Easy Homemade Cilantro Pesto

Cilantro pesto: Fresh cilantro whipped into pesto with a toasted almonds, cotija cheese and garlic. Try it on chicken or vegetables!

Cilantro Pesto www.SimplyScratch.com

At one point in my life cilantro was like red wine.

Okay, so it was and it wasn’t. For me they both were intense and at first I didn’t like either of them at all. Then after a few sips and a certain Pico recipe I realized I could get use to them. On the reals, cilantro tasted a lot like dish soap. ACK… I was never going to be a fan, ever!! And if I was going to eat it, even a sprinkle of it… then it had to be chopped up to smithereens. Dramatic? Maybe, but I could only handle so much… in small doses {I mean it tasted like dish soap you guys!}.

I really wanted to like cilantro. SO badly that I kept making myself eat it. How can I have a food blog and not like cilantro? It’s like a baker not liking sugar. Then after a few attempts I started to notice that I was actually not minding the flavor of cilantro… especially in pico de gallo and in marinades. Then my “like” progressed to more of an obsession… it definitely doesn’t taste like soap to me anymore.

cilantro pile

I’m not gonna count how many recipes I have on here that call for a “handful of fresh cilantro” because I’m sure there’s a bunch. I’m just glad I can cross this off of my “to make list”… but with saying that I now have 100+ recipes brewing in this brain of mine of different ways in which I can consume this easy cilantro pesto.

Recipe one… will be tomorrow 🙂

pesto stuff

What I really like about this pesto is that it doesn’t call for basil. Ha-ha… I know why would it? But what I mean is that when making a basil pesto you need A LOT of basil and well, unless you grow it, you’ll be spending mucho dinero. Cilantro is inexpensive at under 2 dollars a bunch, so making cilantro pesto is a whole heck of a lot cheaper.


Throw in about 2-1/2 ounces of blanched, slivered almonds into a dry pan.


Toast over medium heat until the almonds start to toast and smell nutty and you’ll notice they are turning a little golden.

remove almonds to cool

Once you start to smell the amazing aroma and you’ve snagged a few of those warm toasty nuts, transfer them to a small dish and set aside.

trimmin cilantro

Wash and pat dry a couple bunches of fresh cilantro. Then remove the top leafy parts, I used a knife but you could use your hands and just tear off the tops. A little stem is okay.


Throw the smashed clove of garlic…

add in the toasted almonds

…and add the cooled nuts into the bowl of your food processor.


Pulse it until the nuts break up a little bit. BREAAAAATHE this in… oh-muh-lord it’s a delicious smell.

stuff it

Throw in all of the cilantro tops.

squeeze of lime

Squeeze in the lime.


Then add in the cotija cheese or parmesan if you can’t find cotija.


Lastly season with kosher salt and replace the lid.


Turn that beast of a thing on until it’s all ground up and looks like this ^.

olive oil

With the food processor still running, slowly drizzle in a half cup of olive oil.



Cilantro Pesto www.SimplyScratch.com

I promise you, cilantro pesto isn’t as cilantro-y as you would think. It’s a little cilantro-y but the toasted almonds, the garlic and the cheese really balances out the flavors. I bet this cilantro pest will have you eating it by the spoonfuls like I wanted to. I just couldn’t because I had this recipe I HAD to share with you.

Until tomorrow, feast your eyes on some green…

Enjoy! And if you give this Cilantro Pesto recipe a try, let me know! Snap a photo and tag me on twitter or instagram!

Cilantro Pesto www.SimplyScratch.com 00

My cookbook Simply Scratch : 120 Wholesome Homemade Recipes Made Easy is now available! CLICK HERE for details and THANK YOU in advance! 

Yield: 1 cup

Homemade Cilantro Pesto

Homemade Cilantro Pesto
Fresh cilantro whipped into pesto with a little toasted almonds, cotija cheese and garlic. Perfect as a spread on toasted bread rounds or as topping for fish, chicken, steak. The options are endless.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 23 minutes


  • 2 large bunches fresh cilantro, washed and patted dry
  • 2-1/2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) blanched, slivered almonds
  • 3 tablespoons cotija cheese (or Parmesan)
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed and peeled
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • juice of 1 whole lime
  • 1/2 cup olive oil


  1. In a small skillet add the almonds and toast until golden and fragrant over medium heat. Remove to a clean dish to cool.
  2. In the bowl of your food processor add in a clove of garlic and the cooled, toasted almonds and pulse until coarsely chopped.
  3. Add in the tops of the two bunches of cilantro, the cotija cheese, salt and the juice of a medium sized lime.
  4. Pulse until coarsely ground. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
  5. Remove and refrigerate until ready to use.
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56 Responses to “Easy Homemade Cilantro Pesto”

  1. #
    Ari — May 15, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Oh gosh… this sounds incredible Laurie!

