Cilantro Almond Pesto Over Crispy Sweet Potatoes and Turmeric Ginger Brown Rice

It’s National Nutrition Month! The sun is visible and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Chirping birds and melting snow are tiny hints that spring may be just around the corner. What better time then to challenge yourself to eat a little healthier?


This recipe was entirely based on the fact that I had a package of fresh turmeric root in my fridge. Turmeric is commonly available dried and is a big component in curry dishes. It bleeds a yellow/orange color that brightens up your food (and your hands…and your cutting board) and lends a peppery flavor. The root is like a smaller, orange ginger root and tastes like a combination of saffron, coriander, and ginger. It pairs really well with cilantro, which I happened to have a giant bunch of. Turmeric is praised for its anti inflammatory and immunity boosting properties, and makes a great tea when steeped with fresh ginger root and lemon.

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When I’m cooking, I always start with what I have. I make a mental list of what’s in my fridge, then think about all of the different ways I can combine them to make the boldest flavors and the brightest colors. Sometimes when I visit my mom, she says “I don’t have any food in the house!” I’ll then go into the fridge and see the rainbow of raw fruits and veggies, and the wheels start turning. Instead of individual raw vegetables, I see flavor pairings and color wheels.

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The pesto, rice, and potatoes are totally oil free. I used almonds in the pesto, but walnuts or pine nuts would be great as well. The potatoes are soaked in water for about 30 minutes, then tossed in cornmeal and baked until browned and cooked through. I’ve also tossed them in ground flax seed to get the delicious crispy texture.

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The cilantro pesto is packed with fresh lemon juice and garlic which mingles with the spicy ginger turmeric rice, and the caramelized roasted potatoes. Adding spices to plain brown rice is a great way to jazz it up if you don’t like the nutty flavor. If you’re like my sister and you think cilantro tastes like soap, a combination of arugula, parsley, or basil would be great as well.

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Serves about two

Cilantro Almond Pesto
1/2 cup whole raw almonds
1 large bunch cilantro leaves roughly removed from stems
Handful of baby arugula
Juice from half a lemon
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tahini
¼ cup nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons water

Ginger Turmeric Brown Rice
1 cup brown rice, rinsed
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated turmeric
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

Crispy Sweet Potatoes
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced into half-moons
Cornmeal or ground flax for tossing

1. Soak sweet potatoes in water for 30 minutes.
2. While the sweet potatoes are soaking, bring two cups of water to a boil and add brown rice. Cook rice for about 30 minutes until almost ready to eat. Drain and set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drain the sweet potatoes and pat dry. Toss them in a light coating of corn meal or flax seed, and place on a lined baking sheet for 15-20 minutes, flipping half way through.
4. To make the pesto, pulse the almonds first in a food processor until they are crumbly. Add remaining ingredients and blend. Add water as needed to thin the mixture.
5. While the potatoes are baking, finish the rice. Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 3 minutes until softened. Then add in ginger and turmeric. Cook for one more minute, and then toss in the rice. Stir until the rice begins to turn yellow and becomes fragrant.* Enjoy!

*Should your rice dry out in the skillet, adding veggie stock or coconut milk would be a great addition!

About Danielle

I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Master of Applied Gastronomy: Culinary Arts graduate with a passion for pastry. After years of working in food and nutrition PR and communications, I turned my passion for all things culinary into a career. Now, I create plant-based recipes (mostly desserts) and share the art and science of making delicious recipes without eggs, dairy or gelatin for the home cook and pro. 

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