This Cilantro Pesto recipe is a fresh and vibrant twist on pesto with cilantro and lime instead of basil and lemon. Made with only 5 ingredients and 5 minutes, this unique homemade pesto has southwest-forward flavors and works perfectly on so many dishes like fish, shrimp, tacos, vegetables, and more.
Cilantro Pesto recipe
This Cilantro Pesto recipe is super unique and downright addictive. Think of it between a twist of classic pesto and chimichurri sauce, for a bright and flavorful pesto with southwest or Mexico-inspired flavors like cilantro and lime. The intense flavor is special and so good.
It's made with just five ingredients - cilantro, almonds, pesto, lime, and garlic- and in just five minutes this super versatile sauce or condiment goes great with so many different recipes.
It's great with any recipe that cilantro and lime would go with. You can serve it with pasta like traditional pesto or use it as a topper, spread, or sauce for many Mexican dishes. Drizzle it on Shrimp Tacos or Taco Bowls, spread it on Black Bean Quesadillas, or serve it with Grilled Shrimp or Blackened Mahi Mahi, and more. You can also mix it into salads like this Black Bean Salad or Tex Mex Pasta Salad. It's also great as just a dip with tortilla chips. The possibilities for this super flavorful dish are endless.
Also unlike traditional pesto with parmesan cheese, this Cilantro Pesto is dairy-free and vegan! It's also low-carb, keto, paleo, gluten-free, and vegetarian.
Can you substitute cilantro for basil in pesto?
Yes, you can substitute cilantro for basil in pesto. The flavor is totally different though and it doesn't taste like traditional basil. Basil has a sweet clove-like flavor, and cilantro has a very distinct sour taste. Using cilantro in pesto can be done, but you get a totally different sauce. I recommend not following a traditional pesto recipe, but following this one with some other tweaks like using lime and leaving out the parmesan cheese.
It's a delicious pesto, just not the same as basil pesto.Yum! Homemade Cilantro Pesto from Running in a Skirt. Click To Tweet
Why You'll Love this Vegan Cilantro Pesto recipe...
- This vegan cilantro pesto recipe is a fabulous sauce that's a flavor explosion! It brightens up any dish you add it to.
- This homemade pesto is so much better than anything you'll buy at the store.
- This pesto is more economical than a basil pesto because cilantro is cheap! I also swap out pine nuts for almonds, to keep this recipe very reasonable in price.
- It's super easy to make in a food processor in less than 5 minutes.
- This recipe checks all the health boxes - vegan, dairy-free, vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb, paleo, and keto.
- Have a bunch of leftover cilantro? This is the perfect way to use it.
- You can make it ahead of time and freeze it like traditional pesto.
- It's an unexpected flavorful topper for Mexican dishes!
- Did I mention it is SO DARN GOOD??
Here's an overview of what you'll need to make this Cilantro Pesto recipe, but keep scrolling for the full recipe amounts.
- Cilantro: You'll need fresh cilantro to make the pesto. The recipe calls for packed leaves which means you push them down into the measuring cup to make sure you get a full two cups. You can include the cilantro leaves and some of the tender stems. I do cut off the harder middle stems. You'll also want to rinse and dry the cilantro to make sure you aren't making your pesto with dirt. Fresh herbs make all the difference.
- Almonds: I like to use almonds for this pesto because they are easy to find, healthy, and have a fairly neutral taste. You can use whole or pieces since they are getting chopped up anyway. Almonds are actually super healthy too and are a great source of healthy fats like monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. You could also use pepitas, sunflower seeds, walnuts
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is where the flavor is! Use a real fresh garlic bulb. You need two garlic cloves (the smaller part inside of the bulb) peeled. You can pop them in the food processor whole and let the machine do the work of chopping them up.
- Lime: Traditional pesto recipes use lemon juice or no citrus, but I like to pair cilantro with lime. It really gives this a unique flavor that allows it to pair well with more Mexican and Southwest dishes. You can substitute lemon juice, but I do love the lime here.
