Cilantro Pesto

Homemade Cilantro Pesto, made with fresh cilantro leaves, blanched almonds, red onion, serrano chile and olive oil.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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 the pesto 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

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  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: About 1 cup

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

Ingredients

  • 2 cups, packed, of cilantro, including stems
  • 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

Method

1 Toast the almonds: Heat a small skillet on high heat. When the pan is hot, add the blanched almonds in a single layer. Stir with a wooden spoon. When the almonds are fragrant and start to brown, remove them from the pan.

2 In a food processor, pulse the cilantro, almonds, onion, chile, and salt until well blended.

3 Slowly add the oil: With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.

Add more oil as needed for your use.

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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Showing 4 of 41 Comments

  • jack burton

    Love cilantro pesto. Make about a gallon of it each summer and it freezes well in ice cube trays. Pop them into a freezer bag and I am good to go for several months. I saute a couple of cubes in butter and toss with chopped cherry tomatoes and diced cucumbers and serve over pasta. Another way to use it is to saute some fresh shrimp in a couple of cubes and some butter and serve over rice. The possibilities are endless.

  • Carol

    Hi. Love the sound of your cilantro pesto but I don’t have a food processor only a blender or a magic bullet. Have you any suggestions on if I can use one of these? Hopefully Carol

  • Lisa

    Figured I could count on you for a great way to use a bunch of cilantro I had in the fridge. Luckily, I happened to have the other ingredients, too. I just whipped up a batch of this stuff, and it’s wonderful. A little kick from the pepper, but not so much as to obscure the other flavors. It was heaven on a homemade tortilla chip, and mixed into sour cream. I’m thinking I may rub it all over the pork tenderloin I’ve got thawing, too!

  • Caroline

    Mmmm, I like to make this with hazelnuts instead of almonds, and no onion or chile.

  • LiberalFoodie

    Thanks for the inspiration to this pesto! I made pork chops and potato salad with green beans for dinner last night. One of the potato salad recipes called for pre-made basil pesto and since I had cilantro on hand, I made this pesto with some changes. I blended cilantro, blanched almonds, jalapeno peppers, garlic (omitted shallots) and oil for the pesto. Mixed the pesto with potatoes and green beans. It was a huge hit with the husband and some friends we had over for dinner.

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