When I first “discovered” that pesto could be made with an herb other than basil – I could hardly believe it! It felt somewhat treasonous to the “real” basil pesto. I’m calling this cilantro pesto, but it’s probably more accurately a cross between an Italian pesto and an Argentinian chimichurri. Both of which are the bomb!
Cilantro pesto is a quick, easy, and amazingly versatile recipe. I make this cilantro pesto recipe year round and use it for so many things: it’s great to top roasted vegetables, grilled meats or fish, pasta, mixed in with rice – you name it!
If you’ve read any of my recipes, you know that my favorite recipes are instead formulas that allow for changes and creativity instead of a hard and fast recipe. Pestos and chimichurris lend themselves to many incarnations. As I’m learning, the herbs for a basic pesto or chimichurri can be changed or even combined. Chimichurri is made with mostly parsley and a couple tablespoons of vinegar are typically added along with dried hot peppers. Pesto traditionally contains parmesan cheese and pine nuts. These are the most significant distinctions between the two sauces.
Cilantro Pesto Has Great Health Benefits
Cilantro pesto packs a double healthy whammy. Between the healthy fats contained in the walnuts, walnut oil, and olive oil and the properties of cilantro, you can’t miss.
Benefits of Walnuts & Walnut Oil
Walnuts have been shown to lower LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), to reduce triglyceride levels significantly and its most significant benefit – a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease.
Walnuts are rich in phytonutrients and are an excellent source of selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium. Walnuts and/or walnut oil provide hefty levels of Vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-3, coupled with Vitamin-E and niacin. (source)
Benefits of Cilantro
Cilantro also has a lot of great health benefits! Cilantro is touted for is cleansing properties. It’s terrific to put in a smoothie (tastier than you might think…) if you’re trying to detox. Other benefits of cilantro can include:
May be able to help prevent cardiovascular damage.
The School of Life Science in Tamil Nadu, India noted, after researching the activity of cilantro leaves and stem, “if used in cuisine would be a remedy for diabetes.”
Strong antioxidant activity.
Has been shown to have anti-anxiety effects.
May help improve sleep quality.
Has been examined and described to have a blood-sugar lowering effect.
Cilantro seed oil possess antioxidative properties, consumption may decrease oxidative stress.
Demonstrated antifungal and antimicrobial activity. (source)
This pesto will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 10-14 days. I love this pesto with anything you can think of. One great way to use it is with Mexican foods – as a drizzle on tacos. A simple taco of grilled chicken, diced red onions, and a drizzle of this would be terrific. For meatless Monday, try black bean tacos and top with a drizzle of this pesto. If you want to bump up the flavor, you can add either dried, crushed red pepper to spice it up or maybe a few slices of fresh jalapeno. One of my favorite ways to serve it is on roasted mixed vegetables or roasted cauliflower…ah.ma.zing. I’d love to hear how this recipe was for you and whether or not you made any changes or adjustments!