- Olive Oil: I like to use extra virgin olive oil for this for the best results. I like this one.
- Salt: I add kosher salt to taste but don't add black pepper to my pesto.
This is an overview of the instructions to make this Cilantro Pesto recipe, but the full detailed printable recipe is below in the recipe card.
- The easiest way to make homemade pesto is with a good food processor. Add the fresh cilantro, peeled garlic cloves, almonds, lime, and olive oil to the food processor. If you don't have a food processor, you could also use a high-speed blender.
- Do a few pulses and then process the pesto sauce for several minutes until the pesto is well combined. Occasionally stop the processor and scrape the sides down to make sure it's all mixed in. Be patient until you get the right pesto consistency, but don't over-blend because it could turn bitter.
- Add salt to taste.
- Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
I love this Cilantro Pesto recipe as written, but here are some fun variations.
- Make it Cheesy: I don't think it needs cheese, but if you want you could add some cotija cheese. The recipe would be creamier! I'd skip the traditional parmesan cheese though.
- Make it Spicy: Add some chopped jalapeno peppers.
- Add Onions: You can also bring more intense flavors to the pesto by adding some red onion.
- Add Greens: You can make this with other salad greens including arugula or spinach. Just be sure to leave at least a half cup of cilantro to keep the flavor.
- Make a Large Batch: Click the 2X or 3X on the recipe card below to easily double or triple the recipe for a crowd. It also freezes great so make some extra to store in the freezer. Since cilantro is so economical, this is easy to do!
Storage & Leftovers
Cilantro Pesto keeps well for making ahead and leftover. Leftover pesto can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
Cilantro Pesto freezes great and it's a great way to have some to use later. After making the pesto, put it in ice cube trays and freeze. Once the pesto is frozen, remove the cubes from the trays and store them in a freezer bag or airtight container. When you need pesto, just pop out one cube and use it. You can keep frozen pesto for up to three months. I love doing this to easily add flavor to future recipes with very little fuss.
Why is my cilantro pesto bitter?
Cilantro pesto or any pesto can turn bitter if you over-process it in the food processor. Olive oil contains polyphenols coated in fatty acids, which can get squeezed out if you blend the pesto too much. The answer is to blend it just to the desired consistency and then stop the blender. No need to over-blend it.
What can I do with a lot of cilantro?
This recipe is the perfect use for a bunch of cilantro. It's bright and flavorful and has so many uses. You can also freeze it after you prepare the pesto to preserve it.
Cilantro Pesto recipe is Unique, Flavorful, and Easy!
This Vegan Cilantro Pesto recipe is truly a unique addition to your family meal plan. It's flavor packed and can add some life to so many boring dinners. Use it with eggs, as a sandwich spread, with a quesadilla, or even drizzled over vegetables. You can even use it as a fun salad dressing. I stir some into frozen vegetables for a crazy simple side dish for the family.
You can also make Cilantro Pesto Pasta with this by mixing this recipe with one box of your favorite pasta. Keep it simple or add a protein like tofu, shrimp, pork, steak, or chicken to round out the meal.
And if you'd like to add it to a recipe, here are some ideas.
Serve it With:
- Pesto Gnocchi
- Roasted Asparagus
- Easy Lemon Pesto Salmon
- Shrimp Taco Bowl
- Grilled Honey Lime Shrimp
- Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos
- Shrimp Tacos
- Ahi Tuna Tacos
- Homemade Tostada
- Blackened Mahi Mahi
- Blackened Swordfish
- Black Bean and Avocado Quesadilla
- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad
- Pesto Zoodles
Yum! Homemade Cilantro Pesto from Running in a Skirt. Click To Tweet
More Pesto Recipes to Try:
- In a food processor, add the cilantro, peeled garlic cloves, almonds, lime, and olive oil.
- Pulse the food processor and then blend for several minutes until the pesto is well combined. Occasionally stop the processor and scrape the sides down to make sure it's all mixed in.
- Salt to taste.
- Enjoy or store in the fridge.
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