We’re mixing up traditional pesto with this Cilantro Pesto Recipe. Made with tender cilantro leaves and stems, Parmesan and toasted pepitas, this pesto is for the cilantro fans! It’s vibrant, herby and savory all at the same time. 

Why This Recipe Works

We combine tender cilantro with just a bit of parsley for some added body then pair the herbs with a natural companion—pepitas. Toasted pepitas lovely nuttiness to this pesto while also adding some texture. Finally, the rest is pretty straight forward, good olive oil, some grated Parm, and fresh garlic. 

cilantro, parsley, olive oil, grated cheese, salt, pepper, garlic cloves and pepitas measured out and arranged on a counter

Ingredient Notes


Pepitas, also known as pumpkin seeds, pair wonderfully with cilantro. Find them next to the other nuts and seeds or in the bulk area of your grocery store. Make sure you get raw, unsalted pepitas. Give them a quick toast on the stovetop before adding them to the food processor with the herbs.


We encourage you to use the leaves and tender stems of fresh cilantro. Cilantro has such tender stems that they blend right into the pesto without being noticeable. They’re also full of flavor so don’t waste them! If you’ve got leftover cilantro, here’s our favorite way to store it


In addition to the cilantro, we like to use a bit of parsley. It adds a nice earthiness. If you don’t want to buy two types of herbs, no problem, just substitute with extra cilantro.

green pesto in a small white bowl with a small wooden spoon

Test Kitchen Tips

  • For this batch size of pesto we recommend using a mini food processor, if you have one. You can use a regular food processor but an over-sized food processor (like a 12-cup) won’t work. Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor you can use a blender, though do your best to pulse the blade instead of blend. 
  • If you don’t want to use two different types of herbs, use additional cilantro in place of the parsley. 
  • If you don’t have pepitas, feel free to use pine nuts or even shelled pistachios. 

Other Pesto Recipes to Try

  • Our Triple Herb Pesto is our go-to pesto for all things. It’s similar to a classic basil pesto but with an herby twist.
  • Save your carrot greens and use this recipe to blend them into a pesto. You can do the same with your radish greens
  • If you’re in the business of trying new things, check out our Miso Pesto. It’s super savory and delicious tossed with cooked ramen noodles. 
  • Our Trapanese Pesto is a traditional variety of pesto you maybe haven’t had. Give it a try, we guarantee you’ll be delightfully surprised! 
  • If you’re looking for a vegan pesto, check out this recipe from my friend Erin over at The Wooden Skillet.

How to Use Pesto

  • Make a pesto vinaigrette by thinning a dollop of pesto with a drizzle of olive oil and some kind of acid such as lemon juice, lime juice or white wine vinegar. 
  • Pasta is a natural pairing. Cook your desired pasta to al dente, reserve 1 cup cooking pasta water then drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta back to the pot, add as much pesto as you want and a splash of pasta water. Stir to combine, adding more pesto and/or pasta cooking water until desired consistency is reached. 
  • Use it as a pizza sauce or dip for breadsticks.
  • We love to use it as a sandwich spread.
green pesto in a small white bowl with a small wooden spoon

FAQs About Cilantro Pesto

What if we have a nut allergy?

Good news for you, this pesto is made with pumpkin seeds, so it’s a nut-free pesto. 

Can you freeze pesto?

We love the idea of making a big batch or pesto and freezing it. We prefer to freeze pesto a bit differently than others. Instead of using an ice cube tray, we like to line the wells of a muffin tin with paper liners and fill with pesto.

Transfer the pan to the freeze and freeze until solid. Once the cups of frozen solid, transfer them to a resealable zipper-lock bag and store in the freezer. Each cup will hold just shy of half a cup.  

How long does pesto last?

When stored in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator, pesto will last up to 1 week. 

Cilantro Pesto

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Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Yield 3 /4 cup (6 servings)


A unique take on the classic herb sauce, this Cilantro Pesto can be used however regular pesto works, but we love it on sandwiches and with chicken.


  • ¼ cup raw unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • ½ cup packed parsley leaves and tender stems
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • cup + 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil


  • In a small skillet, toast pepitas over need heat until lightly browned and fragrant, 4–5 minutes.
    pepitas toasting in a skillet
  • Transfer to a mini food processor with cilantro, parsley, parmesan, garlic, pepper and salt.
    herbs, toasted pumpkin seeds, parmesan, salt, pepper and a garlic clove in a food processor
  • Pulse until chopped.
    minced herbs and nuts in a food processor
  • With processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil
    green pesto in a food processor


Serving: 2tablespoonsCalories: 204kcalCarbohydrates: 2.5gProtein: 6gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 7mgFiber: 1g
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
green pesto in a small white bowl with a small wooden spoon

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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