Cilantro and Spinach Pesto


(From the archives–originally posted May 17, 2015)

Last week there were still some great specials on really beautiful bunches of cilantro, so I picked up some extra. Now, how to use all of it?

Of course there is Amy’s great Tortilla Soup (found here:, and refried beans are always improved by cilantro. For now, I wanted to try a pesto using cilantro, something I had heard of but had never attempted.

I keep fresh spinach in my refrigerator as much as possible, so pairing spinach and cilantro seemed a good place to start. I ended up with the following adaptation of several different recipes I reviewed, and it proved to be a real winner.

When cilantro and/or spinach are on special, this can also be a fairly frugal recipe, especially since a typical pesto serving is quite small…and the nutrient load here is really, really good. Spinach, cilantro, almonds, olive oil; all top dogs in any list of healthy foods.

Now that you have made pesto, what are you going to do with it? I served it with a Spanish omelet, a great combination–here’s my take on that:

This pesto would also make a good topping for crostini or many kinds of crackers. Its brilliant green color would make a good contrast to a black olive tapenade or various white or cream colored spreads or dips. Many people enjoy pesto as a topping for pasta, and that would be a good use too. And some lightly braised or steamed fish would be great with a bit of pesto to zip up the flavor.

What about mixing a little of this with the yolks of boiled eggs to make special deviled eggs? (Green eggs without ham?)

Wherever you may have used traditional pesto would be a good place to try this one too. Lots of ways to use this, so go ahead and make a sample batch the next time you have some good cilantro and spinach available.

Cilantro and Spinach Pesto

3/4 c slivered almonds (see NOTE)
1 c tightly packed cilantro–use both leaves and stems, chopping it coarsely
1/2 c tightly packed spinach leaves
1/3 to 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese, depending on your preference
4 garlic cloves, coarsely sliced
1/4 c lemon juice (the bottled kind like ReaLemon is fine for this recipe)
salt–start with about 1/4 t and then adjust to taste
black pepper to taste
olive oil

1.  Pulse the almonds lightly in a processor bowl until coarsely chopped.
NOTE:  You may substitute whole almonds with skins still on, but you will need to chop the nuts more thoroughly, and there will be flecks of the brown skin through the pesto. Not unattractive, just different.
2.  Add the cilantro, spinach, garlic, parmesan, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to the almonds. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped.

3.  Gradually drizzle olive oil on to the chopped mixture, processing until the mixture is smooth and a soft paste. Taste for seasonings and adjust.

Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups.

This may be served immediately or refrigerated for several days.

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