Kaffir Lime Leaves Pesto Chicken

Sometimes when I do grocery shopping, I would deliberately buy some ingredient that I either rarely use or have never used before. I don’t know… it could be my intrigue or a desire to challenge myself?

So recently I was browsing through some vegetables at the local night market and I saw a pile of really nice looking kaffir lime leaves. I know what they are since my parents used to have a large kaffir lime tree at home. But I’ve never really bought them before and have only used them, like, maybe twice in my life for cooking. So I got myself a bunch without really knowing what I’d do with them.

Then I came across a few pesto recipes using herbs like cilantro and kale instead of the usual basil. *ping* A lightbulb flashed in my head. Why not make kaffir lime leaves pesto?

Hah! I was so nervous but am glad it all turned out well. There is room for tweaking, as in all recipes, and I think I can make this even better. But for now, here’s what I did:

To marinade the chicken, I used Kecap Manis (Dark Soy Sauce), Salt, PepperKLLPC1

At the last moment instead of brown sugar, I decided to use my new favourite squeeze bottle Palm Sugar Syrup! No need to melt a block of palm sugar and wonder what to do with leftovers. Genius, people.KLLPC2

Now that the chicken is marinating, we’re down to the pesto. And this being an Asian/Thai inspired flavour, I figured, let’s use the pestle and mortar. So we have Kaffir Lime Leaves, Spring Onions, Garlic, Toasted Pine Nuts, Cumin Seeds (not pictured cos I’m a scatter-brain), Fish Sauce, Coconut Oil, grated Ginger,  Lime Juice (both also not pictured again cos… well, you know.)2012-10-31 19.48.56

Get them ingredients chopped, sliced, crushed etc just to make it easier to pound. A food processor will do the job just as well. I just wanted to play 🙂KLLPC3

I started with the lime leaves first because they are pretty wavy and hard leaves. It took me some muscle strength and elbow grease to smash them to smaller bits but really, all it took was like about a minute or so. The spring onions, cumin seeds, garlic go in next. Then finally the nuts.KLLPC6

After that, I stirred in coconut oil, fish sauce and the grated ginger.KLLPC4

I tasted the pesto and decided it needed to brightness. Hence a few squeezes of lime juice. I’m positive that it can take a lot more acid in this. Also before I forget, I could have added some bird’s eye or jalapeño chillies in the mix but my hubs had a bit of tonsil infection so I decided to forgo the spicy element.KLLPC 5

Swirled it around a bit and there is my creamy, zesty, bright kaffir lime leaves pesto! This made about 2-3 tablespoons worth, which was just enough for 2 chicken thighs.

Now on to the cooking. I basically browned my chicken pieces first.

Then the pesto went in with a tad bit of water or stock. KLLPC8

I let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes until the meat is tender and then adjusted the seasoning.KLLPC8

You know what it smelled like? Like Thai green curry! My hubs who is a major fan of Thai green curry attested to this and if he says so, then it is so! I didn’t miss the coconut milk as the pine nuts offered plenty creaminess. I’m excited to use this in a roasted chicken thighs recipe. It would have been better with some chillies though but that just means more experiments. *wink*





“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)

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Kaffir Lime Leaves Pesto Chicken


2 Chicken Thighs, chopped

2 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce (Kecap Manis)
1 tbsp Palm Sugar syrup
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper

4 Kaffir Lime Leaves, stripped off ribs and torn
2 Spring Onions, white parts only, roughly chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, smashed
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
3 tbsp toasted Pine Nuts
1 tsp grated Ginger
juice of 1 small Lime (abt 2 tsp)
1 tbsp extra virgin Coconut Oil
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
1-2 Bird’s Eye Chillies or Jalapeño Peppers (optional but recommended)

2 tbsp extra virgin Coconut Oil
1 cup Water or Chicken Stock

Salt & Pepper to taste

  1. Mix marinade thoroughly with chopped chicken thighs and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
  2. For pesto, pound lime leaves first in a pestle and mortar until pulpy. Add spring onions, garlic & cumin seeds and pound until a paste and very fragrant. Add pine nuts and pound until crushed and creamy. Stir in the rest of the pesto ingredients. Feel free to add more or less fish sauce and lime juice to preference.
  3. Heat up oil in a skillet or pan and brown the chicken pieces. If a lot of oil renders, remove some with a paper towel until only about 1 tbsp remains.
  4. Add pesto to the pan and stir until it coats the chicken pieces and becomes fragrant.
  5. Pour in water or stock and bring it to a simmer.
  6. Cook until meat is tender. Adjust seasoning and lime juice according to taste.
  7. Serve with rice!


  1. This sounds amazing! Love the spices and flavorings. Will book mark this one for later. Looking forward to keeping in touch. Take care, BAM

    • Hi Bam! Thanks so much for your compliments. Yes, do try it and if you do any tweaking, do let me know. I know this recipe needs more tweaking here and there. Your website is spectacular as well. 🙂

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