Cilantro Pesto is a Southwestern twist on the traditional Italian pesto sauce – adding in cilantro, Serrano pepper, lime juice and sugar.

glass bowl of cilantro pesto


As with so many of my recipes, this Cilantro Pesto was born out of a desire to use up an ingredient leftover from making another dish.  I had purchased more cilantro than I needed to make my Mexican Chicken, Black Beans and Rice, so I decided to make a pesto sauce with it. To the basic pesto ingredients of Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil, I added the cilantro, a Serrano pepper, lime juice and a pinch of sugar.  It turned out great! I then created my Pesto Chicken with Black Beans dish (in my cookbook Fresh Tastes).

Cilantro Pesto

glass bowl of cilantro pesto
  • Yield: Around 2/3 cup 1x


  • 1 large bunch cilantro, large stem ends removed
  • 1 (2-inch) Serrano pepper, seeded (can leave some seeds for more spice)*
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 medium to large garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 1/2 to 4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • pinch sugar
  • kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate until using.


*Can substitute Jalapeno pepper


Lee Clayton Roper


I’m Lee Clayton Roper, and I’m passionate about making cooking and entertaining easy, elegant and fun. Here you’ll find scrumptious recipes, helpful tips and seasonal menus that will spark inspiration in your kitchen!
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Access more recipes in Lee's award-winning book, Fresh Tastes!

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