Pesto, Salsa Verde and Chimichurri are all useful sauces to be able to wipe up for a fast weeknight meal or a spectacular weekend treat. But what are the differences between the three?
Pesto is nutty and often has a hard cheese added, using olive oil. Salsa Verde has an element of brine with capers or anchovies and also a small amount of vinegar added. Chimichurri has vinegar and chilies added. The leafy herbs can vary as can the consistency and where they are used.
There is a certain amount of freedom involved with each one, but knowing you can adapt a dish to suit your family is a great trick to have up your sleeve!
Pesto & Salsa Verde Differences And Uses
Both of these sauces can be used in family favorites from roasting vegetables to pasta sauce, but there are subtle difference.
Pesto tends to be made from basil or other soft leaf herbs (or even nettles) and nuts, cheese, garlic and olive oil. Salsa Verde is made using soft leaf herbs, garlic, a brine like ingredient such as pickles, anchovies or capers, then a touch of olive oil and a white vinegar.
Pesto originates from Genoa in Italy and is made by crushing or pulverizing herbs mixed with pine nuts or walnuts and a hard cheese such as parmesan or pecorino. The addition of olive oil makes it a suitable paste for adding to pasta and many other dishes.
Salsa Verde originates from the Aztec Empire in Mexico. This has been documented by Spanish explorers and taken back to Europe and made a little more broad in terms of possible ingredients we can add. You want to take the basics of mashing herbs and releasing their flavors and then add layers with a brine and vinegar ingredient too.
Pesto tends towards a slightly thicker consistency to salsa verde and this leads to them being used in slightly different ways. However leftover pesto can be transformed into salsa verde very easily by the addition of a little white vinegar.
Uses For Pesto & Salsa Verde
If you like a little bit of sharpness in your food then a salsa verde could be the right alternative to pesto. It will give you a little brine like kick as well as pickled or vinegar flavor. This can work well in pasta dishes and with a little grated cheese on top is very similar to using pesto.
Here are a few recipes and uses for both salsa verde and pesto.
- Salsa Verde Recipe This recipe uses tarragon and mustard and will give you both the brine like kick and a real mustard one. The addition of capers really lifts the dish as well. If you use this basic recipe you can then go on to use with pizzas, focaccia, pasta and salad dressing.
- Basic Pesto Recipe. Once you have mastered the basic pesto recipe you can expand and make the most of your new sauce, using different herbs and adding a few different ingredients like walnuts rather than pine.
Differences Between Chimichurri And Pesto
There are some differences which will give you a few ideas for using sauces in new ways.
Pesto is made from soft leaf herbs macerated with olive oil, garlic, nuts and a hard cheese. Chimichurri is made from soft leaf herbs macerated with a splash of olive oil, some white vinegar, chilis and garlic. This means that you can make pesto into a version of chimichurri if you fancy a change.
Here is a simple recipe for Chimichurri, you will see that it uses cilantro as it’s soft leaf herb and this is quite common but not 100% the only way to make a chimichurri.
Chimichurri is popular in Spanish cuisine but was brought over from Argentina originally. Pesto is Italian in origin and can seen in many different cuisines. Chimichurri is poured over a cooking or cooked meat. Adding moisture and flavor to a dish. We also love to use it as a slightly more spicy dipping sauce for artisan breads or salads.
Differences Between Chimichurri and Salsa Verde
These two sauces have a lot in common and can be used almost interchangeably in your cooking.
Chimichurri contains soft leaf herbs chopped finely and added to garlic, chilis, olive oil and white vinegar. Salsa Verde is soft leaf herbs chopped finely and added to olive oil, vinegar and capers, anchovies or even pickles along with garlic.
You are free to add more herbs or change the intensity of the dish by adding more vinegar. You can also change the consistency by adding more or less olive oil.
All three sauces have fresh soft leaf herbs at the heart of their recipes, alongside garlic and olive oil. Then pesto adds nuts and a hard cheese. Whereas Salsa Verde includes a brine like ingredient like capers or anchovies as well as a little piquancy from vinegar. Chimichurri add the vinegar and omits the brine but adds a little chili spice.
Picking which one suits a particular dish is then down to your personal preference. I would say try mixing it up a bit and making a chimichurri for pasta night rather than a pesto. This way you can add grated cheese as a garnish and enjoy a slightly different meal!
What Next & Further Reading
- 28 Useful Ideas For Too Much Rosemary – More Than Cooking!
- What To Do With A Bumper Harvest Of Garlic
- Gremolata Vs Pesto Or Chimichurri
- Piri Piri Or Peri Peri Substitutes & Alternatives