Chimichurri Sauce: No Basil in this “Pesto”

As most farmstead chefs know, there’s more than one way to make pesto.

by John D. Ivanko
PHOTO: Rachael Brugger

As most farmstead chefs know, there’s more than one way to make pesto. Sure, there’s the traditional basil-based pesto, originating in Genoa, Italy, but some folks drowning in garlic scapes in mid-summer turn them into garlic pesto. The more you grow and experiment, the more you’ll learn you can make pesto with any herb.

The Argentineans have their own version of a pesto called chimichurri sauce. They use it as a condiment or a marinade for meats, poultry and fish. We had a chance to try out some at the Yellow Green Market in Hollywood, Fla., as a flavorful dip for crackers. We can’t wait to use it as a spread on our garden-fresh sandwiches this summer.

The name pesto means to pound. It’s derived from traditional way of making pesto by crushing the ingredients with a mortar and pestle, combining them together to create a delicious sauce. Today’s modern food processor accomplishes what a mortar and pestle does but in a fraction of the time. Unlike the Italian pesto with basil, often processed into a smooth purée inside the food processor, chimichurri sauce should retain a finely chopped texture. This is accomplished by mixing the herbs with the lime juice, red wine vinegar and olive oil in a separate bowl rather than in the food processor or with the mortar and pestle.

Our chimichurri sauce recipe uses several herbs found in our garden, plus garliccarrots and onions. If you’re adventuresome like us and have eaten through your storage onions, you can use shallots or ramps (wild perennial onions, also called wild leeks) in their place. Our ramps pop up in our flower gardens every spring.

This recipe is super-easy and can be used as a basic guide. Be creative in the kitchen. It offers the opportunity to customize and refine the recipe in such a way to create your very own signature chimichurri sauce. Later in the summer when you have an abundance of tomatoes, add some in finely diced. Ditto for bell peppers. For the best results, use only the freshest ingredients, as this recipe is all about celebrating the fresh, seasonal and local foods growing around us.

Recipe: Chimichurri Sauce

Yield: about 2½ cups


  • 1 cup fresh parsley, firmly packed
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, firmly packed
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, firmly packed
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T. onion, finely chopped
  • 2 T. carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 T. lime juice
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper


In a food processor, pulse the parsley, cilantro, oregano, garlic, onion and carrots until finely chopped.

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Move mixture into separate bowl. Add lime juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, tossing until well mixed. Let sit for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Use as condiment, marinade, sandwich spread or dip. Sauce can also be refrigerated for later use, but bring to room temperature before serving.

Find recipes for more sauces and pestos:

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