Cilantro Pesto

I can hear the “boos and hisses” already! I know that some eaters absolutely despise cilantro, avoiding it at all costs, but bear with me! Admittedly, I didn’t like cilantro for many years, but through time it has become a favorite herb, although one that is used sparingly. It always seems when I buy a bunch, though, it always ends up forgotten in the bottom of the veggie bin until I discover it as a black, slimy mess. But this recipe solves this problem!

I became familiar with cilantro pesto several years back from a colleague of mine. And while I was skeptical, I was a convert after that first bite. You make this just like its Italian counterpart, but to me, the flavor has a little zing to it. A squirt of lemon juice at the end was perfect. And I think a lot of the cilantro “flavor” is lost with the mixing of the nuts, garlic, and cheese. I added some green beans when I was cooking the pasta which added a nice crunch. I find taking the leaves off the stems a bit tedious, but you can take off just the woody end pieces, as the more delicate stems are edible. With the farmers market booming and overflowing with fresh garlic, veggies, and herbs, now is a perfect time to try this out!

Helpful Kitchen Hint: If you are gluten-intolerant, you can use this pesto on meat, fish, or even as a dip with veggies or chips!

Of course, the real test is with the eater of the house, a self-confessed cilantro hater. I put out two different kinds of pesto, cilantro and basil. When I went to clean up the kitchen, guess which one was gone? He will say it was because he was starving, but I think it’s because he liked it!


Cilanto Pesto
2 medium garlic cloves
1 cup, lightly packed cilantro leaves
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon warm water
½ cup shredded parmesan or Asiago cheese
1 Tablespoon pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds), toasted if desired
1 squirt fresh lemon juice

This recipe is all in the blender. Add the garlic cloves down the chute with the blades set at chop. Add the cilantro, oil, water, and cheese, and pulse until it is a thin paste. Add the pine nuts and lemon juice. Pulse until it all comes together. Add a little more water or oil if it is too thick.

12 thoughts on “Cilantro Pesto

  1. I will have to try this pesto even though I have to admit I’m not a big fan of cilantro. I have already made the basil pesto this year and it was so yummy. 🙂

    • Basil pesto this time of year is a weekly dinner, although I honestly could eat it every night, I love it so much! It would definitely be part of my “last supper,” if I ever had one! 🙂

      • Marta, so sorry for the late response, I was away without wi-fi this weekend! Yes, I put the green beans with about 3-4 minutes left of cooking with the pasta. I wanted them still a bit crisp and not completely “done” so there was still a little crunch left. You can always steam them, too! 🙂

  2. Who’d have known you could make pesto with cilantro. I’ll have to try it as the man of my house also does not like it…I’ve always thought moderation but this does look and sound delicious!

    • Carol this makes a small batch and keeps a while in the fridge, so if you’re the only one eating it, I think you’d be safe. You can always freeze it, too! Just put in a small container, and top with some cellophane. A bit of summer in mid-January! 🙂

  3. I love cilantro so I know I’d like this. What about lime juice instead of lemon—since lime is what goes into so many Mexican dishes with cilantro??

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