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This vegan cilantro pesto recipe is fresh and bright-flavored with cilantro, nutty with pistachios, and is a delicious change from traditional basil pesto.

top view of cilantro pesto in stoneware bowl

Oh, pesto. It’s one of those things that I truly love, but forget about until it’s all I can think about. (The cravings are real once basil is in season.)

If I played it right, I’d spend the final days of summer every year putting the last of the fresh basil to good use and freezing it so I could enjoy it throughout the rest of the year.

And have you ever tried cilantro pesto? It’s bright and fresh with a pungency that differentiates it from classic basil pesto. It’s delicious.

The funny thing is, I used to hate cilantro. Actually, hate doesn’t fully describe it; I used to despise cilantro (truly). For me, it tasted like soap (yup, I was one of those people).

I honestly have no idea what happened, but over the years I stopped hating it so much. Little by little I started actually liking it, and then craving it, and then adding it to just about anything from homemade egg drop soup, to pulled BBQ chicken (or BBQ chicken pizza!), to Thai curry.

So, maybe the whole cilantro aversion isn’t genetic? Maybe if cilantro isn’t something you grew up with, it’s just an acquired taste? Whatever the explanation, I’m just glad I got over my aversion.

bowl of vegan pesto

What Can You Do With Cilantro?

If you grow cilantro, at some point you might find yourself with more of it than you can use immediately! Or maybe it looked too good to pass up at your local farmers market. Or perhaps it was on sale at the grocery store and you bought a bunch too many.

Whatever the reason, there are so many things you can do with cilantro. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Sprinkle it on tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, etc.
  • Add a handful to chili
  • Use it to garnish your favorite guacamole
  • Top an Indian or Thai curry, or a Chinese stir-fry with a few leaves
  • Use it to make this cilantro pesto recipe!

Easy Cilantro Pesto Recipe – Vegan and Paleo

If you’re familiar with classic basil pesto, before you make this, know that this cilantro pesto recipe is something else entirely.

Cilantro replaces basil, pistachios oust pine nuts, and there’s no cheese to be found. But extra-virgin olive oil and garlic are necessary in both this and the classic version of pesto.

As a result, I find this pesto to be a little less heavy, but not lacking in flavor.

Cilantro Pesto Ingredients

  • Garlic – adds savory aromatic flavor and aroma
  • Pistachios – for rich nutty flavor; you can use any type of nuts or seeds you like, such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, etc.
  • Cilantro – this verdant herb is the base flavor in our fresh, bright pesto
  • Salt and black pepper – to season our pesto
  • Fresh lemon juice – to add a hint of fresh tart flavor, and to help keep the cilantro a beautiful bright green color
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – like in other pesto recipes, you will be able to taste the olive oil here, so be sure to use a good-quality oil

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Add the garlic to a food processor and pulse until minced.
  2. Add the pistachios and pulse until finely chopped (don’t let it turn into pistachio butter, you want it to have some texture).
  3. Next, add the cilantro, salt, black pepper, and lemon juice, and pulse until the cilantro is finely chopped.
  4. Drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing until it forms a chunky sauce (it shouldn’t be completely pureed).
  5. Serve!

Storage

Store homemade pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

shelling pistachios

How to Freeze Fresh Pesto

I freeze fresh pesto in one of two ways:

  1. In 1-cup glass Pyrex containers with a little headspace at the top for expansion (I leave about 1/4-inch).
  2. In an ice cube tray so I can pop out cubes of pesto as needed.

How Long Will Pesto Keep in the Freezer?

Cilantro pesto keeps well for at least six months in the freezer.

How to Defrost Frozen Pesto

If the pesto is frozen in a 1-cup container, I let it defrost in the fridge overnight (put a plate under it to catch any water that collects).

If the pesto is frozen in an ice cube tray, I find that it thaws in about 10 minutes at room temperature.

More Recipes Using Pesto

Switch up the flavor a little and use this cilantro pesto instead of basil pesto in the following recipes:

close up view of cilantro pesto with spoon in bowl

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Cilantro Pesto Recipe (Low Carb, Keto, Paleo, Gluten Free, Vegan)

Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Yields: 10 servings
This vegan cilantro pesto recipe is fresh and bright-flavored with cilantro, nutty with pistachios, and is a delicious change from traditional basil pesto.

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Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Add the garlic to a food processor and pulse until minced.
  • Add the pistachios and pulse until finely chopped (don’t let it turn into pistachio butter, you want it to have some texture).
  • Add the cilantro, salt, black pepper, and lemon juice, and pulse until the cilantro is finely chopped.
  • Drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing until it forms a chunky sauce (it shouldn’t be completely pureed).
  • Serve, or store covered in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Notes

  • Net Carbs: 1g per serving
  • Recipe Yield and Serving Size: This recipe yields about 1 1/4 cups or about 10 (2-tablespoon) servings.
  • Pistachios Substitute: Instead of pistachios, you can play around with the nuts in this recipe. Pine nuts are also delicious, and so are almonds or even pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds.
  • Storage: Store homemade pesto in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or freeze it for up to 6 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 2tablespoons | Calories: 131kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 59mg | Potassium: 63mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 39IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Cilantro Pesto, Cilantro Pesto Recipe

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cilantro pesto recipe pin
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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One Comment

  1. Oh yum! Two of my favorite ingredients combined in pesto; sounds great. And thanks for the shout-out for my Chicken Stuffed with Pesto and Cheese. I am a huge pesto fan!

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