What's The Difference Between Pesto And Chimichurri?

Basil leaves and parsley leaves.

Short answer
Pesto is an Italian, basil-based sauce synonymous with pasta, while chimichurri is an Argentine, parsley-based sauce synonymous with grilled meats. Both sauces are green, raw, herb, and oil-based, although they only share a few ingredients and taste worlds apart.

Long answer
Just like pesto, chimichurri has been adapted over the years and can now be found in a plethora of different styles, with green (verde) and red (rojo) being the most common. Sometimes, though, old recipes have been changed so much that they barely resemble the original sauce. That's why, for this article, we're focusing on traditional Italian basil pesto and traditional Argentine parsley chimichurri.

Let's start with the similarities. Both...

• are green, raw, herb, and oil-based.
• are best made with a pestle and mortar.
• share ingredients (oil, herbs, garlic, and salt).
• can be served in a variety of different ways.
• elicit huge passion in their home countries.

As for the differences, let's look under the bonnet of each sauce and see what's going on.

Ingredient Pesto Chimichurri
Oil
Salt
Garlic
Basil
Cheese
Nuts
Parsley
Oregano
Vinegar
Chilli

You only need to look at the list of ingredients to know that the two sauces are going to taste completely different. While pesto has a distinctly cheesy, nutty vibe, chimichurri has an unmistakable tang from the vinegar, savouriness from the oregano, and bucket loads of heat from the chilli.

Both sauces can be used in a wide variety of settings, including marinades, dips, and spreads. However, while pesto is most commonly associated with pasta, chimichurri is almost always used as an accompaniment to grilled meat or fish.

The two sauces are in no way as interchangeable as some people believe, and nothing annoys Italians more than calling chimichurri an "Argentine pesto."

There is, however, another thing they share. Both are in a constant state of flux, with traditionalists arguing that the original recipe is the only one that's worthy of the name. Meanwhile, less nostalgic cooks believe it's perfectly acceptable to tweak the recipe, giving a generous nod to tradition while honing the sauce to suit new tastes and attract new fans.

This discussion isn’t going away any time soon. Pesto's greatest advocate, Roberto Panizza, ultimately wants the EU to recognise the pesto recipe made with Genovese basil as the only sauce that can legally call itself pesto. There are similar voices in Argentina, where many chefs believe people's definition of chimichurri has become far too broad and needs to be reined in to respect tradition.

Whatever your view, if you want to taste chimichurri as it was designed to taste, you can do a lot worse than follow our recipe below.

Chimichurri sauce recipe

Ingredient Quantity
Sunflower oil 70g
Parsley 60g
White wine vinegar 30g
Chilli 20g
Oregano 6g
Garlic 6g
Sea salt flakes 1.5g

Method
For best results, use a pestle and mortar.

Take the garlic, herbs, chilli, and salt and work the sauce until you reach your desired consistency. We like to keep our chimichurri a little chunky.

Stream in the oil and vinegar, stirring constantly. Allow the sauce to stand for 20 minutes and serve at room temperature.

Chimichurri will last in the fridge for 3 days without a noticeable drop in quality.