Fresh fragrant cilantro, peppers, crushed walnuts and garlic all come together in minutes to make this fantastic cilantro pesto with roasted red peppers. Perfect for a side dish, snack or main dish with sliced tomatoes and fresh bread.
Pesto… that delicious Italian condiment/dip/sauce has so many varieties and uses! Its name comes from the Italian ‘pesare’ which means, “to pound or pounded, crushed.” Today I’m making cilantro pesto with roasted red peppers – a fun twist on the traditional recipe.
Pesto is usually a mixture of basil leaves, crushed raw garlic, olive oil, coarse salt, European pine nuts, and a hard cheese, like Pecorino or Parmesan. Although Italians traditionally made pesto using a mortar and pestle, these days most cooks use a food processor. 😉
I, however, do not have a food processor, so I always use my trusty blender for this recipe and it works fine. You’ll see that pesto sauce is so easy to put together!
Today, instead of using fresh basil leaves, I’ll use this gorgeous cilantro. I found it at a street-side outdoor market for about $.30! It just begs to be used in something fresh and flavorful, like cilantro pesto…
A roasted red pepper will add a bit of mellow zip to the overall flavor profile. Peppers are so easy to roast and the roasting really does something wonderful to a pepper. If you haven’t roasted peppers before, I’ve added notes in the recipe card below.
I don’t have access to pine nuts here, (If you haven’t read my posts about living abroad, Jay and I have been in the Republic of Georgia for many months) but I do have some walnuts on hand. Walnuts are definitely a local Georgian product and another favorite nut for pesto creators. Walnuts have the additional benefit of being high in Omega 3 fatty acids, higher than other nuts!
Add in fresh garlic, olive oil, salt (I’m using Himalayan pink salt, but you can use the salt of your choice), a bit of apple cider vinegar, pinch of crushed red pepper, and this recipe couldn’t be easier! I decided to omit cheese from this pesto, making it a bit lighter. Bonus – this way it is also suitable for the vegans out there! Serve this cilantro red pepper pesto with sliced garden tomatoes and some fresh sourdough bread and you have a quick, delicious meal. Try it – it may very well become a favorite!
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Cilantro Pesto with Roasted Red Peppers
- 2½ cups fresh cilantro, washed and large stems removed
- 1 generous cup walnuts (walnut pieces are fine as they are going to be ground up anyway; no need to use up your gorgeous walnut halves here!)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, roasted, then skinned
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin, if you have it)
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (white or wine vinegar would also be fine)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (or to taste)
- 2 cloves garlic
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (or to taste)
- ¼– ½ cup water (as needed)
- Clean cilantro, removing large stems (don’t bother about smaller stems as these will get blended anyway), set aside
- Core and de-seed the red pepper, roast red pepper and peel (for notes on roasting a pepper see below)
- Put ¼ cup water in the blender and then add all of the other ingredients
- Blend on low speed until smooth. If you need a bit more additional water, add slowly as needed
- Remove from blender and refrigerate until use.