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Mexican Pesto (Cilantro Pesto)

Mexican Pesto (Cilantro Pesto)

Yield: 2 cups 1x
Prep: 15 minutesCook: 15 minutesTotal: 30 minutes


1 medium bunch cilantro including stems

½ cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)

1 large garlic clove

1 small jalapeno seeded and stemmed and cut into quarters lengthwise (optional ingredient or replace with green bell pepper)

2 teaspoons fresh lime zest

1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground cumin

5 ounces Cotija Mexican cheese (Half of a 10-ounce package)

½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil


Cilantro is typically packed with minimal rinsing and can be very sandy. It really needs to be rinsed under cold water. Using the stems, break the head up to fit into a strainer and rinse thoroughly in cold running water. Shake out excess and set aside. Again, do not discard the stems.

In a high heat pan such as cast iron or carbon steel, over medium high heat, dry toast the pepitas until they brown and start to snap in the pan. Shake often while they toast and remove as soon as they are browned. Pour into a plate to cool slightly and set aside.

In the same pan, toast the pepper quarters and the whole garlic to brown all sides. Be careful not to get the garlic too dark on any side as it will be bitter if burned. Remove from the pan.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the pepitas and process to a fine grind and then remove (about like coarse sugar size).

Add the cilantro, garlic, hot pepper, lime juice, lime zest, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin and the Cotija cheese and process to a coarse paste.

Add the ground seeds back in and pulse a few times to mix.

Pour the oil in through the top in a drizzle as you pulse to combine. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed and pulse again.

The final consistency should be coarse with some texture to it and not completely puréed.

Serve over cooked shrimp, fish or meats or toss with pasta or rice. Pesto is meant to be added after foods are cooked and not before.

Store leftovers sealed with a piece of plastic touching the surface to stop oxidization. Or freeze in zipper seal bags with all air squeezed out.

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You don’t need much pesto to coat shrimp, fish or meats. Use sparingly to start. You can always add more, but you can’t take it back once added.

© Author: A Family Feast
Cuisine: Mexican Method: food processor, blender, toast