Cilantro pesto is a delicious spread that adds a ton of flavor to any sandwich. It can also be used as a sauce or many other ways. This cilantro pesto recipe is very easy to make, delicious, healthy, and also affordable!
I love, love, love cilantro! I stick it everywhere and I grow a ton of it in my garden every spring. It’s fresh, it’s flavorful, and it’s healthy! It takes any dish to the next level as far as taste goes.
It’s also very affordable to get at the grocery store (in case you don’t grow it yourself). Problem is, it’s not too easy to preserve. I usually get too excited when I see beautiful, green cilantro bunches at the grocery store, or I simply plant too many plants and have a huge harvest. I try to use most of it fresh but sometimes, I simply have too much.
Cilantro Pesto Recipe…
In the past, I tried to dry cilantro. I figured that I’d use it to season food as I do with my oregano. I was surprised and a little disappointed to learn that it doesn’t really keep its taste when dry. At least not enough for me…
And so, I decided to make pesto with it. I love pesto! We always have basil pesto in the fridge, made with the delicious summer basil that I grow in the summer garden. In the spring and fall, I make carrot top pesto (yes! It’s a thing, and it’s delicious!) with young carrot tops that I have after thinning my carrot beds, and my favorite thing to do with my kale, aside from kale chips, is kale pesto.
I consider pesto a way to preserve these greens because it freezes very well. If you grow a garden, you know that when it comes to greens, there aren’t too many ways to preserve them. I sometimes steam and freeze my greens, I love making vegetarian patties with them and freeze the patties, and I love making pesto and freezing it. These are mainly the ways that I preserve any greens.
You’ll need three cups of cilantro leaves for this recipe. Since we are going to process everything in the food processor, you can definitely use some of the stem, however, I usually take the time to pluck all the leaves and use just them. The pesto gets a smoother texture if only the leaves are used.
You’ll need two cloves of garlic, but you know, garlic to any dish is like vanilla extract to any baked good. If you like garlic, feel free and add more.
Next, you’ll need 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. That’s the traditional cheese used when making pesto, but again, you can get creative and use asiago cheese or any other hard, dry cheese that you’d like. Just make sure that it’s grated before you add it to the food processor.
You’ll also need 1/4 cup of nuts. Pine nuts are the traditional kind of nuts that most pesto recipes call for, however, pine nuts are pretty expensive so I like replacing them with almond flour. You can also use whole or chopped almonds or walnuts (they work really well).
As far as seasonings, I keep it super simple with just salt and black pepper. As a guide, I add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, however, add them to taste.
Lastly, you’ll need 1/2 cup of olive oil. Try to use the best olive oil that you can put your hands on and keep in mind that the amount can change depending on how thick or runny you want your pesto. This recipe makes one cup of pesto (or one-half pint). Feel free to double or triple it.
All that you’ll need to make this cilantro pesto is a food processor, measuring cups, and measuring spoons. When your pesto is ready, you can store it in any dish you’d like; plastic or glass. I like storing my pesto in half-pint jars.
How to Make Cilantro Pesto…
Step 1 – add the cilantro, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, almond flour (or nuts of your choice), and half of the amount of the olive oil (about 1/4 cup) to the food processor. Turn the food processor on and as it’s working add the rest of the oil. Let it work until all the ingredients are processed into a paste.
Step 2 – stop the food processor and open the lid. With a spoon, scrape the sides and bottom of the food processor. This is a great time to taste your pesto and correct seasonings, it is also a great time to measure the consistency of the pesto.
Close the food processor and turn it on again. If you feel like your pesto is too thick, this is the time to add a little bit more oil.
Storing and Serving Cilantro Pesto…
Once your pesto is ready, transfer it to a plastic container or a jar and store in the fridge. Another nice thing about cilantro pesto is that it doesn’t oxidize like basil pesto so you won’t get this brown color that we often get with basil pesto. It should stay green and fresh and beautiful for a few weeks in the fridge.
You can use your pesto right away! We often spread it on homemade bread, or on crackers. Add a slice of homemade feta cheese or raw milk goat cheese on top of it, a slice of tomato and you have yourself the best breakfast ever.
I often use it to make pesto pizza. Make your own pizza dough, spread the pesto on it instead of tomato sauce, crumble your favorite cheese on it, and add your toppings. Then bake to perfection and enjoy. I venture out and say that I’ll take this kind of pizza over any other tomato pizza any day!
Cilantro pesto goes really well with almost any fish dish. If you fry your fish, add it on top when serving as a sauce. If you bake your fish, spread it on your fish before placing it in the oven.
Another idea is using it as a pasta sauce. You can add it as seasonings to an alfredo sauce to make something like an alfredo pesto sauce or just use it right on top of pasta as it is. Seasoning a cold pasta salad with it is another idea.
These are just a few ways to use it but there are so many more. It goes very well with chicken too, and many other vegetarian dishes.
How to Freeze Cilantro pesto…
Cilantro pesto freezes very well, and as I mentioned before, I use it to preserve the delicious cilantro that comes out of the garden. All you have to do is make sure that you place it in a freezer container and place it in the freezer. I use half-pint jars with a freezer lid.
It will keep just fine for up to 18 months in the freezer, however, I try to use it within a year. When you are ready to use your pesto, take it out of the freezer and set on the kitchen counter overnight to thaw, or you can thaw it slower by placing it in the fridge for a day or so. Then use it as you would have used it fresh.
This recipe is simple and quick! I love that it also allows a little bit of creativity. Try different nuts or a different kind of cheese each time. Maybe try to season it a bit differently each time. You can try adding cumin or, if you like heat, maybe cayenne pepper. Make it your own and experiment and find your favorite way of using this goodness.
More Recipes You’ll Like…
I linked above to my carrot top pesto and basil pesto. If you liked this recipe, you are going to love those as well. I’ll also suggest that you’ll give this red pepper paste a try. It’s delicious and can be used similarly to pesto. And if you are making cilantro pesto, go ahead and preserve some lemon peel in salt and oil or preserve whole lemons. Both go so, so well with cilantro pesto!
- 3 cups of cilantro leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- Add the cilantro, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, almond flour, and half of the amount of the olive oil (about 1/4 cup) to the food processor. Turn the food processor on and as it’s working add the rest of the oil. Let it work until all the ingredients are processed into a paste.
- Stop the food processor and open the lid. With a spoon, scrape the sides and bottom of the food processor. This is a great time to taste your pesto and correct seasonings, it is also a great time to measure the consistency of the pesto.
- Close the food processor and turn it on again. If you feel like your pesto is too thick, this is the time to add a little bit more oil.
- Transfer the pesto to a container and store in the fridge for a few weeks or in the freezer for up to 18 months.
Ingredients Notes -
Garlic - feel free to use more than two cloves.
Cheese - parmesan cheese is the traditional cheese that is most often used when making pesto, however, if there is another kind of cheese with similar consistency (hard and dry), you can use it instead of parmesan. Just make sure to grate it before adding to the food processor.
Seasonings - feel free to add more or less salt and black pepper to your taste. You can also try adding cumin or cayenne pepper if you’d like to add heat. Or try other seasonings. Really, anything goes.
Nuts - most pesto recipes call for pine nuts, however, they are a bit expensive so I like replacing them with almonds. Almond flour is easy to use. You can also use whole or chopped almonds or walnuts.
Olive oil - use the best you can put your hands on!
Nutrition Information:Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 125Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 155mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 1g