

                        It's by no means authentic pesto, obviously, but I love the texture and the mild, sweet flavor of the peas paired with the bright flavor of the basil. I usually make a big batch and then freeze it to use again in the depths of winter for a quick hit of summer.

                      2. I use hummus as a pesto base. The texture is a little different but you'll become accustomed to it. I also use hummus instead of mayo in tuna salads.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: shecrab

                          That would have been my suggestion, though I have never tried it.....cooked beans of some sort in place of most of the oil.

                        2. If it's the cheese rather than the oil that's put you off, a really nice herby sauce is to blend/process together basil and mint (lots of both) and a bit of fresh thyme, marjoram, oregano etc to taste and smoothen out with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil. No pine nuts (or other nuts). I like it drizzled over tomatoes but I'm sure a basil and mint only version would go well with scallops (based on the amount of recipes I've seen pairing mint and scallops, I've never actually eaten them! Maybe this will be the summer I fix that)