  2. #
    Tieghan Gerard — May 15, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Ha, I was just like you and hated cilantro. It took me years to learn that I actually love it. I now use it in everything. I actually put it in the chipotle pesto that I posted today.

    Cilantro pesto sounds awesome and I cant wait to see how you use!

  3. #
    Gina @ Running to the Kitchen — May 15, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I have always been a cilantro fiend (and seriously feel bad for those who say it tastes like soap!) and yet have never made a pesto entirely out of it! Need to change that!

    • simplyscratch replied: — May 15th, 2013 @ 11:10 am

      You won’t be sorry Gina! 🙂

  4. #
    Bev @ Bev Cooks — May 15, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Cilantro pesto is the reason I live.

  5. #
    Maria — May 15, 2013 at 9:48 am

    I love cilantro pesto!

  6. #
    Julia {The Roasted Root} — May 15, 2013 at 10:52 am

    So refreshing! I love homemade pesto! I’ve never made cilantro pesto but could definitely see using it on top of a Thai dish, or a burger. Or a sandwich. Anywhere, so good!

    • simplyscratch replied: — May 15th, 2013 @ 11:11 am

      Seriously the options are ENDLESS! 🙂

  7. #
    Danise — May 15, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Ummm….I am originally from New Mexico and I can make a lot of different Mexican-food-type dishes – but never with cilantro…EVER! We also love a local Mexican food restaurant and there are a couple of things I have ordered that I couldn’t figure out an ingredient that was so WONDERFUL!! In the last MONTH I have figured out – you guessed it- it IS cilantro!!!! Now I have to change my recipes…..

  8. #
    Meagan @ A Zesty Bite — May 15, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Pesto is seriously good on EVERYTHING! I’m especially loving it on my pizza right now.

  9. #
    Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain — May 15, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I am sort of still on the cilantro hate bandwagon, but this pesto could easily per sway me to jump off! I’ve never had cilantro pesto before. Sounds awesome!

  10. #
    Mr. & Mrs. P — May 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    We love cilantro!!! This would be awesome in a pasta salad!

  11. #
    Christy @SweetandSavoring — May 15, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I love your bright colorful photos, and I’m so excited that I found this post because we’re now growing cilantro- and basil!- in our garden. What a great combination of ingredients 🙂

  12. #
    Cate @ ChezCateyLou — May 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    I LOVE cilantro. This looks so good!! Seriously, I can’t wait to try it! Oh and I also can’t toast nuts without sneaking one or two 🙂

  13. #
    Sky — May 15, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Interestingly, it’s a genetic marker that determines whether or not cilantro tastes like soap to a person or not. You either have that gene, or you don’t.

    Or at least, that’s what I’ve been told. And I would do the research on it, but I have errands to run, so.

  14. #
    Robyn Oliver — May 15, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    @Sky I heard the same thing, my husband hates cilantro and avocados and I think I could eat them both together every day for every meal!! At least I know there’s something genetically wrong with him and he doesn’t just have bad taste 🙂

    • simplyscratch replied: — May 15th, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

      I heard the same thing… but it can’t all be true because I got over that soapy taste 🙂

  15. #
    Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. — May 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    I love cilantro so so so much and I am seriously loving the idea of it in pesto!!

  16. #
    Alaina @ Fabtastic Eats — May 17, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    oh my lord. cilantro is a staple in my house! I love it so much! I can only IMAGINE all the amazing things I can make with this! Yes please!!

  17. #
    Jenny @ BAKE — May 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    I was exactly the same with cilantro! but now I absolutely love it and can’t wait to try this recipe!

  18. #
    Jenny — May 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Wow, I know I could eat this by the spoonful, but won’t because I want to try the Cheesy Chicken & Cilantro Pesto Baked Flautas that you posted today. I am going shopping tonight, so I can make this tomorrow, that is if I don’t eat all the toasted almonds before I make it! 🙂

  19. #
    Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious — May 19, 2013 at 3:53 am

    Love this! Plus I have a bunch of cilantro waiting to be used up!

  20. #
    coffeediva — May 31, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    OMG! Pesto and cilantro are two of my very favorite things! I CANNOT wait to try this recipe. It’s making my mouth water just looking at your photos. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

  21. #
    danielle — June 6, 2013 at 10:22 am

    alright. I want to make hummus. and now this looks amazing. I need a food processor. do you love yours? what kind is it? I’m at a loss of where to start, so I’m skipping straight to you since I love every recipe you post. thanks for keeping my taste buds happy.

