Bring fresh, vibrant, summery flavors to your dinner table with this cilantro jalapeno pesto fish. Tilapia is grilled to tender perfection, then topped with a spicy and fresh cilantro jalapeno pesto. Low carb and gluten-free.
When summer rolls around, we are all about the grill! Our favorite things to cook include grilled chicken breast, unbelievably crispy grilled potatoes, and grilled brussels sprouts…I love how food can cook up with a crispy texture and smoky, charred flavor.
This cilantro jalapeno pesto fish is another family favorite: the tilapia is cooked until tender and flaky, then smothered with a herby and kind of spicy cilantro pesto.
It’s fresh summer flavors at their absolute best!
Reasons to ♡ cilantro jalapeno pesto fish
- it uses simple ingredients but produces a ton of flavor
- it’s a low carb, gluten-free recipe
- cooking on the grill means easy clean up
Cilantro Jalapeño Pesto
Classic pesto includes fresh basil, olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, garlic and lemon juice. We are taking a steep turn from classic and going a little bit southwestern with this recipe: basil is replaced by cilantro, lemon is replaced with lime juice, and we are also adding in grilled jalapeños.
Grilling the jalapeños
By grilling the jalapeños before preparing the pesto, we turn sharp, spicy, raw jalapeños into sweeter, less spicy jalapeños with a more defined flavor. It’s definitely worth the extra effort!
To grill the jalapenos, we will first spray or brush with oil. Place directly over a grill heated to medium heat (around 350°F). Grill for around 2 minutes per side, until charred, rotating as needed.
When jalapenos are charred on all sides, allow them to cool slightly. Peel the skin off to the best of your abilities, remove the seeds (being careful not to touch your eyes), and add them to the food processor.
Preparing the pesto
For this recipe, you will need a 7 cup food processor fitted with a steel blade. You can find my food processor (plus more of my favorite kitchen tools in this post).
In addition to our grilled jalapeno peppers, we are adding cilantro, minced garlic, salt, lime juice, olive oil, almonds and parmesan cheese. Process on high until smooth, scraping the sides down as needed.
For this recipe, I’ve used tilapia, but you can swap for your other fish such as bass, halibut or tuna. Make sure to pick something that is not too delicate and will hold up well on the grill.
To grill our fish, we will use a sheet of aluminum foil sprayed generously with oil. You can also grill on a vegetable grilling plate that has been brushed with oil.
I personally avoid grilling thin fillets like the tilapia pictured here directly on the grill as it can stick horribly, however if you have a very clean and well oiled grill, you can place larger fillets of salmon or halibut directly onto the grill. For more information on grilling fish directly on the grill, check out this post with step by step photos by Cook’s Illustrated.
To grill the fish
- heat the grill to medium-high (400-450°F)
- arrange fish on well-oiled aluminum foil
- spread the pesto over top
- cook for 7 minutes, flipping half way *
*if you use a different type of fish, you will need to alter the cook time. Cook to 145°F or until it flakes easily with a fork.
What to serve with this recipe
- Orzo Pasta Salad with Feta and Mint
- Southwestern Wild Rice and Sweet Potato Salad
- Easy Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Fluffy Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower
- Balsamic Grilled Zucchini
Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto Fish
Cilantro Chile Pesto
- 4 jalapeño peppers (whole *see note)
- spray oil
- 4 cups cilantro leaves (loosely packed)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 limes (juiced)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (shredded)
- 4 tilapia fillets (or white fish of your choice; see note **)
- Pre-heat barbecue to medium heat (350°F). Spray jalapeño peppers with oil, and cook on the grill, turning every 2 minutes until charred and cooked through.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. (**leave the BBQ on for cooking the fish!)
- While jalapeño peppers are cooling, assemble all pesto ingredients in a 7-cup food processor fitted with a steel blade.
- Remove the stems and seeds from the cooled jalapeños, and do your best to peel off the skin. If it wouldn't peel, don't worry about it and move on. **You may wish to wear protective gloves when handling the jalapeños.
- Place the peeled and de-seeded jalapeños into the food processor and blend for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the processor with a spatula and blend for 30 more seconds.
- Spray a large piece of aluminum foil with spray oil. Arrange fish fillets on the aluminum, and spread generously with pesto.
- Cook the fish on the foil over medium heat on the barbecue. Cook for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4 minutes, or until fish is cooked through and flakes with a fork.
- pesto may be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week
- pesto may be frozen for up to 1 month (I recommend a small mason jar)
- after cooking, tilapia fillets may be stored in the fridge- they are best eaten within 2 days