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Cilantro Pesto Recipe: Fast Food for Cilantro Lovers

Preview: This Cilantro Pesto recipe with green chiles and fresh jalapeño is a convenient way to prepare cilantro and freeze it. Kiss the wilted black leaves of aging cilantro good-bye..

Fresh cilantro seems to have a short shelf-life in my refrigerator. I buy it often for one recipe with plans for using it in many others. But before long, it turns dark and is better suited for an over-the-hill party than my dinner table.

Given my history, transforming a bunch of cilantro leaves into pesto is my best answer.

homemade cilantro pesto in a white bowl with fresh cilantro next to it

Spicy Cilantro Pesto Sauce with green chile peppers and jalapeños is fast food for cilantro lovers. It keeps up to three months in the freezer and is ready to eat within a moment’s notice.

What do I do with an abundance of cilantro?

My solution is to make pesto. Divide into small portions and store it in the fridge for 5-7 days or the freezer for 3 months.

Do I need to remove all the stems from the cilantro?

The stems taste as good as the leaves. It’s the appearance and texture that can be objectionable when identifiable. Chopped stems will disappear into the pesto mix along with the leaves.

How do I freeze pesto?

A zippered plastic bag is my container of choice. The snack size is my favorite.

Add 1-3 tablespoons of prepared pesto to the bag. Gently mash the filled bag into a flattened shape, push out the air, and finally, seal.  After it’s frozen, it will be easy to break off the amount you need.

Alternately, pour the pesto into ice cube trays. When frozen, release the cubes from the tray and store them in plastic bags.

Ingredients and substitutions:

  • CILANTRO: If you buy your cilantro in a bunch, be sure to pull it apart and pull out any black leaves. There are no good substitutes for cilantro. Of course, you could use parsley but then it wouldn’t be cilantro pesto.

    If you have scales, you can weigh the cilantro to get four ounces. Otherwise, 1 large fluffy bunch of cilantro is sufficient. If the store only has wimpy skinny bundles, best to buy two bunches.
  • OLIVE OIL: Nothing beats a good olive oil. Avocado oil or mild vegetable oil will also work.
  • GARLIC: Fresh garlic cloves (not the whole bulb) is the way to go if you can. If you’re not a garlic lover, decrease the amount or leave it out.
  • GREEN CHILIES: Green chilies pair perfectly with cilantro. I usually use the canned variety.
  • JALAPEÑO: Keep whole fresh jalapeños in your freezer so you will have them whenever needed. They don’t take much room and no preparation. Just drop them in a little plastic bag and seal.

    In past years, I might have substituted pickled jalapeńo peppers for fresh ones. But now that I know the freezing trick, it’s just as easy to use fresh peppers. They are milder and have a better flavor in this cilantro pesto recipe.

    Removing the seeds will give you a milder taste. Leave them in for an even spicier pesto.
  • PARMESAN CHEESE: Again, fresh Parm is best. Pecorino Romano is a viable substitute. Fluffy, powdered Parm in the green jar would not be acceptable at my house.
  • LEMON: Squeeze a half of a lemon into your pesto and you’re good. Substitute lime for the lemon if you like.

What can I do with cilantro pesto?

Basmati rice flavored with a spoonful of Cilantro and Green Chili Pesto

Add this concentrated flavor of cilantro pesto into a bowl of rice or pasta.  Or stir it into Greek yogurt for a delicious dip or salad dressing.  Works great on my daily salads that I vacuum seal into Mason jars.

Use in place of pizza sauce on a pizza. Then top with cheese and meat in that order. Use it to perk up plain rice or spaghetti.

Try pesto as a condiment on a grilled chicken sandwich or hamburger. Add it to soups that specify fresh cilantro if all the flavors play nice.

How to make this Cilantro Pesto recipe:

Wash and dry fresh cilantro. No need to remove the stems. Just trim the ends.
Dump all ingredients except lemon juice into the food processor bowl or a blender.
Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped.
Add lemon juice and process until almost a paste. I don’t like mine to be perfectly smooth.

Would you like to see more cilantro recipes?

PInterest image of Spicy Cilantro Pesto recipe

If you enjoyed this recipe, it would help others and me if you gave it a five-star rating inside the recipe card below. 🤩 No comment required. Thank you.

Hope to see you again soon!

p.s. Questions or suggestions? Please email me: Paula at

Yield: 1 cup

Cilantro Pesto Recipe

Cilantro Pesto with Green Chilies

Cilantro lovers will appreciate the ease of adding this to many recipes calling for fresh cilantro.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 4 ounces fresh cilantro (1 large bunch)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup green chilies (canned)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded
  • 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (juice from half a medium lemon)


  1. Add cleaned and dried cilantro with the bottom inch of the stems trimmed, olive oil, almonds, green chilies, jalapeño, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor or blender.
  2. Pulse and process until not-quite a smooth paste. I like a tiny bit of texture.
  3. Squeeze lemon over all; pulse to mix. Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired.


Freezes well. Place into a small plastic freezer bag, seal, and mash flat. Freezing in this manner makes it easy to break off a piece as needed, even when frozen.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 111Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 107mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 2g

Did you make this recipe?

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Wednesday 28th of October 2020

Paula, this is a wonderful recipe! I just made a double batch. I had fresh avocados, so I added it to my guacamole instead of chopped cilantro. I froze some in a Ziploc bag like you suggested, but also froze some in 1/2 cup containers to add to my next batches of guacamole.


Thursday 29th of October 2020

I love this. Why haven't I thought of adding it to guacamole? Thanks so much for writing.

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Monday 25th of February 2013

Thank you so much for such a quick response! Dinner here we come.


Sunday 24th of February 2013

I know you posted this a long time ago, but I'm hoping you will be able to respond still. What do you mean by green chiles? Is it the canned green chilies or a type of fresh chili? My daughter is on an anti-candida diet and she can have everything but the cheese. So excited!!


Monday 25th of February 2013

Hi Chrystalyn, You can use either fresh or canned green chilies. I normally use the canned because the fresh aren't easily available where I live.

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