Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta with Shrimp

It all began when I went a little crazy over the cilantro that was on sale at the store.  I guess the shipment they got in was a little dirty, so people weren’t buying it.  So they were selling 3 huge (dirty) bunches for $0.99.  After washing and spinning them dry, I found different ways to incorporate cilantro into my meals for the week.  But then I was still stuck with the hugest bunch of all and it was starting to die in my fridge.  So I decided to make a pesto out of it and my world hasn’t been the same.

Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta with Shrimp |

Why should basil have all the fun anyways?  The coolest thing about this pesto is that it has an Asian flair, so you can totally push that concept further and eat it over rice noodles.  But I chose to use good old spaghetti…and we really liked it!

Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta with Shrimp |

Instead of pine nuts, like you would find in a traditional pesto, I chose to use peanuts.  But if you have a peanut allergy, go ahead and substitute with whatever nuts or seeds you want.   Although you could totally eat this pasta on its own, I wanted to add some grilled shrimp…and this combo works!

Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta with Shrimp |

All you need is a fresh bright squeeze of lime, and dinner is done. I love how you can eat this dish cold too, which makes it perfect for the summer.  Watch how I make this easy and unique Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta with Shrimp in EPISODE 11 of Bits & Pieces SEASON 3 below.


The thing I love about cilantro is that you can eat the stems and all.  I know we usually tend to throw them out and only pick off the leaves, but the stems are tender and full of flavor.  So blitz them up in the food processor as well and you’ll have a tastier pesto in the end!

Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta with Shrimp |

Since there’s so much flavor going on in the pesto, I choose to season my shrimp simply with salt and pepper.  But you can add a sprinkle of something fancy if you wish. You can also pair your pasta with grilled chicken or slices of steak.  I just love how something old can become something totally brand new.

Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta with Shrimp |

So the moral of the story kids is the next time you’re tempted to throw out your sad looking herbs, try making a pesto instead.  You’ll feel proud of yourself for not wasting food, and your stomach will be happy too.

Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta with Shrimp |


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Cilantro Peanut Pesto Pasta with Shrimp
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Why should basil have all the fun? You can make pesto with cilantro too!
Serves: 4
  • 1 bunch cilantro (stems and all), ¼ cup leaves reserved for serving
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • ¾-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon grated lime zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
  • 1 teaspoon light-brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup roasted salted peanuts, divided
  • 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¾ pound spaghetti or linguine, cooked according to package instructions
  • Large shrimp (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a food processor, pulse peanuts and pour some out for topping at the end. To the processor, add cilantro, garlic, ginger, vegetable oil, red pepper flakes, lime zest, lime juice, and brown sugar. Pulse until a coarse paste forms. Season with the soy sauce and sesame oil and pulse to combine.
  2. Meanwhile, in a pot of salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve ¼ cup of the starchy salted cooking water and drain. In a large bowl, toss pesto with pasta while the pasta is still hot. Loosen the pesto with the reserved pasta water if necessary. Sprinkle remaining pulsed peanuts over pasta along with cilantro leaves.
  3. Season shrimp lightly with salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil. Grill for about 1-2 minutes per side, or until they turn pink and the tails start to curl. If you have a lot of shrimp, you can cook them on wooden skewers that have been soaked for about 30 minutes, so they're easier to turn on the grill at the same time. This also makes a beautiful presentation. Serve with the cilantro pesto pasta.
TIP: The whole point of this recipe is to not waste the cilantro stems. They’re tender and fragrant and can be used in this recipe.




This sounds so good that I really wish I’d found it before I made myself the more ‘normal’ pesto using my coriander and walnuts… Boo 🙁 LOL, well I’ll still just have that on pasta with my leftover salmon fillets but your fully Asian take on pesto is definitely on my to-do list! So thanks much for the inspiration and I’m really glad I stumbled on your blog randomly – lots of great recipes here but my fave part is that you care about using up ingredients and being thrifty and healthy, all at the same time. That’s rare and much appreciated, so thanks!

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