    • simplyscratch replied: — June 9th, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

      Hi Danielle! I have a cheap-o 70$ one {not sure the brand} it’s okay but I’d love a new one. I’d go with one that’s in your budget {they can be super pricey} and I promise you won’t regret it! When I lug it out next I’ll let you know which brand I have currently 🙂

  22. #
    danielle — June 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    i got a pseudo-expensive one (cusinart $170ish) on sale ($90) with a macy’s gift card. i haven’t used it yet (have all the ingredients for this cilantro pesto in the fridge/pantry), but the how-to DVD was quite entertaining. my toddlers were totally into it. hah! i’m excited!

  23. #
    Amarit — July 11, 2013 at 9:48 am

    I have a big bunch of cilantro from my CSA that I’ve been trying to decide what to do with (we get it every week) and this looks amazing! I’m thinking as a topping for grilled chicken…

    I used to not love cilantro and discovered over the past few years that I only like really good cilantro. I do notice a taste between organic and not and the farm-fresh is definitely the best. The few times I’ve bought whatever was at the store I’ve regretted it. So if you think you don’t like cilantro, try getting fresh organic cilantro and see if you like it better!

  24. #
    Julie D. — September 1, 2013 at 12:12 am

    This looks amazing. I’ve just been using cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, & olive oil & processing the whole thing into a sauce. Then I freeze it in ice cube trays & plop a few cubes into my homemade chicken soup or Ramen. But this looks WAY better. It’s an actual Pesto & could be used in so many more ways. It could probably be frozen too. Living in Southern California we are surrounded by Mexican markets & cilantro is usually .25 to .33 a bunch so I would probably double or triple this recipe & freeze it.

  25. #
    Tina — October 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    I’m a baker and I hate sugar. LOL (FYI: I at one point had a love affair with sugar but it “burned” me & now I can’t go back.)

    • simplyscratch replied: — October 16th, 2013 @ 10:42 pm

      hahah love it! 🙂

  26. #
    terrilyn — October 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Thank you! I needed a vehicle for getting quantities of cilantro into me to detox the mercury from my system. This is it! I never was a fan of cilantro soap but this combination utilizes its sensitivities with well matched partners.

  27. #
    Amy — March 26, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Hi – I loved the look of your recipe and made it as part of a DIY gift for mother’s day this year! I wrote about it here: http://sliceofsunny.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/diy-mothers-day-gift-mini-pesto-set/

    I have some leftovers in my own fridge that I can’t wait to use up! 🙂 x

  28. #
    Angelia Messina — March 27, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    I love cilantro, I have a garden full of it! This looks delish! Will try this!

  29. #
    Evie — April 26, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I had 2 bunches of cilantro that I needed to use ASAP. I found your recipe on Pinterest. This was really good. I’m so glad I tried it. I mixed half slivered almonds and half pine nuts, because I didn’t have enough of either. I also added 1/4 t. chipotle chili powder and 2 more garlic cloves. I then froze the pesto in an ice cube tray (1 tablespoon per section). Thank you for posting.

  30. #
    Barbara — May 31, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Photos are gorgeous! Thanks

    • Laurie McNamara replied: — June 4th, 2014 @ 10:07 am

      Thank you Barbara!

  31. #
    MizFit — August 27, 2014 at 5:40 am

    Seriously, don’t feel bad about not liking cilantro, I heard it’s in your genes. There’s a certain gene that makes it taste off to some people At first, i couldn’t understand how anyone could not like it. I love it to death. But i understand now. 🙂

  32. #
    linda — February 12, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    How much (in weight, or cups) is ‘2 bunches’ of cilantro? I buy mine from an organic farmer, and he just puts it into a bag!!

    • Laurie McNamara replied: — February 12th, 2015 @ 10:02 pm

      Hi Linda! I would say it’s about 4 cups. Enjoy!

  33. #
    michelle — February 19, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    hi! i made cilantro pesto last night and although it is yummy, i really can’t taste the cilantro? any ideas as to why?

    • Laurie McNamara replied: — February 25th, 2015 @ 10:03 am

      Hmmm I actually don’t! I know it gets mellowed out a bit with everything else it has going on… so strange!

  34. #
    Molly — August 15, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    Wish I saw this a month ago when my cilantro plant was out of control. I’ve struggled almost every year growing cilantro and this year it survived and left me totally unprepared to use it! I love your measuring cups (pictured with the olive oil). Could you please share where you got them?

    • Laurie McNamara replied: — August 17th, 2016 @ 10:59 am

      Molly I’ve also struggled growing cilantro! Tell me your ways!! The measuring cups I bought at Pier 1 Imports, I’m not sure if they still carry them or not but they usually have really cool nesting measuring cups, so hopefully you find some you like! <3


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