Cilantro Jalapeño Pesto

A spicy twist on the traditional pesto…

Cilantro jalapeño pesto takes the earthiness of traditional pesto and layers in a fresh fiery bite. It makes a perfect pasta sauce, sandwich spread, or spicy dip for the heat-inclined. Don’t overlook it, too, for use as an out-of-the-box taco sauce, especially for steak or chicken tacos. Beyond the jalapeño fire, the cilantro’s freshness and the hint of lime work very well with the flavors typical in Mexican cuisine.

You can turn up the heat even more by substituting in serrano peppers for the jalapeño. They provide a similar flavor profile (bright and grassy), only with a big uptick in heat. Serrano peppers can double the heat (and sometimes more) of jalapeño. You can also opt for additional jalapeño pepper to increase the spiciness, but careful with the pesto’s overall balance if you go this direction. Add additional minced jalapeño a teaspoon at a time and taste for balance often. 

Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 1 cup cilantro packed loosely
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 jalapeño peppers deseeded and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  • Add all ingredients into a food processor, then pulse blend the mix until you reach your desired pesto consistency.
  • Add additional salt and black pepper to taste, then serve.


Want more heat? Use a serrano pepper instead. Serrano peppers provide a similar flavor profile while easily doubling the spiciness.
Did you make this?Mention @PepperScale or tag #PepperScale so we can see what you made!

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on August 17, 2019 to include new content.
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