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Cilantro-Cotija Pesto


Cilantro-Cotija Pesto

Here's a pesto with a Mexican twist. Toasted pepitas lend a savory element to this sauce, and cilantro and basil lend some bright herbal elements. Use this as a dressing for Mexican-inspired vegetable sides or on grilled fish for a flavor sensation you won't soon forget.

Click here to see 5 Authentic Mexican Dishes for Cinco de Mayo.

Calories Per Serving


  • 1 Cup unsalted raw or roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, stems trimmed 2 inches from the bottom
  • 1 Cup basil leaves
  • 1 Cup olive oil, plus more for storage
  • 1/2 serrano chile or 1 jalapeño, chopped coarsely
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 Cup crumbled cotija, preferably Cacique, or shredded pecorino or Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spread the pumpkin seeds in an even layer on a baking sheet. Put the sheet in the oven and bake, checking them and shaking the pan every 3 minutes, until they start to dance, puff up, and brown lightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, transfer the seeds to a bowl, and let cool to room temperature.

Put the cilantro, basil, and olive oil into the bowl of a food processor, and purée for 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin seeds, chile, garlic, and cotija and pulse until you have a coarse purée. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To store, put it into a container with a tight-fitting lid and pour ¼-inch olive oil over the surface to keep out the air. Each time you use it, stir in that oil, and replace with another ¼-inch oil before closing the container; this makes an airtight seal that will keep it tasting fresh for up to 10 days.