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Reflux-Friendly Pesto Recipe

UGH!  I can’t eat ANYTHING!!!”  That was my feeling pretty much every day after being diagnosed with severe acid reflux.  Food is one of my great passions and I already deal with a restricted diet due to food allergies, so the thought of having to give up even more foods seemed like enough to push me over the edge.  I wanted spicy foods, and fried foods, and basically all the things that would trigger my reflux.  After several weeks of having literally nothing other than salt on my noodles for pasta night, I’d had enough!  I got in the kitchen and played around with various ingredients until I perfected this Reflux-Friendly Pesto recipe for you!

You're going to love this reflux-friendly and low FODMAP pesto recipe! Put it on your pasta, pizza, or even sandwiches!

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Special Ingredients

A lot of the ingredients in this pesto are pretty standard, like basil and nuts or seeds.  There are a few specialty items that you’ll need to pick up to make this as reflux-friendly as possible, though.

  • Garlic Oil: Garlic is a known trigger for acid reflux  so the standard standard pesto recipes are out.  Most people with acid reflux and even IBS can tolerate garlic-infused oil.  Since you’re going to need some olive oil for your pesto anyway, replacing that with garlic oil kills two birds with one stone!
  • Aquafaba: Aquafaba is just about the coolest thing ever.  It’s literally just the liquid from a can of beans (usually chickpeas, but any bean can work).  It can take the place of egg whites to whip up in meringues or mayonnaise, or in this case it case it can substitute for some of the oil in your pesto.  Since heavy amounts of fat can be hard on reflux, replacing half the oil with aquafaba gives you a delicious pesto that’s easier on your stomach.
  • Sumac:  I’m not talking about the plant that’s going to leave you all kinds of itchy.  This sumac is a spice that is commonly used in middle eastern cooking.  It’s delicious and can add a great pop of color to a dish.  It also has tangy notes to it’s flavor that are very similar to citrus.  Pesto usually calls for lemon juice, but that’s not the best plan with acid reflux, so sumac takes it’s place in this recipe.

Ingredient Substitutions

Substitutions are basically my daily life.  Between food allergies, food intolerances, and sensory issues, I’m always playing around with dishes to make things fit our needs best.  So, while you see a lot of recipe creators admonishing anyone who might even *think* of substituting any ingredients, you’ll never find that here.  I’ll even give you a few easy swaps for this reflux-friendly recipe.

  • Seeds:  My pesto recipe calls for pumpkin seeds (shelled ones, also known as pepitas).  I love them because you get a nutty quality without having the nuts that some people are allergic to.  If you can have nuts and would rather use those, go for it!  Great options here are pine nuts, pecans, and almonds.
  • Dairy-Free Cheese:  Several people in our house can’t have any dairy, so I designed this recipe to be dairy-free by using a vegan Parmesan cheese alternative.  You don’t have to make this a dairy-free pesto, though.  I have made it with pecorino romano (a sheep’s milk cheese) and it would work equally well with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Basil:  Basil is obviously the traditional choice for pesto.  It’s not the only choice for making a deliciously herby sauce, though.   You could swap it out for a number of other herbs such as parsley or cilantro, or even for other leafy greens such as arugula.

How to Use Reflux-Friendly Pesto

Pesto is actually a surprisingly versatile ingredient.  In college I *might* have just used it as a dip for pepperoni on a few desperately busy nights.  It’s up to you whether you give that a try, but definitely give these options a try.

  • Pasta: Obviously the most common use for pesto is as a pasta sauce.  All you have to do is save a little bit of the pasta cooking water and mix that with about 1 tbsp of your pesto per portion of pasta.  toss that together in a pan with your cooked noodles and you’re ready to go!
  • Pizza:  You can still have pizza…with sauce…even if you have reflux!  This is what I always use on pizza night now.  Mix roughly equal amounts of pesto sauce and cream cheese (regular or dairy-free).  Then just spread that on your pizza crust like you would any other sauce!
  • Sandwiches: I love having fun sandwich spreads.  Pesto makes a flavor-packed alternative to mayonnaise.  Spread it on your bread or put it in a wrap for a tasty lunch.
Enjoy Pesto Today

You are going to absolutely love this reflux-friendly pesto recipe!  Run to the store and grab yourself some basil and whip up a batch.  Better yet, grow some basil of your own to get pesto that’s as fresh as possible!  You can even freeze it so that you’ll have pesto to use for months to come!

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  1. Put your basil, cheese, pepitas, salt, and sumac in your food processor and pulse until it forms a cohesive paste.
  2. Combine your garlic oil and aquafaba and drizzle into the food processor while it is running. Continue to run until everything is well combined.
  3. Transfer the pesto to a clean jar and top with a coating of olive oil. It will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. You can also transfer it to ice cube trays and freeze it for later use.
  4. *Feel free to substitute a dairy-based cheese such as Parmesan or Pecorino Romano. You can also substitute any nut or seed you like for the pepitas.


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