The Difference Between Chimichurri and Pesto Sauces

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Traditional chimichurri and Italian pesto sauce are vibrant herbaceous green sauces made with leafy greens; they’re both essential and foundational in their respective countries.

When comparing pesto vs chimichurri, it’s important to note their different flavor profiles, uses, and food pairings.

side view of pesto vs chimichurri in white bowls

What is Basil Pesto?

Basil pesto is a Classic Italian Sauce made with fresh basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, pine nuts, lemon juice, fresh garlic cloves, and coarse salt.

A more traditional basil is made with a mortar and pestle but can also be made using a food processor.

What Pairs Well With Classic Pesto?

Traditional pesto is bright, herbaceous, tangy, garlic cloves, and delicious. It makes the perfect pasta sauce, served with pasta, a protein like a light, flaky fish.

What is Traditional Chimichurri?

Traditional chimichurri is a classic Argentinian sauce made with fresh herbs like Italian parsley, fresh cilantro, extra virgin olive oil, red chili peppers, red wine vinegar, lime juice, and fresh oregano. You can substitute red chili peppers with red pepper flakes or chili flakes.

On the other hand, chimichurri rojo is a smoky red sauce with roasted red peppers, red pepper flakes, red onion, extra virgin olive oil, and lemon juice.

What Pairs Well With Argentinian Chimichurri?

Green chimichurri is served as a dipping sauce or drizzled over perfectly grilled meat like skirt steak. Chimichurri also makes an incredible marinade.

Have you tried chimichurri rice? This chimichurri rice recipe is so easy to make and packed with flavor!

Olga’s Notes

I enjoy both sauces, especially with pasta. This one-pan chimichurri pasta recipe is easy to make and incredibly delicious. It’s perhaps one of my favorite ways to enjoy both! Pesto with pasta is a staple in Italy and a classic dish.

Key Differences: Pesto vs Chimichurri

The first key difference is pesto has parmesan cheese; parmesan is a hard cheese with a nutty flavor profile that, in addition to the pine nuts, gives pesto sauce a nutty flavor profile. It coats the palate because of the fattiness in the nuts and extra virgin olive oil. 

On the other hand, chimichurri is also herbaceous but is a vinegar-based sauce, so it’s tart and sharp. Hence, it is typically served with fatty meats; it’s great when paired with a fatty steak or shrimp.

Pesto adds fat to a dish, and chimichurri cuts through fatty foods.

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