Cilantro pesto adds a flavorful twist to this vegetarian & gluten free pesto risotto recipe! It’s easy to make on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot. This pesto risotto is great as a main dish with veggies mixed in and easily made vegan. It’s also the perfect side dish for chicken, shrimp or salmon!

Pesto risotto in bowl with lime wedges on the side

Creamy, flavorful risotto is one of my favorite dishes ever! Since the dish is traditionally Italian, I had never thought about giving risotto a Mexican twist. That is until I had Cilantro Pesto Risotto as a side dish at a Mexican restaurant.

While I love Restaurant Style Mexican Rice, it’s fun to switch things up. Especially when you eat as much Mexican food as I do!

This Cilantro Pesto Risotto goes with so many dishes. And it’s easy to make on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot. (Seriously Instant Pot Risotto changed my life!)

The first time I made this risotto, I served it topped with Chili Lime Garlic Shrimp. Since then, I’ve served it topped with Chipotle Lime Chicken Fajita Skewers and Beef Barbacoa. I’ve also served it as a side dish with tacos, enchiladas and fajitas.

It’s a versatile dish that’s delicious with any Mexican meal. You can even substitute the Cilantro Pesto for a more traditional Basil Pesto and serve it with your favorite Italian meal! The bottom line is, pesto + risotto = a match made in foodie heaven! If you love risotto, you’re going to love this fun spin on the dish!

Pesto risotto in bowl with gold spoon and lime wedges

How to make Pesto Risotto on the Stovetop

  • Bring 8 cups of broth to boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
    • Vegetable broth or chicken broth can be used, depending if you’re making the recipe vegetarian or not.
  • On another burner on the stove, add butter to a large skillet over medium heat.
    • To make this recipe vegan, use a vegan butter alternative.
  • Once the butter has melted, add diced onions and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute.
  • Place the arborio rice in the skillet and allow it to toast for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the boiling broth 1/2 cup at a time to the rice in the skillet. Once the first 1/2 cup of broth has absorbed into the rice, add another 1/2 cup and continue stirring occasionally. Continue this step until all of the broth is gone, the rice is cooked and the risotto is nice and creamy.
  • Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, then stir in the cilantro pesto.

How to make Pesto Risotto in an Instant Pot

  • Press the saute button on the Instant Pot and use the adjust button to set the “normal” setting.
  • Add 1/4 cup butter to the pressure cooker. When the display says “hot”, add the onions, saute 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute an additional minute.
  • Add 2 cups arborio rice and toast for 3-4 minutes.
  • Press the Keep Warm/Cancel button on the pressure cooker.
  • Add 4 cups of vegetable broth or chicken broth. Stir to combine.
  • Place the lid on the pressure cooker and make sure the steam release is set to “sealing”.
  • Press the “manual” button and set the pressure cooker to high pressure. Use the +/- buttons to set the pressure cooker to 6 minutes.
  • When the cooking time is up, wait 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure before unlocking the lid.
  • Remove the lid and stir in the salt, pepper and Cilantro Pesto.

Is risotto pasta or rice?

Risotto is made from rice. More specifically, short grain rice. Arborio rice is the most common variety of rice used in risotto. It’s easily found at grocery stores with other rices.

Risotto with cilantro pesto in bowl with gold spoon

Wondering what to serve with Pesto Risotto? Try these 5 popular recipes!

  1. Chipotle Honey Glazed Salmon – the salmon can be served in a taco with the risotto on the side. Or serve the salmon directly on top of the risotto!
  2. Grilled Vegetable Skewers – it’s easy to make this risotto recipe vegan. (Check out the notes section below!) Add these vegetable skewers to make a complete vegan meal!
  3. Mexican Meatloaf – this is the perfect side dish to go with my kicked-up Mexican meatloaf recipe!
  4. Cheesy Taco Meatballs – the entire family will love Cilantro Pesto Risotto topped with Cheesy Taco Meatballs!
  5. Carne Asada – serve this delicious Mexican grilled steak right on top of the risotto for a seriously flavorful meal!

Made this pesto risotto recipe and loved it? Be sure to rate it 5 stars in the recipe card below!

Cilantro pesto risotto in bowl with spoon and lime wedges
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Cilantro Pesto Risotto

Cilantro lime pesto adds a flavorful twist to this vegetarian & gluten free mexican style pesto risotto recipe! It's great as a side dish with chicken, fish or veggies!

Ingredients

  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups arborio rice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ cup cilantro lime pesto, click link for homemade recipe

Instructions

  • Bring the 8 cups of broth to a boil in a large saucepan.
  • Get another burner going over medium heat, and add the butter to a large skillet.
  • Once melted, add the diced onion, saute 4-5 minutes, then add the garlic, saute 1 minute, then add the rice.
  • Toast the rice for 3-4 minutes, then begin adding the boiling broth to the rice 1/2 cup at a time.
  • Once the first 1/2 cup of broth is absorbed into the rice, add the next 1/2 cup, and so on until all of the broth has been absorbed and the risotto is nice and creamy.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, pepper and pesto.

Notes

Vegan Option: Use a vegan butter substitute and vegetable broth to make this recipe vegan.
Instant Pot Option:
  1. Press the saute button on the Instant Pot and use the adjust button to set it on the “normal” setting.
  2. Add 1/4 cup butter to the pressure cooker. When the display says “hot”, add 1 cup diced onions, saute 4-5 minutes. Add 2 cloves minced garlic and saute an additional minute.
  3. Add 2 cups arborio rice and toast for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Press the Keep Warm/Cancel button on the pressure cooker.
  5. Add 4 cups of vegetable broth or chicken broth. Stir to combine.
  6. Place the lid on the pressure cooker and make sure the steam release is set to “sealing”.
  7. Press the “manual” button and set the pressure cooker to high pressure. Use the +/- buttons to set the pressure cooker to 6 minutes.
  8. When the cooking time is up, wait 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure before unlocking the lid.
  9. Remove the lid and stir in the salt, pepper and Cilantro Pesto.

Nutrition Facts

Calories 435kcal (22%)Carbohydrates 71g (24%)Protein 7g (14%)Fat 13g (20%)Saturated Fat 5g (25%)Cholesterol 15mg (5%)Sodium 2225mg (93%)Potassium 162mg (5%)Fiber 3g (12%)Sugar 6g (7%)Vitamin A 1314mg (26%)Vitamin C 5mg (6%)Calcium 26mg (3%)Iron 4mg (22%)
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