This easy vegan cilantro pesto pasta is flavourful, spicy, filling and calls for just 11 ingredients and about 25 minutes. The leftovers also make a great packed vegan lunch and last for 3-4 days in the fridge.
I’ve been meaning to share another pesto recipe on the blog for ages. But to be completely honest, I love my walnut kale pesto so much it’s legit the only one I ever want to make.
However, back in January my roommate returned from Trinidad with a small jar of chadon beni pesto and as soon as I tasted it, I knew I had to try to recreate it.
And that’s how this spicy cilantro pesto pasta came to be.
If you don’t know what chadon beni is – pronounced shadow benny btw – it’s a herb that’s pretty similar to cilantro in taste but is much more potent.
I actually don’t think I ever had cilantro before coming to Canada. But chadon beni was a staple in my home. We literally use it to do everything in Trinidad, from seasoning meat to – apparently – making pesto.
This cilantro pesto isn’t exactly the same as the chadon beni version but it’s pretty damn close. It’s also easy to make, only calls for 11 simple ingredients and the entire meal comes together in just 20 – 25 minutes.
I added spinach to mine since I’m on a mission to eat more veggies but that’s totally optional. In fact, I highly recommend subbing the spinach for more cilantro because you can never have enough cilantro, amiright?
Once the pesto is done, all that’s left to do is throw together the full cilantro pesto pasta dish. Luckily, that part doesn’t take much longer – especially if you boil the pasta while prepping the pesto.
I tossed some crumbled tofu into my pesto pasta for extra protein but again, that’s optional.
You could just as easily sub the tofu for vegan bacon or sausage or leave it out altogether. This spicy cilantro pesto pasta is definitely flavourful and filling enough to be eaten on it’s own if you prefer.
So you do you, friends.
More easy vegan lunches + dinners:
- 3½ cups cilantro, loosely packed
- ½ cup spinach, loosely packed*
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ⅓ cup slivered almonds
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 pimentos, seeds removed
- 1 - 2 scotch bonnet peppers, seeds removed, more or less to taste*
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 300g pasta (enough for 3 - 4 servings)
- 3 small tomatoes, quartered
- Optional: sliced olives and more cilantro and nutritional yeast for garnish
- ½ block (~ 1 cup) extra firm tofu, dried and crumbled*
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Cook pasta according to package directions
- Add the pesto ingredients, except the oil, to a food processor and blend combine. While the machine is running, pour in olive oil through the spout
- Continue blending, scraping down sides as needed, until creamy and fully combined. If it has trouble blending add a bit more olive oil
- Taste and adjust seasonings and pepper as needed then set aside
- Once your pasta is cooked and drained, heat a large saucepan or cast iron skillet over medium heat
- Once the skillet is hot, add olive oil and garlic. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant but not burned
- Add the crumbled tofu and continue to cook until browned, stirring occasionally - about 3 - 4 minutes
- Add 2 - 3 tbsp pesto and stir until evenly coated
- Transfer the tofu to a plate and return the skillet to the heat
- Add remaining olive oil and garlic to the skillet. Sauté for 1-2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant but not burned
- Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute before removing from the heat
- Add cooked pasta and toss to coat/combine then mix in tofu or other vegan 'meat' if using, and as much pesto as you'd like
- Serve warm with additional pesto on the side, and garnish with sliced olives and more cilantro and nutritional yeast
- Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 days
* can sub scotch bonnet pepper for more pimento or pepper sauce of choice
* can sub tofu for vegan bacon, ham, sausage, chick'n or 'meat' of choice
Want more ways to use pesto? Try this tofu pesto sandwich: