Potatoes with cilantro pesto


This is the one item on a mezze menu in Lebanon I will always order. I just think the combo of potatoes, cilantro, garlic and hot pepper is dynamite!  Try it once and you will be hooked. Real simple and apparently a dish from south Lebanon as well.


  • 1 bag ( 1 1/2 pounds or 680g) of small golden potatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons of garlic, mashed with a teaspoon of salt (about 12 cloves)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, stems discarded and leaves chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes or 1 hot chili pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 lemon, juiced or quartered and presented with the dish
  • 3 cups of vegetable oil to fry the potatoes in
  • 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil


First step: make the cilantro pesto (aliyeh) Can be done ahead of time

  1. Mash the garlic cloves with the salt in a mortar.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic and the chopped cilantro. Fry the mixture for two minutes until fragrant. Add the hot pepper or chili flakes. Fry a minute more.  Remove from the heat.


Second step: Fry the potatoes

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut in small dice. Place in a bowl of cold water until all are cut.
  2. Dry the cut potatoes while heating a large skillet with 3 cups of oil or a deep-fryer to 375F.
  3. Fry the potatoes until golden and remove from the fryer into a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the extra oil.
  4. Add the potatoes to the cilantro and garlic pesto and mix well.
  5. Squeeze the juice of a lemon on the potatoes or serve with quartered lemons on the side of the serving dish.
  6. Serve at room temperature. Sahteyn!

METHOD II:  (Lighter version)

  1. Mash the garlic with a bit of salt and chop the cilantro leaves.
  2. Cut the potatoes in small dice and set aside in a bowl of cold water.
  3. Drain  the potatoes and heat a large pot.
  4. Place the potatoes in the pot with 1/4  cup of water and about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Cover the pot tightly.
  5. Heat the pot to medium high and let the potatoes steam and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, shaking the pot from time to time to prevent scorching the potatoes.
  6. When the potatoes are cooked, turn the heat off and set the pot aside.
  7. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil, add the garlic and cilantro and fry for 3 minutes until fragrant.  Drop the cilantro pesto on the potatoes and mix all very well. Add the optional chili pepper to the cilantro pesto if using.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature with quartered lemons or squeeze the juice of one lemon on the potatoes.



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  1. Posted September 29, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    This sounds so good! cilantro is my favorite herb so I am very intrigued about the recipe. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Joumana
    Posted September 29, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    I think you will like it Farida. It is a very popular dish in Lebanon.

  3. leyla
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Hello Joumana
    Lighter version
    Put the potatoes in microwave to cook , it will take 5 to 6 minutes , use fresh garlic, fresh cilantro,lemon juice and good olive oil . mix all together .

    For the first version you can substitute the fresh cilantro with dryed one , sahteen :)

  4. Joumana
    Posted October 2, 2009 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks Leyla! I personally don’t like to cook potatoes in the microwave, but you’re right, it is speedier!

  5. Ziad
    Posted August 7, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    I love Batata B’kizibra (as we call it in Beirut), and I love the idea of adding pepper flakes. This dish was a staple in our household, especially during the summer, and I remember I could never have enough of it!

  6. Apryl
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    My girlfriends and I just had this dish last night at a wonderful and I couldn’t wait to get home and look for the recipe. I’m so excited to cook this for my family :)

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