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

Showing 4 of 42 Comments

  • Kalyn

    Cilantro is my all time favorite flavor. You’re so lucky (smart!) to have figured out how to grow it successfully. It gets so hot in Utah that I’ve never been able to grow it very well, but recently I had the idea of attempting it in a little strip of flowers on the west side of my house, where it’s shady some of the day. I’m going to experiment with that this summer to see if I can get at least one good crop. I’ll just mix it in with the taller flowers. I’m hoping it will work.

    This pesto sounds just wonderful. I freeze my basil pesto in ice cube trays too and use it all winter.

  • Caroline

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

  • Lauren

    Sounds really tasty! I wonder how it would taste in some guacamole? Pretty darn good, I’ll bet. And a good idea of something to do with the rest of those huge bunches of cilantro that you get at the store. Mine always go bad before I can use all of it.

  • Tammy

    MMM, I bet this would also be delicious stirred into chicken or vegetable soup to give it an almost tortilla-soup-like flavor. There’s an Italian vegetable/bean soup (Can’t remember the name) that works the same way– stir in a tablespoon of basil pesto riht before serving. Delish.

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