Southwestern Red Pepper Pesto

A couple weeks ago, I shared one of my favorite recipes from our recent vacation, and after receiving inquiries about some of the other pack + go foods that kept us fueled during the long days of hiking, today I am sharing with you one of my new favorites that single-handedly transformed what could have been boring bag lunches into flavor-infused gourmet fare.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

While I was preparing food for our travels, I tried to think of a flavorful spread to use on sandwiches that would keep well in a cooler or daypack. I was going to whip up a batch of traditional basil pesto when I realized we had that on our last trip and thought it might get a little boring after a few days. Since Kashmir and I love our spicy foods, I decided to craft a very non-boring roasted red pepper pesto with some bold southwestern flavors (and everything but the kitchen sink). What I absolutely love about this pesto isn’t just the fact that it was an experiment {concocted at 2am}, or the fact that it turned out AMAZING…but that just like a basil pesto, it is incredibly versatile. On vacation, we used it as a spread on grilled chicken sandwiches, but it makes a fantastic pasta sauce and perfectly compliments a variety of appetizers {one of which I will share later this week…so stay tuned!}.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

This pesto is also incredibly easy to make, so don’t let the long list of ingredients fool you. Simply pop everything into a food processor and let it do the work! {I personally love my small Ninja container for sauces like this.} You can also tweak the seasonings to your taste–I added a little more chipotle powder and used an entire jalapeno when I made this batch, but not everyone enjoys that much heat…so use your own judgement. Speaking of the heat–I used a picked jalapeno from a jar I happened to have left over from the copius amounts of peppers I harvested from the garden this summer, and I liked the idea of adding a little brininess to the pesto, but a fresh jalapeno would certainly work. I also happened to have a jar of minced giardiniera in the fridge, so like almost everything else in this pesto…I figured, why not throw that in too?! It’s totally not necessary, though I have to admit it was a delicious addition. Ultimately, this pesto is just a product of a bunch of ingredients I already had that I thought might work well together…and the result was even more delicious than I imagined! It’s a great sauce just to have on hand, so mix up your own batch and let me know how you decide to put it to good use! 

Roasted Red Pesto

Southwestern Red Pepper Pesto
A delicious spicy southwestern pesto that adds bold flavor to sandwiches, pasta and apps
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
  1. 2 large roasted red peppers, chopped (I love Mediterranean Organic)
  2. 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  3. 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  4. 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  5. 1/2 cup avocado oil (or olive oil)
  6. Juice of 1 lime
  7. 1/2 pickled jalapeno pepper (fresh works too)
  8. 2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
  9. 1 Tbsp chili powder
  10. 1 tsp ground cumin
  11. 1/4 tsp smoked sea salt (regular sea salt works too)
  12. 1/4 tsp black pepper, fresh cracked
  13. 1/4 tsp chipotle powder (optional)
  14. 1 Tbsp minced giardiniera (optional)
  1. Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until completely combined. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or spices if desired.
  1. If you don't have roasted red peppers in a jar on hand, you can roast your own by charring the skin on top of a gas range, grill or under the broiler in the oven. Once the skin is blackened, place it in a metal bowl and cover with plastic wrap for about 5 mins to allowl the skin to pull away from the pepper. Then scape the charred skin off and discard, remove the seeds and follow the rest of the recipe.
  2. Yields about 1.5 cups. Keeps well in fridge for about 6 weeks.
Adapted from Melissa d'Arabian - Food Network
Bites of Life