This Cilantro Jalapeño Pesto is the Mexican take on an Italian Classic. It is loaded with cilantro, jalapeño, cotija cheese, and sunflower seeds. This sauce is a great marinade or finishing sauce for chicken, shrimp vegetables, or even mixed into rice.
Mexican flavors are some of my favorite to play with in the kitchen. Growing up in Texas, Mexican cuisine has always been something that I gravitate towards.
Homemade pesto is one of my favorites to make because it is so easy, quick, and loaded with flavor. So I wanted to create a Mexican pesto.
Cilantro replaces the basil. Cotija subs in for the parmesan. And lastly, sunflower seeds are used instead of walnuts. A true fusion going on here.
- Quick & easy to make
- Bold flavors
- Perfect marinade for chicken, shrimp, or fish
- Great served on top of grilled veggies or fluffed into rice
- Simple & healthy ingredients
- Jalapeño: You can remove the seeds and membrane for less heat.
- Pumpkin seeds: You can swap these for an equal amount of sliced almonds.
- Cotija cheese: You can swap this for an equal amount of parmesan cheese. It has a similar saltiness and taste.
Complete list of ingredients and amounts is located on the recipe card below.
before you start
- Wash and pat dry all of the cilantro. This will prevent the pesto from becoming watery.
- Make sure you have a food processor.
Step 1: Add all of the ingredients into the food processor.
Step 2: Pulse until smooth. Taste and add more jalapeño or salt if needed.
TIP - Use a spatula to scrape down the side of the food processor to make sure everything is well incorporated and blended.
- Start with one jalapeño. I recommend adding one jalapeno in to start and tasting the pesto. If you want more heat, you can always add more, but you can't go backwards.
- Use the cilantro leaves and stems. No need to remove the stems, they have lots of flavor!
- Pulse well. You want to make sure the pesto is completely blended and smooth.
Store in the fridge in airtight container for 4 days.
I love using it as a marinade. Check out my Crispy Cilantro Chicken recipe! It is great on seafood, chicken, or veggies. It can even be used to flavor rice. Try fluffing a few tablespoons of it in cooked rice.
Yes! Lightly grease an ice cube tray. Spoon the pesto into the tray. Once it has completely frozen, pop the cubes of pesto out of the tray and store in airtight container or baggie. Thaw overnight in the fridge or use from frozen with hot food.
Pesto!! If you ever have a lot of herbs to use up, pesto is the way to go. You can freeze it and pull it out as needed.
Cilantro Jalapeño Pesto
- 4 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves and stems
- 1-2 jalapeños*
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds*
- ¼ cup cotija cheese*
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 limes, juiced
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Review all recipe notes and instructions before beginning.
- Add all of the ingredients into the food processor.
- Pulse until smooth. Taste and add more jalapeño or salt if needed.
This pesto is fantastic! Absolutely delicious in chicken. My whole family loved it and I’ll definitely be making it again!
Mmmmm, I can't wait to try this! I think it will make a fantastic marinade! I love anything with jalapeno, it makes everything taste so fresh! Thanks for the recipe!
This was so delicious and quick to throw together! I stirred it through spaghetti for a quick lunch and it was yummy!
So easy, right?!
This pesto is absolutely delicious. We had it on shrimp the other night and it was amazing!
This looks delicious. I would not have thought to use pumpkin seeds. I bet there is a lot of flavor!