Looking for an easy way to liven up your meals? Add a fresh sauce! Let me introduce you to my latest favorite—this refreshing cilantro pesto recipe. It’s made simply with fresh cilantro, hemp seeds, garlic, optional jalapeño (for some heat) and olive oil.
Even if you don’t love cilantro, there’s a strong chance you’ll enjoy this sauce. My husband is typically in the “no cilantro” camp, but he kept going back for spoonfuls of this pesto.
I’m using the term “pesto” loosely here, since traditional basil pesto is made with basil, pine nuts and Parmesan. Instead of pine nuts, I used hemp seeds, which are high in protein and key minerals, including potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc.
When blended, the hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts) become so nice and creamy that this sauce tastes complete without cheese. This nut-free and dairy-free pesto would be great with basil as well.
This recipe is inspired by a cilantro-hemp sauce that I enjoyed at True Foods Kitchen in Kansas City. They serve it on their “Ancient Grains Bowl,” which is topped with sweet potatoes, onions, portobello mushrooms and avocado. Naturally, this sauce goes well with all of the above, as well as almost any meal with Mexican-inspired flavors. You’ll find more ideas below!
Cilantro Pesto Serving Suggestions
This cilantro pesto tastes delicious on meals with Mexican flavors, or with just about anything that could benefit from a burst of fresh, herbal flavor. I think it would be nice on corn on the cob. It’ll bring together any basic combination of beans and whole grains (you’ll see this sauce on a burrito bowl below). Or, add a dollop to your leftover salad to wake it up.
Here are some Cookie and Kate recipes that could benefit from a spoonful of cilantro pesto:
- 10-Minute Quesadillas
- Black Bean Tacos
- Chilaquiles Rojos
- Easy Refried Beans with Cilantro-Lime Rice
- Favorite Breakfast Tacos
- Garden-Fresh Corn Salad
- Roasted Veggie Enchilada Casserole
Craving more flavorful sauces?
Here are a few of my favorites. View more sauce and dip recipes here.
- Aji Verde: Creamy, spicy Peruvian green sauce with cilantro and jalapeño.
- Basil Pesto: True Italian pesto with basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, garlic and olive oil.
- Chimichurri: Bold Argentinian parsley sauce with red onion and red wine vinegar.
- Shatta: Middle Eastern hot sauce with cilantro, parsley, walnuts and lots of jalapeños.
- Tzatziki: Greek sauce or dip with yogurt, cucumber, dill or mint.
- Zhoug: Spicy, olive oil-based, Middle Eastern cilantro sauce.
Extra hemp seeds? Make my easy vegan Parmesan cheese, or sprinkle them straight onto your salads, yogurt, breakfast toasts, etc.
Cilantro Hemp Pesto
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: ⅔ cup 1x
- Category: Sauce
- Method: Food processor
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Diet: Vegan
This cilantro pesto recipe is made with hemp seeds! It’s a fresh and healthy sauce that livens up a variety of dishes. It’s really great with Mexican flavors. Recipe yields ⅔ cup—it’s so good that you might as well double it.
- 2 cups packed cilantro leaves with tender stems (from 2 small bunches)
- ½ cup shelled hemp seeds (hemp hearts)
- Optional, for heat: 1 medium jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more if desired
- In a food processor, combine everything but the olive oil (the cilantro, hemp seeds, optional jalapeño, garlic and salt). Process until the ingredients are very finely chopped, pausing to scrape down the bowl if necessary.
- While running the machine, drizzle in the olive oil. Continue processing until the mixture is well combined and almost creamy in texture. I designed this sauce to be quite thick; if you’d prefer a thinner sauce, drizzle in a bit more olive oil while running the machine.
- Use immediately or store in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (I believe it would freeze well for up to 3 months, but I haven’t tried). This sauce will turn a bit darker on top during storage, but it’s perfectly edible.
Recipe inspired by the cilantro pesto at True Food Kitchen.