Cilantro Pesto


I have, over the years, attempted to grow cilantro several times. Each time the plants bolted before I got much use out of them. This year I planted a bunch of seed in October, when the scorching Sacramento summer weather cooled down, and the plants have been thriving for months. As the cilantro gets more mature, the stems thicken and the leaves get much bigger, signaling “pre-bolt” and a good time to make cilantro pesto. Unlike basil pesto, this pesto requires no Parmesan or garlic. The complementary flavors are red onion and serrano chile instead. Also, almonds are used instead of pine nuts. Almonds seem to enhance the flavor of the cilantro, rather than compete with it. Use with pasta, as a filling, or with chicken in tacos. Some of this batch got mixed in with some cottage cheese for a delicious tortilla chip dip.

Cilantro Pesto Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes

You can add more serrano chiles if you like things hot. A full teaspoon will give you a nice, warm pesto.


  • 2 cups, packed, of cilantro, large stems removed
  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped and seeded serrano chile
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


In a food processor, pulse the cilantro, almonds, onion, chile, and salt until well blended. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.

Add more oil as needed for your use.

Makes about 1 cup.

Whatever you don't use, you can freeze. Line a ice cube tray with plastic wrap and fill in the individual cube spaces with the pesto. Freeze and remove from the ice tray, put in a sealed freezer bag for future use.

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Cilantro in our garden

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Showing 4 of 42 Comments

  • Brianna

    added some sour creme and garlic and did not use the Serrano pepper i loooooooooooooooved it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Debbie McCarrick

    Wanted to make a pesto out of cilantro and Googled some recipes. Found yours and since I already subscribe to Simply Recipes decided to go with that one. Made a double batch and served it on Chicken and Jack quesadillas with a dollop of sour cream and diced tomatoes and avocados.

    It was wonderful! My son has been eating the leftovers with Juanitas tortilla chips. Next time I am going to try pepitos instead of almonds as my niece suggested. Apparently they made it like that in culinary school one time and she said it was really good!

    Thanks for a great recipe!

  • Pooja Pillai

    This is fantastic! I was initially worried because cilantro is such a strong, distinctive flavour and I was worried it wouldn’t go with Pasta at all. But the almond is a wonderful companion to cilantro and I must say the results were simply delicious!

  • Kimberly

    Great recipe. I used cashews instead of almonds. This might sound crazy, but it’s what they use in the yummy cilantro dipping sauce at The Kona Grill.

  • ginny

    I used a chopstick and spoon trying to stir and mixed the bottom which already blended to those of the top which has not, but unsuccessful. So I end up putting some water, lemon juice and vinegar, and got all blended and mixed. It turn out not as beautiful and green as yours. I will give another try by using a spatula next time. Thank You

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