Spicy Mint Pesto
Esalen Team
May 3, 2021

“Pesto” is usually synonymous with “basil,” but you can use the same basic method —pounding herbs, nuts, and other aromatics together with oil — to play with lots of flavors. In this spicy mint version, three zippy protagonists (mint, jalapeño, lime) are paired with buttery macadamia nuts that polish the rough edges from both the flavor and texture. A bit of neutral oil brings everything together into a smooth sauce. Toss with some buckwheat noodles and add some seared tofu or fish and a simple cucumber salad for an elegant lunch, use it as a dip with raw carrots and green beans, or try it as a simple dressing for some grilled zucchini and eggplant.

Long noodles covered in a light green sauce
Recipe and images courtesy of Michelle Weber

Start the basic recipe as a foundation, and personalize to your palate’s content!  Substitute coconut oil for the health benefits and tropical undertones, or add some fresh ginger for even more heat. Whiz in some garlic or shallots for punch. Use a mix of mint, cilantro, and basil for a more complex flavor, or play with other kinds of citrus

An Italian grandmother might not call it “pesto,” but whatever you call it, it’s versatile, quick, high-impact — and most importantly, delicious.


  • 3 c. lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 jalapeño, roughly chopped, seeds and ribs included
  • 1/3 c. macadamia nuts
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/3 c. vegetable or sunflower oil
  • Salt to taste


Put the mint, chile, nuts, zest and lime juice into a food processor or blender, and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Scrape down the sides.

With the food processor running, add a pinch of salt and then pour in the oil. Blend until you have a thick, smooth sauce. Taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt and lime juice.

Alternatively, you can do all of this by hand with a mortar and pestle — bash the mint, chile, nuts, lime, and a pinch of salt together first, then work in the oil. You’ll have a chunkier, less-homogenous mixture, but it will be no less tasty.

Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

For more herbal inspiration, try these takes on pesto:


Esalen Team