Using Up Cilantro

Cilantro is a love it or hate it kind of fresh herb. I personally adore it. It’s common in a lot of Thai cooking, and it’s the leaves from the coriander plant. This coming growing season, I intend to plant a potful of it here in our garden so I can snip off a bunch when I need it. In the winter, however, we purchase it from the grocery store. It’s generally sold by the bunch here – about $1.50 for a generous handful of stems. I always end up with 1/2 or even 3/4 of a bunch left! And then it rots in my fridge before I can use it up, and that is not only wasteful, but it’s gross.


Today, while using cilantro in a recipe, I got thinking. What if I had other uses for cilantro so that I never had to throw away a bag of questionable semi-solid greeny-yellow nastiness? Here are three things you can do with cilantro instead of letting it go to waste.

1.) Cilantro Freezer Cubes: Use up that leftover cilantro by blending it in your blender until it’s a pulpy mash, and then freeze in little trays (you might need to add a teeny bit of olive oil to get that right consistency.) When you’re cooking something that calls for fresh cilantro in the future, you can pop them out of the tray and add it to your cooking. You can buy mini ice cubes from a lot of online retailers and gourmet kitchen shops. I’m fairly lazy, so I had a look around my house to see if there was anything I could re-purpose. A long time ago, I impulse bought brand of frozen herbs called Toppits. I didn’t really check at the time of purchase, but after getting them home and using them in my cooking I had a look at the ingredients. The dill one, for example, contains: “fresh dill , non-hydrogenated soybean oil, dextrose, sea salt, modified cornstarch”. I’m happy I can at least recognize that list, but I’m not satisfied to see any of the ingredients after “fresh dill”. So, after using up the package, I carefully cleaned the little tray and it’s lid, and have since re-purposed it as a cilantro (or other herb) cube tray.

2.) Fresh Salsa: For a long time I was fairly convinced I didn’t actually like salsa. I found it tasted a lot like spaghetti sauce with extra salt and rotten tomatoes. Then I tried homemade salsa and everything changed. We have a bunch of leftover chips from our New Year’s Eve Party, so we’re planning nachos this week. A cilantro heavy salsa is a piece of cake to make and as far as I am concerned, there is nothing finer than fresh homemade salsa. You’ll have to experiment to find the right balance of flavours, but the essentials are: chopped up fresh tomatoes, chopped up onion, chopped up hot pepper of some kind (try Serrano or Jalepeno), minced garlic, salt and pepper, lime juice, and chopped up cilantro. Because cilantro is something I love, I like to put as much of it in as I can get away with.

3.) Cilantro Pesto: one of our go-to mid-week meals is pasta mixed with a generous serving of Parmesan cheese, a big blob of pesto, and something like chopped up preserved artichoke hearts or perhaps prawns. Kale likes pesto, Parmesan, pasta and prawns, so that’s a win win win meal. A variation from the traditional basil based pesto is to use cilantro instead – in your food processor or blender, combine a bunch of cilantro, a few tablespoons of olive oil, a bunch of fresh garlic, a handful of pine nuts or sunflower seeds, a tablespoon or two of lemon juice or vinegar and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. Consider adding a chopped up sun-dried tomato. Pesto will store in the fridge in an airtight container for a little while. When it’s no-time-for-dinner-prep night, boil up some pasta, add a generous amount of parmesan, and a big blob of your fancy cilantro pesto.