We are all pretty familiar with the traditional pesto made with basil, garlic and pine nuts. But what if you just happen to have a bunch of cilantro with no plans for it? This easy cilantro lemon pesto is a perfect way to use it.
Pesto is simply the Italian word for paste so it can be made with so many other ingredients. Just about any fresh herb, or leafy green will work in pesto. I really love making pesto because the blender or food processor does most of the work.
Cilantro lemon pesto is perfect on fish, chicken, rice and quinoa. The acid from the lemon adds such a perfect balance to so many dishes. Add a couple of tablespoons to 2 cups of rice or quinoa (here’s my quick instruction on how to cook quinoa) for a more interesting side dish. Spoon onto cooked salmon. Toss with cooked shrimp and pasta for an easy weekday dish.
This recipe includes: cilantro, lemon, almonds, garlic, olive oil, agave (or other sweetener) and salt.
Nut-Free Pesto – if you have a nut allergy, sunflower seeds are a great substitute for the almonds. Nuts in pesto are meant to provide some body, so using seeds as the stand-in is perfect.
How to Make Pesto
Regardless of which herbs and nuts/seeds you are using, the method for making pesto is the same. The traditional method of making pesto is with a mortar and pestle but modern appliances make it so much easier. Either a food processor or high power blender will work.
Start by grinding the garlic and nuts/seeds until they are finely ground. Add the herbs, oil and other liquids and blend until it’s combined. Season with salt and you are done. No chopping or cooking necessary!
Cilantro Pesto Variation
Cilantro-Lime – This pesto can easily be turned towards a Latin flavor profile with just a couple of adjustments. Use lime juice in place of the lemon, add 1/8 tsp ground cumin, and if you have them, use pumpkin seeds in place of the almonds. With lime, cumin and garlic, it makes for great cilantro rice or a new and different topping for tacos.
More Pesto and Easy Sauce Recipes
For a dairy-free, low fodmap recipe, try my easy spinach walnut pesto, my vegan creamy pesto pasta sauce, and my raspberry balsamic glaze. This cauliflower based vegan creamy pasta sauce is a snap to make. And I highly recommend trying my no tomato, low-acid pasta sauce that uses butternut squash as the base.
Cilantro Lemon Pesto
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 Tbsps sunflower seeds or slivered almonds
- 2 Tbsps lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- ⅔ c olive oil
- Remove the thick stems from the cilantro and discard. It is ok to put the thinner stems into the pesto.
- Place the garlic, seeds or nuts and 1/4 tsp salt in a food processor or heavy duty blender. Run until it is finely chopped.
- Add the cilantro, oil and lemon juice and run until it is smooth. Taste. If the flavors do not pop, stir in a couple pinches of salt