Transform One Bunch of Cilantro into 6 Summer Dinners

August 31, 2015

How to use your entire bunch of cilantro—stems and all—and make 6 summer dinners along the way. 

One of the things I look forward to most in the summer is having a garden filled with fresh herbs, which allows me to cut only what I need, right when I need it. When cooler weather overtakes and my garden calls it quits, I struggle with buying fresh herbs from the store. A lot. Forethought has never been one of my strengths, which means that a giant bunch of herbs often winds up sad and withered in the fridge, only a few leaves or sprigs shy of its original size.

Shop the Story

But I’ve learned that even I can make my way through a bundle of something with a little planning and creativity. Cilantro—the herb that seems to fall into a “love it” or “hate it” category for most people—is a favorite of mine, especially in the summer.

More: How to buy, store, and cook the world's most divisive herb

Grilled Corn & Shrimp Tacos
Cilantro and tacos are one of those hand-in-hand combos. They are among my favorite summer foods, especially when they’re filled with all sorts of grilled goodness. I start with a base of Greek yogurt and cilantro (which is pretty much my go-to, lazy-girl summer “sauce” for everything), add some minced jalapeños and some avocados that have been heavily doused in lime juice, then top them with a bunch of grilled corn and shrimp. There's a final sprinkling of more cilantro involved, too.


Deconstructed Salsa Pizza
For this pizza, begin with a thin base of Greek yogurt, then add diced tomatoes and onions, some minced garlic, and jalapeños. Brush the crust edges with olive oil and top with Oaxaca cheese, then bake in a preheated 475° F oven until the crust is nicely browned (8 to 10 minutes). If you like, you can crack an egg on top of the pizza before you throw it into the oven. (I find my oven always overcooks them, so I like to fry up an egg separately and add it after the fact, to ensure I achieve runny egg perfection.) When the pizza has finished baking, top it with fresh cilantro and avocados.


Soba Noodle Bowl
I love the freshness of lime and cilantro against the earthiness of soba noodles. Add some thinly sliced vegetables (carrots and cucumbers are a favorite; things like broccoli, kale, and avocado are welcome additions, too) and some alliums for kick (garlic or scallions both work well) to a bowl of cooked soba noodles. Throw in a hefty sprinkling of sesame seeds and some chopped cilantro. I usually opt for a few splashes of tamari, sesame oil, and rice vinegar to season everything, along with a healthy squeeze of lime or lemon, and a few dashes of Sriracha if I’m in the mood for a little heat.


Cilantro Stem Pesto
The stems of the cilantro plant have a whole lot of flavor to them but are kind of tough to eat outright—this makes them perfect for pesto. To make a small batch, simply quarter a standard cilantro pesto recipe, using mostly the stems from the bunch. (It helps if you have a small food processor, as the larger ones don’t do so well with a small amount of ingredients.) Feel free to swap out the pine nuts—pestos are adaptable, after all. It’s delicious on heady veggie sandwiches, but is also fantastic in rice or noodle dishes (especially with some coconut milk), with fish or chicken, or even just grilled vegetables.


The Gin(ger) Rickey
I am totally *ahem* appropriating this drink (name and all) from one of our local bars in Burlington. This has been one of my favorite cocktails to order for the past few summers, as it’s spicy, fresh, and downright awesome. To make one drink, fill the bottom of a rocks glass with cilantro. Add the juice of half a lime, then muddle. Fill with ice. Add 3/4 ounce of London dry gin and the same amount of vodka, then top with ginger beer. Stir lightly, and invite some friends over. (Note: For an extra ginger kick, muddle some bits of fresh ginger with the cilantro and lime.)


Sweet Corn Fritters with Sriracha-Lime Greek Yogurt
I live for sweet corn season. I come from a family that has proudly proclaimed themselves “corn snobs.” (Really, my mother feels the need to declare this to anyone and everyone, especially if she’s presented with a particularly offensive big-kernelled ear.) Consequently, I spent most of my life eating unadulterated corn on the cob with butter, salt, and pepper. But these fritters have recently become a favorite of mine; they have a great texture and flavor from the corn and are made extra delicious by the cilantro, scallions, and a little bit of cheddar cheese. Add a simple dipping sauce of Greek yogurt, lime, and Sriracha and dinner's ready.

Makes approximately 1 dozen fritters 

For the fritters:

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
Zest and juice of half a lime
2 cups fresh sweet corn kernels (from 3 to 4 ears of corn, depending on size)
1/2 cup minced scallions
1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

For the Sriracha-lime Greek yogurt:

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice and zest of half a lime
Sriracha to taste

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Carey Nershi

Listen Now

Join The Sandwich Universe co-hosts (and longtime BFFs) Molly Baz and Declan Bond as they dive deep into beloved, iconic sandwiches.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Deedledum
  • Ron Svetgoff
    Ron Svetgoff
  • Emma Galloway | My Darling Lemon Thyme
    Emma Galloway | My Darling Lemon Thyme
  • Susan Hopper
    Susan Hopper
  • duclosbe1
Lover of simple food and cocktails served with a single giant ice cube. Raised in the NY Schoharie Valley; currently residing in Burlington, VT. Blogger at


Deedledum September 13, 2017
Ron Svetgoff: Geez, did you get out of the wrong side of the bed or something?
Ron S. September 6, 2015
Carey, cilantro is bitter, foul tasting and vile. But yet pseudo columnists like yourself pretend to write articles proclaiming "I love cilantro." No one likes cilantro! Lets move on.
Emma G. August 29, 2013
Cilantro (or coriander as we call it here in Australia) is one of my favourite herbs. I prefer cilantro pesto over basil anyday and I love using the roots in curry paste too.
Carey N. September 4, 2013
I am so intrigued by the idea of using the roots in curry paste. Love it! :)
Susan H. August 18, 2013
I can't wait to try the cilantro pesto, I love the flavor of cilantro, sometimes I eat plain or top a salad. I also want to try the sweet corn fritters and the salsa pizza. Thanks for the inspiration.
duclosbe1 August 12, 2013
Those. Tacos! I have to make those this week. These are all great recipes. Nice job, Carey!!
Kenzi W. August 12, 2013
Amen to those tacos.
Carey N. August 13, 2013
Thanks, Brianne! :D
Yates M. August 12, 2013
Yes this sounds so good.. will be making these recipes
Greenstuff August 12, 2013
And don't forget the roots! An essential ingredient in Thai curry pastes.
Carey N. August 12, 2013
Awesome tip, Chris! It's a shame more store/market-bought bunches don't come fully intact, roots and all.
Marian B. August 12, 2013
I think cilantro stem pesto just changed my life. So resourceful! Can't wait to try it at home.
Kenzi W. August 12, 2013
That first photo is making me rethink the fact that only flowers should be in bouquets.
Carey N. August 12, 2013
Truth. :)
Lindsay-Jean H. August 12, 2013
And now I'm all set with this week's dinner plan. Thank you!