Cilantro Pesto

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

Cilantro Pesto
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 in a bowl
Elise Bauer

Cilantro Pesto

Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Servings 5 to 8 servings
Yield 1 cup

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


  • 2 cups packed 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 extra virgin olive oil

Special Equipment

  • Food processor


  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.
    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer
  3. Slowly add the oil:

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

    Elise Bauer
    Elise Bauer

    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.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
114 Calories
11g Fat
2g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 114
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 15%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 202mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 2mg 9%
Calcium 27mg 2%
Iron 0mg 3%
Potassium 92mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.