You’re going to LOVE this fresh and spicy Cilantro Jalapeño Pesto recipe! It’s a fun twist on traditional pesto, cheaper to make, and perfect tossed with pasta, on pizza, and more. And it only take 5 minutes to make!
What’s a girl to do when she accidentally buys an extra bunch of cilantro, when there was CLEARLY already a ton in her refrigerator? Oops.
This is the happiest mistake I’ve made in a while. Making pesto with basil is delicious, but unless you have a ton growing in your garden (someday, I will!), basil is usually expensive to buy in bulk to make something like pesto. And so, with the help of a little spicy pepper, cilantro jalapeno pesto was born!
Upon tasting it, Zach said, and I quote, “this tastes like a delicious Mexican garden!” He was right. It’s fresh, spicy, flavorful, earthy, healthy, and oh-so-delicious, without being overwhelmingly cilantro-ey. Plus, it costs about $3 to make total.
How to use cilantro jalapeño pesto
If you need more convincing, making pesto is potentially the easiest thing you will ever do. Like, ever. Put things in a food processor and press on. That’s it. Then, you can use it for a number of things, such as:
- on pasta or gnocchi
- on pizza, in lieu of tomato sauce
- on sandwiches as a spread
- on toast
- on tacos (this IS cilantro jalapeno pesto, after all!)
- as a dip
- as the base for a marinade for grilled meat or veggies
- on a baked potato
- Um I can’t think of any more at this very moment but I’m sure there are a million other ways to use this pesto! (Have any ideas…? Leave them in the comments below!)
How to make it
For this pesto, I used almonds instead of pine nuts (mostly because I had almonds in my cabinet, and not pine nuts). This is another way to make this sauce more affordable- pine nuts are pricey!
I used whole almonds, so I pulsed them in the food processor until they were somewhat ground (if you are using pre-sliced or slivered almonds, you may be able to skip this step).
Then, add a whole bunch of cilantro (remove the large stems, but don’t sweat it if you have both stems and leaves in there!), a seeded jalapeno, two whole cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper.
While the food processor is running, add olive oil until you reach the desired consistency.
Can I add cheese?
Yes! This pesto is vegan, but you can modify if you want.
Usually pesto is made with parmesan cheese. I didn’t make this pesto with cheese… mostly because I forgot! Just like I forgot I already had cilantro in my fridge. Oy.
However, my forgetfulness turned out to be another happy accident. I think this pesto is BETTER without cheese! (And that means a lot coming from me- I LOVE cheese). This pesto tastes so delicious without parmesan, and makes it vegan as well.
After I made it and realized my error, I stirred some parmesan into a little bit of the pesto, but decided I preferred it sans-cheese (make no mistake, it was still extremely tasty).
If you add cheese, I might recommend adding cotija cheese or queso fresco, which have a salty flavor but will pair better with the ingredients than parmesan.
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Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto
- Food Processor
- If using whole almonds, pulse in food processor until coarsely ground. Otherwise, skip to step two.
- Place all ingredients except for olive oil in food processor and turn on.
- While food processor is running, add olive oil (1/4 cup). If consistency of pesto is too thick, add more olive oil until you have the desired consistency.
- Storage: Store in an airtight container or jar in the fridge for one week or in the freezer for 6 months.
- How to add cheese: I recommend adding 1/2 cup of crumbled cotija or queso freso if you prefer cheese in your pesto.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools: