Cilantro Pesto

017Make this in late summer when cilantro is bursting out of the garden, and freeze in ice cube trays for serving-sized portions to use all winter long.

Recipe adapted from Cilantro Pesto in The New Basics, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. 


Cilantro Pesto


  • 2 cups cilantro leaves, washed & spun dry
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place the cilantro, garlic and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, processing until smooth.
  2. Add salt & pepper. Pulse once or twice to mix.  Taste & adjust seasonings.
  3. Transfer to a covered container for refrigerator storage, or to ice cube trays for freezer storage.

Yields about 1/2 cup pesto.


  1. I like my pesto pretty garlicky; the original recipe calls for 3 cloves garlic.
  2. It’s hard to find local substitutes for olive oil or lemon juice.  If you’d like to experiment, try cider vinegar in place of the lemon juice.  Melted butter really won’t work in this case as a substitute for olive oil.  You need something to allow the cilantro & garlic to bind together. You could try some local heavy cream (start with 1 tbsp at a time) for a slightly different flavor, but it may cut down on viable storage life, even in the freezer. Use dried, ground local chile pepper instead of black pepper.


Up to 2 days in the refrigerator.  Three to 6 months in the freezer.  Freeze serving-sized portions in ice-cube trays (wrap in plastic wrap and freeze overnight), then transfer to a doubled Ziploc to prevent freezer burn.


Fresh cilantro is often available at farmer’s markets year-round, but this will taste best when made with cilantro at the height of the season in late summer and early fall.


  1. Whoa, cilantro Pesto? I know I’m finding this like a year after the fact but I think you have just brilliantly solved my problem of too much cilantro in my yard.

  2. local kitchen

    And I’m here to tell you that the cilantro pesto in my freezer, dated December ’08, that I put in bread yesterday? Delicious. 🙂 So harvest that cilantro, make some pesto, and freeze ‘er up!

  3. What I love is that LOTS of greens and herbs can be made into a pesto. I just used the carrot tops/greens from my CSA pickup last week to make a pesto. It’s has a great grassy flavor and delicious over grilled/roasted carrots, chicken, & fish. I may try to work it into a salad dressing this week.

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