Cilantro Pesto

I am a HUGE fan of basil pesto and can pretty much put it on anything for flavor (which you’ll see in future posts!).  Cilantro is also something I’m a HUGE fan of, and while I know it’s one of those ingredients people either really love or really don’t love, I think it makes a perfect complement to fresh sweet corn. Have you tried this combo before?  If not, I highly recommend you try my Corn and Avocado Salad so you can try this match made in heaven.

Because cilantro is so flavorful, it can very easily take over the flavors of other ingredients in a dish, which is why cilantro is often called for in small amounts. Two things often happen to me:  1) I buy a bunch of cilantro, use a couple tablespoons of it now and then, and end up throwing the rest of the bunch away in a couple weeks because I’ve only used a fraction of it, or 2) I decide not to buy the cilantro, knowing what usually happens to it (see #1), and I miss out on that glorious flavor! 

As a solution for both issues, I came up with Cilantro Pesto, which has many uses, and can be easily frozen and pulled out whenever you need a hit of cilantro flavor. The flavor is robust, yet basic enough to be really versatile, which means I can put it on my favorite Indian dishes (curries, lentil stews, masala, etc.) as well as my favorite Mexican and Caribbean dishes (fish tacos, enchiladas, black beans and rice, etc.).

There’s a good bite of heat, balanced by the fresh clean flavor of cilantro, and the savory hit of roasted garlic, all wrapped up with lightly flavored sesame oil and pepitas. Yum!

Cilantro Pesto How-To Photos:

All it takes are 7 simple ingredients and very little time!

If you have leftover fresh cilantro, turn it into cilantro pesto. Like basil pesto, it makes a flavorful addition to salads, sandwiches, meats, and pasta.


Cilantro Pesto

Yield:  3/4 cup (12, 1-tablespoon servings)

Nutrition Info (per tablespoon):  59 cals, 1 g pro, 1 g carb, 6 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g sat fat, 0 g fiber, 50 mg sodium

1/4 cup unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seed kernels), lightly toasted
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded if desired, and cut up*
6 cloves roasted garlic, or 3 cloves raw garlic
2 cups packed fresh cilantro, large stems removed (about 1 large bunch)
1/4 to 1/3 cup untoasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1.  In a food processor combine pepitas, jalapeno pepper, and garlic. Cover and pulse until mixture is finely chopped. Add cilantro; cover and pulse until cilantro is finely chopped. With the food processor running, slowly add oil through the feed tube in the lid, processing until mixture is nearly smooth and to desired consistency. Use the lower amount of oil if you like a thicker pesto, and the higher amount for a thinner pesto. Stir in salt and season to taste with black pepper.

2.  To freeze, spoon pesto into clean ice cube trays. Cover and freeze until firm. Pop pesto cubes out of trays. Transfer cubes to a freezer bag or airtight freezer container. Freeze up to 1 year.

*Tip:  Remember to wear gloves when working with the jalapeno pepper; if not, you may regret it later, especially if you wear contact lenses, as I do!

Tip:  Make a double or triple batch of this recipe so you have plenty of Cilantro Pesto on hand!


Cilantro Pesto is similar to basil pesto but it uses mostly cilantro instead of basil. It is super versatile and can be used as a condiment on many foods (try it on chicken, fish or vegetables) or as a sauce for your favorite salad or pasta. Make a large batch anytime you have extra cilantro on hand and freeze it for another time.