Easy Cilantro Pesto Recipe

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Fresh cilantro (aka coriander) is one of my favorite herbs, so I love using it to make Cilantro Pesto instead of using fresh basil.

Mason jar filled with homemade cilantro pesto on a wood table.

If you haven’t had it before, cilantro pesto is a yummy twist on traditional basil pesto that will delight your taste buds. It can be used in many of the same ways, and more.

Best of all, it’s an easy recipe to make if you’re short on time and looking for something quick to make for dinner tonight! You only need a handful of ingredients and it tastes amazing with many different dishes.

Make a big batch and I know the whole family will love this sauce and its many uses.


  • 1 bunch of cilantro leaves and stems
  • 6 cloves of minced garlic
  • ½ cup of chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lime juice


  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Cheese grater
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Blender or food processor
  • Small saucepan
  • Silicone spatula

By the Numbers: How to Make Cilantro Pesto.

Follow these simple steps to learn how to make a delicious alternative to traditional basil pesto with fresh cilantro.

Step 1: Add Ingredients to Blender.

The first thing you want to do is add all of your ingredients to your blender or food processor, including 1 bunch of cilantro leaves and stems; 6 cloves of minced garlic; ½ cup of chopped pecans; ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese; ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper; ½ teaspoon of sea salt; ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil and 1 ½ tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lime juice.

Cilantro, parmesan cheese, pecans, garlic, olive oil and spices in a blender pitcher.

Step 2: Blend Ingredients.

Once you’ve added everything to your blender, blend until the sauce reaches your preferred texture and consistency.

Blended cilantro pesto in blender.

Step 3: Heat Blended Pesto.

Next, transfer the cilantro pesto to a small saucepan and heat over medium just until it begins bubbling. You’re doing this to infuse the flavors together, melt the cheese and lightly cook the garlic.

Cilantro pesto being warmed in a sauce pan.

Step 4: Serve Cilantro Pesto.

Serve your delicious cilantro pesto with your favorite gluten free pasta dish. It’s also tasty on toasted gluten free bread.

Cilantro pesto on gluten free pasta in white bowl.

Tips for Making Cilantro Pesto

Answers to all of your questions about making cilantro pesto, including tips, variations and substitution ideas.

How does it compare to traditional pesto recipes?

The ingredients are very similar, but instead of basil leaves, we use fresh cilantro leaves. While I know there are plenty of cilantro haters who think cilantro tastes like soap, I actually prefer cilantro pesto to basil pesto.

How to use cilantro pesto

Homemade pesto makes a delicious sauce for chicken or shrimp pasta. You can use it as a salad dressing, sandwich spread, topping for tacos, cracker dip, on steak, as a pizza sauce or mix it in with rice.

Substitutions and variations

Fresh pesto is a super versatile and flexible sauce. There are lots of substitutions you can make if you don’t have some of the ingredients on hand, or you like to experiment with flavors.

  1. Pecans. You can substitute pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, cashews, pistachios, almonds or any kind of nut in place of pecans.
  2. Lime juice. Lemon juice or white wine vinegar can be substituted for lime juice.
  3. Parmesan cheese. Cotija cheese can give this pesto sauce a slightly more Mexican flavor. Try nutritional yeast for a dairy free, vegan cilantro pesto.
  4. Sea salt. You can use kosher salt or any table salt.
  5. Cayenne pepper. Try crushed red peppers in place of cayenne for slightly less heat.

Make it spicier

The recipe as written has a mild heat that comes from the cayenne. If you want a spicier pesto sauce, either double the cayenne or add a chopped serrano chile to the ingredients to add some flavorful heat.

Storage tips

If you’re not going to use it right away, store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container (like a mason jar or storage bowl) for up to 3 days before using. For best results, pour more extra virgin olive oil over the pesto in the jar before refrigerating it.

Freezing cilantro pesto

The best way to freeze pesto is in ice cube trays. Then pop the pesto cubes out and store them in the freezer in a freezer-safe container like small mason jars or freezer bags.

Tips for easier meal planning

There are two easy steps to take to improve your weekly meal planning. The first is to use a meal planner so you know what you’re making each day and you know what you need to get from the store.

The second is to do grocery shopping online so you only buy what you need. Read more about where I buy produce online and order meat online if you’re looking to save time shopping.

Overhead view of jar of cilantro pesto.

Cilantro Pesto Recipe

Learn how to make the best Cilantro Pesto in this easy recipe.
4.43 from 19 votes
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Recipe Servings: 5


  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves and stems
  • 6 cloves garlic - minced
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese - grated
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice


  • Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Cheese grater
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Blender or food processor
  • Small saucepan
  • Silicone spatula


  • Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor.
    Cilantro, parmesan cheese, pecans, garlic, olive oil and spices in a blender pitcher.
  • Blend until it reaches your desired consistency and texture.
    Blended cilantro pesto in blender.
  • Warm the mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it starts to bubble.
    Cilantro pesto being warmed in a sauce pan.
  • Serve you delicious pesto with your favorite pasta or on toasted bread.
    Cilantro pesto on gluten free pasta in white bowl.

Nutrition Information Per Serving

Calories: 293kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 21g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 315mg | Potassium: 80mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 197IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 76mg | Iron: 1mg

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