This cilantro pesto is a mainstay in our house! I adapted it from the cilantro oregano pesto from the Soup Reset Detox that I did with Christa Orecchio and now it is a daily go-to for our family.
What is Pesto?
Pesto is a traditional Italian no-cook sauce. It is usually made with basil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, and some type of oil. Pesto can be used on pasta or chicken and has amazing flavor.
The word pesto comes from the Italian word “pestare” meaning to crush or pound. This is likely because pesto was traditionally made with a mortar and pestle (though the common method now is to use a mini food processor). Consume pesto within the first few days after making for the best flavor.
Pesto Storing tip: Put in a small jar and top with a small amount of high quality olive oil to seal out the air and keep it fresher longer!
Why Cilantro Pesto?
Traditional pestos are made with basil… so why mess with a good thing?
Don’t get me wrong … I love basil too. We also make regular pesto at our house quite often, but cilantro pesto offers a unique flavor and some surprising health benefits!
Cilantro pesto skips the cheese, making this a great dairy-free option. I find that cilantro based pesto is an amazing alternative in spring and summer months.
Benefits of Cilantro
Cilantro has a spicy history (see what I did there), and has been used for generations. Historians even found evidence of cilantro in King Tut’s tomb!
Recent research shows that cilantro has many more benefits than just decorating the tombs of departed pharaohs though! One recent study found that cilantro may help the body remove heavy metals, especially lead. For this reason, cilantro is often included in heavy metal detox regimens.
Cilantro is also a good source of antioxidants, including quercetin. These antioxidants provide a protective effect against oxidative damage in the body. Quercetin is known for as a natural remedy for mild allergies, and cilantro grows during the peak of allergy season! Gotta love nature’s natural remedies.
Studies also show that cilantro:
- May be helpful against anxiety and may even rival Valium in large doses
- Helps keep blood sugar in healthy ranges and may be a beneficial food for diabetics
- Contains antibacterial compounds that can help protect against UTIs
- Helps support digestion
Pumpkin Seeds Pack a Nutritious Punch
Most pesto recipes use pine nuts. Pumpkin seeds contain magnesium, zinc, manganese, and many other nutrients. They also contain two known DHT blockers that help prevent hair loss. These two DHT blockers, delta-7-sterine and phytosterol beta-sitosterol, make pumpkin seeds great for hair.
Cilantro Pesto Recipe (With Pumpkin Seeds)
- Cut the toughest parts of the stems off the bunch of cilantro. Rough chop the rest and add to a mini food processor.
- Peel garlic and add.
- Add lime juice.
- Pulse food processor a few times until cilantro is chopped but not completely fine.
- Add pumpkin seeds and pulse 5-10 times to form a rough paste.
- Add the olive oil and pulse until desired consistency.
- Enjoy and repeat the process when you run out!
How to use this Pesto
This pesto has a much different flavor than traditional basil pesto. You can substitute cilantro pesto on pasta or chicken, but I’d recommend branching out to some of these more creative uses:
- Add it to eggs for delicious flavor and color. Or, just add a spoonful to top an omelet.
- Try it with roasted vegetables for a delicious flavor.
- Use as a marinade or topping for meats or fish.
- Garnish a soup with a dollop of pesto.
- Add a Tablespoon to a little more oil and vinegar and shake or blend for an easy salad dressing.
- Make a dip. Mix into sour cream, yogurt, or even cottage cheese (I use Good Culture brand because it is from grass fed cows) for a great veggie dip.
- Add a couple spoonfuls to some mashed avocado for a new take on guacamole.
- Eat alone as a dip or add some to the top of salads.
Are you fan of pesto? Ever experimented with cilantro in yours? Share your favorite variations below!