Cilantro Pesto Recipe: Fast Food for Cilantro Lovers

Home » Cilantro Pesto Recipe: Fast Food for Cilantro Lovers

Preview: This Cilantro Pesto recipe with green chiles and fresh jalapeño is convenient for preparing cilantro and freezing it. Kiss the wilted black leaves of aging cilantro goodbye.

Fresh cilantro seems to have a short shelf-life in my refrigerator. Often, I buy cilantro 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

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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 three 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.

logo for saladinajar
Join our community of adventurous cooks, and you, too, can create homemade food worth sharing.

If you want inspiration and exclusive tips, add your email and press the button. (Don't worry. I won't sell your email.)

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.
Finely chop the mixture by using the pulse button.
Add lemon juice and process until almost a paste. I’m not too fond of mine to be perfectly smooth.

Would you like to see more cilantro recipes?

PInterest image of Spicy Cilantro Pesto recipe

If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately to Paula at Hope to see you again soon! Paula

Cilantro Pesto with Green Chilies

Cilantro Pesto Recipe

Cilantro lovers will appreciate the ease of adding this to many recipes calling for fresh cilantro.
4 from 8 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Sauces, Dressings and Condiments
Servings 16 Tablespoons


  • 4 ounces fresh cilantro - 1 large bunch
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup green chilies - canned
  • 1 fresh jalapeno - seeded
  • ½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice - juice from half a medium lemon


  • 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.
  • Pulse and process until not-quite a smooth paste. I like a tiny bit of texture.
  • 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.


Nutrition Facts
Cilantro Pesto Recipe
Serving Size
1 tablespoon
Amount per Serving
Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Author: Paula Rhodes
Course: Sauces, Dressings and Condiments
Cuisine: Tex-Mex
Keywords: cilantro pesto recipecilantro pesto with almondscilantro pesto with green chilies
Like this recipe? Thanks for leaving a 5-star rating inside the recipe at the top! 🤩

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating


  1. Jane Schmidgall says:

    Paula-thanks for this recipe! As soon as it gets hot here, the cilantro bolts and we won’t have fresh cilantro until fall. This is a novel idea!

  2. Now I’m seriously wondering why I’ve never done this!

  3. Cathy @What Would Cathy Eat? says:

    I’ve made a similar pesto but with chives and lime juice in addition to the cilantro. Now I will have to try yours!

  4. Wow! I so love cilantro! Can’t wait to try this! Thanks!

  5. The Café Sucré Farine says:

    I can’t wait to try this, Paula! I tried a cilantro pesto last summer and it was nasty! This sounds delish, I didn’t think of putting green chiles in but what a great idea! I can think of a million ways to use this, thanks so much, Chris
    you back?

  6. I love all things pesto….and cilantro. The green chiles addition is one I must try. Thanks!

  7. Oh wow! It made up just beautiful…but now I don’t know what to do with it! LOL Can’t wait to try it in rice and in Greek yogurt…homemade of course! Yummo! Thanks again!

  8. This is right up my alley, we love cilantro and green chiles at my house. Great recipe and photos.

  9. Meal Plan Mom (Brenda) says:

    Ok, I think it was meant to be that I popped onto your blog again to see what was new. I have a nearly whole bunch of cilantro in the fridge (only needed 2T for the recipe that called for it!) AND some leftover steamed rice from dinner tonight. Guess what I’ll be making to use it all up? Looks delicious–thanks!

  10. Piper@GotItCookIt says:

    Cilantro is my fave! I also love that you smash and freeze in ziploc bags, I do that too. I’v got some green chilies in the fridge that I need to use, now I just need cilantro. Also, if you have an Asian grocery store near you (lots in Seattle), the cilantro there is often 5 for $1(!!!) and the freshest around.

  11. Cilantro is not my cup of tea despite having tried to like it over and over. But I bet this pesto would be equally delicious made with Thai basil or mint. 🙂

  12. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit says:

    What a brilliant idea! I can’t tell you the number of bunches of “past its prime” cilantro I’ve thrown to the chickens. (But hey, they enjoyed it!) I have one last lonely package of Hatch chiles that I froze last summer, and a fresh bunch of cilantro. Serendipity?

  13. This pesto combines some of my favorites. I will be trying this soon! Glad to have found your blog!

  14. Mommas Soapbox says:

    I’m trying to not slobber all over my keyboard. My mouth is HONESTLY watering.

    You had meat Cilantro…I’m sotrying this and giving this recipe to my sister! She has some cilantro growing in her back yard she will love this!!

    Oh ya baby! =) I’m hungry…..(shock)

    Ciao Bella~

  15. Jacque Charwood says:

    Oh my GOODNESS!

    I just found your blog thru a forum and I must say…. I think I may have my first blogger crush! I LOVE this site!!!!!

    1. Thanks for your kind words Jacque. Welcome!

  16. 1 star
    Me again! I am using this on everything! From BLT’s to wraps to scrambled eggs. It is soooo good. What a great recipe! Thanks again!

  17. Paula Walters says:

    This is perfect! Now with the garden thriving, I can make great use of the cilantro and peppers to make this delicious pesto. Love that it can be frozen….

  18. Vicky Knee says:

    I’m a cilantro lover as well but although I would add it to a lot of things that don’t call for it in recipies, my hubby isn’t quite as enthusiastic. Can I do this recipe without the peppers and add those on the fly when I use the pesto? (in a small Newfoundland community and they’re not always readily available). Will definitely be bookmarking this site for future visits!

    1. Vicky, Of course, you can leave the peppers out. No harm done whatsoever. Thanks for writing.

  19. almostveg says:

    We make a cheeseless version in India with cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, and lemon juice and sometimes roasted peanuts are added for bulk. Great for tea sandwiches with cucumber and thinly sliced tomatoes without seeds.

    Also, super as a spread for grilled tofu.

    1. Your version sounds a bit healthier. Peanuts would be interesting too. Thanks for writing.

  20. 5 stars
    This is absolutely the most fantastic idea! It took minutes to make…and I can’t stop tasting it. Delicious and worth the effort. Thanks so much!

  21. Chrystalyn says:

    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!!

    1. 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.

  22. Chrystalyn says:

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

  23. 5 stars
    This is absolutely the most fantastic idea! It took minutes to make…and I can’t stop tasting it. Delicious and worth the effort. Thanks so much!

  24. Pingback: No tinned tomatoes? Here are 10 great pasta sauces that don’t need them - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Live Update
  25. Pingback: No tinned tomatoes? Listed here are 10 nice pasta sauces that don’t want them | Meals – | Latest World News
  26. 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.

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

  27. I like this recipe, but I changed it a bit. Substituted fresh basil leaves for the cilantro and toasted walnuts for the almonds. Love the flavour and the especially the ease of making it. Thanks.

    1. Sounds like basil pesto. Yum!! I would love to taste your chicken and pasta. Sounds wonderful.

  28. Should have added that I used it with left over rotisserie chicken (from Costco) and pasta. Served with a simple green salad, A really great, easy meal for a hot summer day.