From the richness of pecan pesto to the fiery kick of chipotle, this recipe brings together the best of both worlds. 

Homemade Chipotle Pecan Pesto

When I was living in Austin, TX a few years ago, there was a restaurant called Bouldin Creek Café located in south Austin that I’d take all my visitors to. It’s hippie, it’s vegetarian, and it’s a helluva good place!

Just as salsa, chips, and pico are always served while you wait for your meal in a Mexican restaurant, pesto was one of the first items on the table in Bouldin Creek Café. That dark orange-colored and silky smooth, flavorful pesto was so good that I couldn’t help asking for extra servings the first time I went there. The waitress noticed how much I loved the pesto. The portion she brought out got bigger and bigger each time. Eventually, I couldn’t resist the urge to ask what’s in it. Hence, this reverse-engineered chipotle pecan pesto recipe! 

In this article, we’ll unveil the secret behind this not-so-traditional pesto recipe, guide you through the ingredients you’ll need, demonstrate how to prepare this homemade pesto, offer tips for customizing a vegan version, and suggest serving ideas and pairings. So, put on your apron, and let’s get cooking!

The Spicy Twist on Traditional Pesto

In order to truly appreciate the unique flavor profile of homemade chipotle pecan pesto, it’s essential to first understand the traditional pecan pesto from which it is derived. Traditional Italian pesto is made with fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, salt, olive oil, and a hard cheese like pecorino or parmesan. Toasted pecans can be a substitute for pine nuts, which transforms a traditional basil pesto into a basil pecan pesto. 

Now here comes the twist. Instead of using basil, we use chipotle peppers, which bring a rich, smoky flavor that complements the earthy notes of the pecans beautifully. Their subtle sweetness adds depth to the pesto, while the smokiness provides a hint of complexity that lingers on the palate. It is perfect for those who enjoy a little heat in their dishes without overpowering the overall taste.

Now that you understand the delightful evolution from traditional basil pecan pesto to spicy chipotle pecan pesto, let’s dive into the ingredients you’ll need to recreate this mouthwatering dish.

From the richness of Italian pesto to the fiery kick of chipotle, this chipotle pecan pesto recipe brings together the best of both worlds.

The Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. These chipotle peppers packed in a tangy and zesty sauce are one of the key ingredients in this recipe. Feel free to adjust the spice level to your preference by adding more or fewer peppers.
  • Pecans. For the nutty component, pecans’ distinct flavor and buttery texture complement the smoky chipotle peppers perfectly. On top of that, pecans are cholesterol-free, sodium-free, gluten-free, and a good source of dietary fiber. They’re high in fat as well, but the vast majority of fat in pecans comes from heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. They contain over 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and zinc. All super healthy stuff. 
  • Parmesan cheese. Freshly grated parmesan cheese provides a savory and salty taste. It also helps to thicken and bind the pesto together. (For a vegan version of the pesto, read on.)
  • Garlic. It adds a savory and pungent kick. Make sure to mince the garlic finely to distribute its flavor evenly throughout the pesto. 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil. Good quality olive oil will bind all the ingredients together and give the pesto its smooth consistency. Opt for extra-virgin olive oil, as it adds a fruity and robust flavor to the pesto.

Now that you have gathered all the ingredients needed to create this flavorful chipotle pecan pesto, let’s move on to the next step of preparing this delightful dish.

Preparing the Chipotle Pecan Pesto

Step #1: Mince garlic.

Preparing Chipotle Pecan Pesto - Mince Garlic

Start by finely mincing some garlic cloves in a food processor with extra-virgin olive oil. We’ll add other ingredients in the same food processor shortly.

Step #2: Toast pecans.

Toast pecan

This toasting process is optional, but it intensifies the pecans’ natural nuttiness and adds a satisfying crunch to the finished pesto. To do so, toast the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until they become fragrant and slightly golden. 

Step #3: Make pesto.

In the same food processor, add toasted pecans, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and parmesan cheese if using. Process until the mixture is smooth and well blended, with a rich and vibrant dark orange color.

From here, adjust the taste by adding sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, or even a pinch of cayenne if desired. 

Customizing for a Vegan Chipotle Pecan Pesto

The chipotle pecan pesto at Bouldin Creek Café is vegan. Apparently, making this gluten-free pesto vegan-friendly and dairy-free is easily achievable without sacrificing flavor.

