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
- 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.
- Food Processor