Thai Inspired Cilantro Pesto
Originally published July 12, 2009, Updated on 11/4/20
It’s been pretty wild to see some of what I was doing more than a decade ago, with regards to blogging.
Taking this Cilantro Pesto Recipe post, for example? Here’s what the original post looked like:
I LOVE cilantro! I was blessed to not have the "Cilantro tastes like soap!" gene, and I feel so bad for those that do. They won't get the enjoyment from this recipe that the rest of us can!
3 cups cilantro, large stems removed, and packed well.
½ cup almonds
1 small chopped onion
Garlic. As much as you like (I used 6 cloves to start)
2-4 dried chilis
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup olive oil
Several good dashes lime juice.
Chop it all together in a food processor.
Makes a great dip for tortilla chips!
So... yeah, this post was definitely overdue for an overhaul!
Well, my cilantro pesto has evolved over the years - and so has the ways we tend to serve it.
For one, we haven’t made it as a chip dip in many years, generally preferring to serve our "Porterhouse" Guacamole
One evolutionary “branch” of my cilantro pesto became my Cilantro-Mint Chutney.
One cup of the cilantro was swapped out for mint, the nuts were left out, a few other tweaks were made, and this cilantro-mint chutney was the result.
The other evolution path this took was more of a Thai inspired pesto, which is the Pesto I’m sharing in this updated post!
My Current Thai Cilantro Pesto
Going from my original recipe, here are some of the changes I’ve made over the years:
- Almonds were swapped out for peanuts
- The onion was swapped out for green onions
- Dried chilies were replaced with sriracha
- The lime juice stayed (in theory!), but usually I’ll use Calamansi juice instead.
As I’ve mentioned before (Like on my Paleo Coconut Calamansi Panna Cotta post!)... I’m completely in love with Calamansi juice in general.
When it comes to this pesto, I’m *especially* wild about how it works together with the accompanying flavours, like the sriracha and peanuts. Really just a beautiful thing!
How to Make Cilantro Pesto
"Chop it all together in a food processor." really does sum it up.
I just measure everything into my food processor and let it rip until I'm happy with the texture.
... that really is all there is to it!
Cilantro Pesto Uses
This pesto is a super versatile condiment, and there are a bunch of different ways that we use it. A few, off the top of my head:
- As a chicken or shrimp marinade, or brushed on after grilling the same.
- Toss on some noodles. I especially like it on rice noodles with some grilled shrimp tossed in.
- Spread it on toast. Move over, avocado toast. Cilantro toast should be a THING.
- On salad. More on this in a minute.
- With Chicken Satay! It’s a great second dip to have alongside the peanut dip.
- As a sandwich spread. Especially on anything resembling a Banh mi. Unf.
- On tacos. Especially shrimp, fish, or chicken tacos.
- As a dip for falafel.
- Just eaten with a spoon. Maybe I’m weird, but when I make a batch of this, I loose a good ¼-1/3 of it to just going at it with a spoon as I’m preparing whatever I’m intending to serve it with.
Fun fact: The photos of the pesto in a bowl? We started with plenty of it - 1 ¼ cups - to be able to fill that bowl as shown.
... But I’d eaten enough of it before my husband got his photo stuff set up, that I had to bunch up some parchment paper in the bottom of the bowl to make up for some of the volume lost to ME.
Salmon with Thai Pesto
Aside from just eating it with a spoon, my favourite use for this Thai cilantro pesto is as sort of a solid-ish salad dressing.
- Preheat your oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Arrange salmon on the baking sheet, skin side down if applicable.
- Drizzle a little sesame oil over it, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sesame seeds. (Sometimes we’ll do onion and/or garlic powder as well)
- Bake until done. For salmon this size, it’s usually about 15 minutes.
- While the salmon is baking, make the salad.
Then I’ll slice up some cabbage: Green, purple, or both.
From there, it’s the other toppings: Cucumber, watermelon radish, lots of green onions. Sometimes I’ll add beets and/or carrots. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll spiralize them, as pictured.
We didn’t have any nice avocado on hand when shooting this, but we’ll usually have some avocado slices on it.
- Put a BIG scoop of the pesto on it. I usually go ⅓ to ½ cup or so, but - as we established - I have *zero* chill when it comes to this stuff!
- When the salmon is done, carefully lift it up off the skin, place it on the salad, and serve!
All that said, sometimes I do make some variations when I’m making pesto.
They’re almost always spur of the moment - whether due to mood or ingredient availability - and usually eyeballed in terms of measurements. Here are a few examples of changes I’ll make from time to time:
Sometimes, I’ll swap out part of the cilantro for mint and/or basil. The proportions always vary, but the usage doesn’t.
The mint / basil additions still keep this in the “Thai inspired” direction, so I’ll use this variation in the same ways I use my base recipe.
Sometimes I’ll make basically the original recipe, but swap the crushed chilies out for some Jalapeno.
This one is great for tacos, as a corn chip dip, served with quesadillas, etc.
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Anyway, on to that recipe!