To create a vegan version of this recipe, simply omit the parmesan cheese or replace it with nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is a popular ingredient among vegans, known for its cheesy and nutty flavor, making it an excellent substitute for parmesan. You can find nutritional yeast at most health food stores or in the health food section of your local grocery store.

When using nutritional yeast, start with a smaller amount and gradually add more until you reach your desired taste. Remember, it is always easier to add more than to remove excess, so take your time and adjust accordingly. The nutritional yeast will add a unique depth to the pesto, enhancing its savory profile.

Chipotle Pecan Pesto

Serving Suggestions and Pairings

  • Serve with pasta. This homemade chipotle pecan pesto is incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. One of the simplest ways to serve it is to toss it with your favorite pasta. Cook up a batch of spaghetti or linguine and mix in a generous amount of this pesto for a quick and satisfying meal. The smoky and spicy flavors of chipotle will add a delightful kick to your pasta dish, while the pecans will bring a nutty and crunchy element to each bite.
  • Put on sandwiches and subs. If you’re in the mood for a lighter option, this pesto also makes for a fantastic spread on sandwiches and subs. Slather it on your bread of choice and layer it with fresh veggies, grilled tofu or deli meat, and maybe even some sliced avocado. Here’s a 15-minute turkey sandwich with cranberry and pesto and an easy meatball sub recipe to spark some ideas. 
  • Serve as a dipping pesto sauce. For those who enjoy hosting gatherings or parties, consider serving this chipotle pecan pesto as a dip. It pairs wonderfully with crispy tortilla chips, crackers, or even sliced vegetables like cucumber and bell peppers. The bold flavors of the pesto will provide a delicious contrast to the crispness of the chips and the freshness of the vegetables, creating a party snack that will have your guests coming back for more.
  • Use it as a marinade or condiment. Additionally, you can use this pesto as a marinade or sauce for grilled vegetables or proteins. Brush it onto cabbage steaks, tofu, or portobello mushrooms, and then grill them to perfection. The chipotle and pecan flavors will infuse the ingredients, adding depth and complexity to your dishes. Alternatively, drizzle the pesto over roasted sweet potatoes or sous vide corn on the cob for an irresistible smoky twist.
15-Minute Turkey Sandwich

StreetSmart Kitchen Storage Tips

  • The pesto can be stored in an air-tight jar in the fridge for up to seven days. 
  • You can also freeze it in ice-cube trays, pop the cubes out, and store it in a freezer bag for up to six months. 

In conclusion, whether you choose to toss it with pasta, spread it on sandwiches, serve it as a dip, or use it as a marinade, the combination of smoky chipotle and nutty pecans will elevate any dish. Get creative and experiment with different ways to enjoy this versatile pesto, and let me know how you enjoy it in the comments below. 

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Chipotle Pecan Pesto Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 9 reviews
  • Author: Sharon Chen
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1/4 cups (10 servings) 1x
  • Category: Sauce, Gluten Free
  • Method: Blend
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Gluten Free
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From the richness of traditional Italian pesto to the fiery kick of chipotle, this chipotle pecan pesto recipe brings together the best of both worlds.


  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 45 Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (omit it or use nutritional yeast if vegan)


  1. In a food processor, combine garlic and olive oil. Pulse process until the garlic is minced.
  2. (Optional) In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast pecans until they become fragrant and slightly golden. 
  3. Add toasted pecans, chipotle peppers with some adobo sauce, and grated parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast (start with a small amount and adjust accordingly) to the food processor. Blend until the pesto is smooth.
  4. Transfer the pesto into an air-tight container to keep in the fridge.


The serving size is approximately two tablespoons per serving. Adjust accordingly for your planned use.


  • Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
  • Calories: 126
  • Sugar: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 67.9mg
  • Fat: 12.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.1g
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Fiber: 0.5g
  • Protein: 2g
  • Cholesterol: 2.9mg

About the Author

Sharon Chen is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and author of the Complete Sous Vide Cookbook. She believes food not only brings healing but also connection. As the creator of StreetSmart Kitchen, she aims to make meal prep easier than ever and help you find balance, ease, joy, and simplicity in the kitchen as you improve your well-being.