Cilantro pesto

Years ago we took a mid-winter trip to Mexican beaches (that’s me in the photo). We stayed overnight in Show Low, Arizona on the way, arriving late on a Sunday evening. The only cafe open was a little Mexican place on the main street, so we ordered something off the Spanish menu, hoping we’d recognize it.

I don’t remember what we ordered, but it came with green leafy stuff on top of it, unfamiliar to a South Dakota farm kid. I thought it tasted like dish soap. Fast forward several years to a more expansive palate. We planted cilantro for the many anticipated pints of salsa we wanted to make. Once the salsa was done we paid no attention to the bolted cilantro, so the next year it came up everywhere. Our driveway passes alongside the garden. You could smell cilantro as you drove into the yard. And now I love the stuff.

This pesto can be a little bitter, so taste and adjust as necessary. Too much parsley, not enough pine nuts, or too much or low quality olive oil will contribute to bitterness.

It’s hard to eat a lot of pesto before it goes bad, so consider freezing at least some of it. Spread it out on a cookie sheet and let it freeze, then break it or cut it into pieces and store in a freezer-weight ziplock. For larger pieces freeze in an ice cube tray and transfer the cubes to a ziplock after freezing. It’s a handy taste enhancer/garnish for soups, dips (love it in hummus), dressings, or any number of Mexican-inspired dishes, especially in winter when it can be hard to find fresh.

– Joan, 10 July 2020


Cilantro pesto

  • Servings: About 1½ cups
  • Print

  • 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-4 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Strip the leaves from cilantro and parsley. Put everything into a food processor and process till it reaches desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. Use fresh, or freeze as described above.


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