Walnut Pesto Recipe and Nutrition Perks

Medically Reviewed by Elaine Magee, RD, MPH on August 21, 2014
2 min read

Fresh and beautifully bright green, pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts. This version uses walnuts.

It's easy to make:

Drop 3 unpeeled garlic cloves in boiling water and cook 45 seconds. Drain water; peel and mince cloves. Combine garlic with 1/4 cup toasted walnuts (see instructions on how to toast walnuts below), 2 cups mint leaves, 7 tablespoons olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt in a food processor. Grind until smooth, stirring in 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese at the end (substitute crumbled feta cheese, if you like). Serve over grilled fish or toss with whole wheat pasta.

The recipe comes from Felice Bogus, whose daughter, Margalit, didn't like walnuts in trail mix.

"When Margalit was little, one of the first solid foods she loved, and never stopped loving, was pesto," Bogus says. "So that was the logical entry point." Margalit didn’t notice the difference when her mom swapped the pine nuts that traditionally used in pesto for walnuts.

An ounce of walnuts provides 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and lots of antioxidants.

Walnuts are also high in "good" fats (1 ounce has 13 grams of polyunsaturated fat plus a plant-based omega 3-fatty acid called ALA).

The thin "skin" -- the pellicle -- around the nutmeat has tannins, which some people don't like tasting.

Toasting the nuts mellows the taste, adds crunch, and enhances aroma. Preheat your oven to 350 F and spread 2 cups of nuts in a single layer. Bake 8 to 10 minutes.

You can also mix walnuts into smoothies and sprinkle them on cereals, yogurt, and salads. Or grind them to use as a crust for fish or poultry.

For a tasty alternative to peanut butter, put 2 cups of toasted walnuts in a food processor and pulse until paste-like. Add a pinch of salt and slowly add 2 teaspoons walnut oil until the butter binds together.