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Cilantro pesto in a small glass bowl.

Cilantro Pesto

  • Author: Jessie
  • 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
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (you may not need it all)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a food processor, combine cilantro, parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse to give everything a rough chop.
  2. 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!
  3. 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 1/2 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.

Keywords: sauce, pesto, summer