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Cilantro and Spinach Cashew Pesto (raw, vegan, gluten-free)

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I created this pesto with no end dish in mind.  Will I toss it with zucchini noodles as expected?  Been there, done that… there had to be something different,  but I didn’t know just exactly what,  but there was no doubt it would come to me when the timing was right.

As the title indicated, cilantro is one of the main ingredients in this recipe.  Up until I hit the age of about 36, I didn’t care for cilantro, it always had a soapy taste to me.  I had what they call cilantrophobia.  I would pick it out of every salsa that came my way.  Do you realize what a full-time job that was?  hehe   There are studies that even show that some people may be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro.  I was convinced that was me.  I was born without cilantro receptors on my tongue. :)

But then, I introduced the raw diet into my life and that got ahold of my taste bud control panel and it started flipping switches. Soon I began to like cilantro and I found myself adding it to my dishes… on purpose!  :)   There are times that it can still remind me of soap, but it’s not as threatening to me anymore, so that association of it tasting like soap, has faded into the background.

And thank goodness, because there are a lot of great health benefits to be had.  I learned that cilantro is often recognized as being effective for toxic metal cleansing.  The chemical compounds in cilantro bind to toxic metals and loosen them from the tissues.  Many people suffering from mercury exposure report a reduction in the often-cited feeling of disorientation after consuming large and regular amounts of cilantro over an extended period. (source)

It is also rich in antioxidants, essential oils, vitamins, and dietary fiber.  Cilantro is one of the richest herbal sources for vitamin K.  AND cilantro leaves only have 23 calories/100 g.  Not sure I love it that much to wonder if I am adding too many calories in my cilantro consumption. hehe   There are so many other great things that I read about this leafy veggie and I encourage you to look it up sometime.

It is always best to  buy fresh leaves over the dried herb since it is superior in flavor, vitamins and anti-oxidants.  When selecting fresh cilantro, look for vibrant green color leaves and firm stems.  It should be free from any kind of spoilage or yellowing.  Once at home, wash in clean water, discard roots, any old or bruised leaves. Fresh cilantro should be stored in the refrigerator in a ziplock bag or wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel.  Use as soon as possible since it loses flavor and nutrients quickly.

I used cashews in place of pine nuts which are the common nuts used in pestos.   I am not a huge fan of them plus they are expensive so I thought that I would play around with some alternatives.



Yields 1 3/4 cups

  • 1 cup cilantro, (about 2 ounces)
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/2 cup cashews, soaked 2+ hours
  • 1 medium avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 cloves of garlic minced


  1. Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems and discard the stems.  Coarsely chop the leaves.  Place in a food processor, fitted with the “S” blade.
  2. Rough chop the spinach, add to food processor.
  3. Drain the cashews and discard the soak water, add to food processor along with the avocado flesh, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic.
  4. Process until it becomes a paste.  You can leave it as chunky as you want or process a bit longer till it is more creamy.
  5. Store in fridge for 2-3 days.


One of the greatest joys when creating raw food recipes is experimenting with different ingredients… a practice that I highly encourage.  Daily I get questions regarding substitutions.  Of course we all might have different dietary needs and tastes which could necessitate altering a recipe.    I love to share with you what I create for myself, my husband, friends and family.  I spend a lot of time selecting the right ingredients with a particular goal in mind, looking to build a certain flavor and texture.
So as you experiment with substitutions, remember they are what they sound like, they are substitutes for the preferred item.  Generally they are not going to behave, taste, or have the same texture as the suggested ingredient.   Some may work, and others may not and I can’t promise what the results will be unless I’ve tried them myself.   So have fun, don’t be afraid,  and remember, substituting is how I discovered many of my unique dishes.

Start with a stacking ring.  You can use any wide cylinder shaped object,
just as long as both ends are open.

Place a dollop of peso in the center.  Leave about 1/4-1/2″ around the edges
as shown below.  The pesto will act as a helping hand to hold the tomatoes
in an upright position as you place them around the ring.


Slice the cherries in half-length wise and place them with the flesh facing out.


Make sure the tomatoes are snug up against one another to create a barrier.


Fill the cavity with pesto, level the top and cover with plastic.  Chill in the
fridge for at 30 minutes.  This will help firm things up.


The time has come.  To be honest, I am nervous to remove the ring. Will it hold?


Lift straight up, nice and gentle.  Eeep, I don’t want to take it off!


Looks pretty but will it fall once I remove the ring?


SHEW!  I did it.  My first pesto stack attempt. :)


Now the easy part… surround the pesto stack with some crackers and enjoy!


The cracker recipe can be found here.


16 thoughts on “Cilantro and Spinach Cashew Pesto (raw, vegan, gluten-free)

  1. gema says:

    Hello, where can I find the recipe for the bread shown in the second photograph? thanks, it looks delicious! I will try this weekend!

  2. Phyllis says:

    I made a purchase of your ebook, when will i receive it?

  3. Jacob Carstens says:

    Dear Amie-Sue,
    It looks absolutely delish :-) but isnt it a bit wasteful to discard the cilantro (koriander to us infidels) stems ?
    I always use em – they pack so much flavor and my MagiMix can easily turn them to mush..

    • amie-sue says:

      Good morning Jacob, by all means use the stems. :) Often I save the stems of herbs for my juices. Have a great day, amie sue

  4. Joy says:

    This looks deliious!I am so making it!

  5. Kathy says:

    This turned out so beautifully! I have had the same experience as you with first disliking Cilantro now I rather like it too. I love how visually appealing this turned out love the little sliced tomatoes and that you added avocado to your pesto. Certainly will mellow the cilantro and allow us more servings from this recipe. Bravo! Well done!

    • amie-sue says:

      Thank you, thank you :) It is a lot of fun playing in the kitchen, taking typical foods and turning them into artful feasts. :) Or at least attempt too. hehe I am happy to hear that your taste buds have taken turn for the liking of cilantro too. It opens the world of more culinary experiences. hehe Have a great evening, amie sue

  6. wendy says:

    Hello Amie-Sue,
    I was thrilled to receive the original mashed-up menu !! Sadly ( LOL) I am unsure as to whether or not I can save this Pesto long enough to actually add it to the cheese and crackers suggestions! All on it’s own,It has been most divine for my lunch and dinner(breakfast anyone?)….I’ll be making the crackers today. Already I can “smell” the aroma of the warm ingredients wafting out of my dehydrator come early tomorrow.YUM YUM Thank you so much Amie-Sue

    • amie-sue says:

      lol Wendy… do your best to set aside a little of the pesto for the recipe mashup… it will be worth it. hehe So happy to hear that you enjoying the pesto so much. :) Thanks for commenting, I love hearing from you. Have a blessed evening, amie sue

  7. Sandy Piergrossi says:

    Well Amie Sue, unlike you I have not yet acquired the taste for cilantro. I am still picking it out of every Mexican dish while in Cancun each year. So for me I will be using parsley, that taste I just love. Probably because I am Italian and grew up with that and basil. Sounds good otherwise. Can’t wait to try.

    • amie-sue says:

      I understand Sandy… when you don’t like a certain taste, you don’t like a certain taste. hehe I don’t think you can go wrong with using any fresh herb in its place. I hope you enjoy it. Have a wonderful day. amie sue

  8. Angie says:

    oh my God … beautiful DELICIOUS foods (I shared) … thank YOU, Amie Sue

    • amie-sue says:

      You always make me smile Angie. Thank you for that. :) <----cheesy grin Blessings and enjoy the weekend!! amie sue

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