This easy cilantro pesto sauce is perfect for topping tacos, fish, chicken, and more!
Nothing screams summertime quite like fresh pesto. It's bright, flavorful, and pairs well with just about everything (salmon! chicken! grilled veggies! pesto chicken pizza! and the list goes onnnn).
We're keeping things simple and using fresh cilantro for a fun twist on a classic homemade pesto. This sauce is made without nuts (though we have some suggestions below if you'd like to add nuts!) but the cilantro packs so much flavor that you really don't need much else.
We like making this in a food processor, but you can also make it in a blender if you have a good one (you may just need to scrape the sides down a few times and add a bit of extra oil).
Pesto is extremely versatile - make a batch at the start of the week and add a spoonful to recipes all week long!
- Add it to your favorite protein. Spread a layer of pesto over salmon, chicken, or flank steak.
- Turn it into a dip. Stir a bit of cilantro pesto into a few spoonfuls of mayo for a quick aioli, fold it into some softened goat cheese for an easy cheese spread, or mix it with plain Greek yogurt for a cilantro pesto dip to serve with veggies (similar to our easy cilantro yogurt sauce!)
- Add it to pasta or pasta salads. Toss hot pasta with a few spoonfuls of this pesto and serve warm or cold! Heat pesto with a bit of heavy cream to make a thicker cream sauce for pasta or chicken.
- Drizzle it over grilled or roasted veggies. This pesto is great with grilled or roasted carrots, lemon roasted broccoli, cauliflower, and more!
- Use it as the base for homemade pizza. Make a quick pizza dough and top it with a layer of pesto, plenty of mozzarella, and your toppings of choice!
- Add it to your favorite tacos. We love this taco recipe collection from Isabel Eats!
Some of our favorite recipes to make with cilantro pesto:
- Breakfast Bruschetta
- Portobello Mushroom Pizzas
- 5 Ingredient Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Creamy Pesto Gnocchi
- Slow Cooker Pesto Chicken Sandwiches
Other pesto variations
We love using cilantro as the base for this quick pesto, but this basic recipe works well with a ton of different greens, herbs, and ingredients! Some of our favorite pesto variations:
- Arugula Pesto
- Spring Pea Pesto
- Garlic Scape Pesto
- Kale & Basil Pesto
- Pesto Rosso (Sun Dried Tomato Pesto)
Cilantro Pesto FAQs
Yes - homemade pesto freezes SO well! Freeze in individual containers or fill ice cube trays with pesto, freeze for a few hours, then pop out the pesto cubes and transfer to an airtight container. Pesto will keep 3-4 months in the freezer.
Yes! Add up to ½ cup of walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pepitas, cashews, or pistachios if you like.
For a dairy free pesto, leave the parmesan out of this recipe. You can add a teaspoon or two of nutritional yeast if you want to mimic some of that parmesan flavor, but it's also fine to just omit the parmesan entirely!
Fresh pesto will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for 3-4 months.
Nope! We do not recommend canning this recipe as it has not been tested for proper pH levels and other canning safety markers. If you would like to store your pesto long-term, we recommend freezing it.
Pesto can develop a brown layer on top when it's exposed to air. To prevent this, pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top of your pesto before freezing or refrigerating it.
- Prep Time: 3 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: Makes about 1 cup 1x
- Category: Sauce
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
This easy cilantro pesto sauce is perfect on pasta, salmon, tacos, and more!
- 3 cups fresh cilantro leaves
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil (you may not need it all)
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a food processor, combine cilantro, parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse to give everything a rough chop.
- With the food processor running, stream in olive oil a tablespoon at a time until pesto has come together. You may not need all of the olive oil – stream it in until your pesto is the consistency you want, and feel free to add additional oil if you want a thinner sauce!
- Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
How much garlic should I use? Use 2 large cloves or 3 small cloves of garlic, and feel free to use more or less depending on your tastes! If you don't love the taste of raw garlic, you can swap roasted garlic or leave it out entirely.
Additions and substitutions. Add up to ½ cup of nuts (walnuts, cashews, pine nuts, and pepitas are all good) if you like. Use kale or spinach in place of some or all of the cilantro. Swap the cilantro for fresh basil for a more traditional pesto. Leave the parmesan out for a dairy-free version (you can add 1 teaspoon of nutritional yeast in its place if you want to mimic some of that flavor, but it's good without it, too).
Serving Suggestions. Add this pesto to your favorite protein (it's great with chicken, salmon, and steak), toss it with pasta, drizzle it over grilled veggies, or add it to your favorite tacos. Read the post above for more serving suggestions!
How to freeze this pesto. This pesto freezes well. Freeze it in small airtight containers or in ice cube trays and then transfer the ice cubes to airtight containers for freezer storage.
Strict vegetarians should look for parmesan cheese made without rennet.
- Serving Size: 2 Tablespoons
- Calories: 83
- Sugar: 0.1 g
- Sodium: 3.1 mg
- Fat: 9 g
- Carbohydrates: 0.7 g
- Protein: 0.2 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: sauce, pesto, summer
This is one of my go-to sauces every summer - I always buy a ton of cilantro and never get through it fast enough, so this is a lifesaver once the greens start to wilt a bit. I've made it with and without parmesan and garlic - it's good even if you're out of a few ingredients. Love it on tacos!
Team Life As A Strawberry
We're SO happy this has become a summer favorite for you! We love the idea of putting it on tacos!
I just found your website and love it! Your pesto looks great, and I love Renee's idea of trying cashews in it. (Seems you have an abundance of Renée's reading your site!) You might also like this recipe for Cilantro-Lime Dressing on my site - http://www.whats4dinnermama.com/cilantro-lime-dressing/. I will be checking back frequently!
jaime @ laviejaime
huge cilantro fan- def want to make these!
irene from hawaii
The cilantro yogurt sauce is about to become my go-to salad dressing! Love cilantro and love greek yogurt! I think the only Mexican restaurant within 20 miles of me uses a thinner version of this for their taco salad dressing, and I sometimes crave it in my dreams, lol.
Thanks! I've started putting this pesto and yogurt sauce on everything - I like it on chicken or fish, but I also loooooove the yogurt sauce over a good chicken chopped salad with lots of veggies.
I just made the cilantro yogurt sauce, and it was fantastic! My husband loved it. Definitely exactly what I was craving. Thanks so much!
It won't let me edit my comment, but I just wanted to add that I left out the parmesan and used cashews instead of pine nuts, only because it's late here and I was out of both. I topped oven-blackened tilapia with this delicious sauce. I can't wait to try the pesto by itself when I've got some pine nuts and parmesan on hand.
Thanks for letting me know how it turned out! I'm glad you liked it - I love the idea of using cashews! I'm going to have to try that next time I make fish 🙂
Looks awesome! I love cilantro too!