Chimichurri is a herby, oil-based condiment used in Argentinean and Uruguayan cuisine, primarily as an accompaniment for barbecued meat. It is made with chopped parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes, and has a fresh, herbal flavour, with a hit of pungent garlic and tangy vinegar.
It is often compared to Italian pesto, and there are some obvious similarities. Both are made primarily with oil and herbs, and like pesto, chimichurri is available in both green (chimichurri verde) and red (chimichurri rojo). The two are quite different in terms of flavour, however. Chimichurri lacks the salty, nutty qualities of pecorino cheese and pine nuts, instead having a pronounced tangy vinegar flavour that goes well with grilled meats.
How to use chimichurri sauce
Designed to complement grilled meats, the herbal, tangy flavour of chimichurri sauce blends perfectly with the savoury, smoky taste of charred beef. It is a must at any Argentinean asado, or traditional family barbecue, where it is used to add flavour to steaks, sausages and sometimes poultry or fish. It is not usually used as a marinade, instead being basted or spooned over the meat as it cooks, or added to the cooked meat as it rests. Chimichurri tastes great with barbecued meat in general, and will also work well with your favourite grilled burger or brushed onto a kebab.
Chimichurri is also a key ingredient in another Argentinean favourite, the choripan, or Argentinean hot dog. This tasty snack is made with chorizo in a bread roll, with a generous helping of tangy chimichurri sauce, and is often served as an appetiser while guests wait for the larger cuts of meat to grill on the barbecue. Chimichurri will also work well added to regular hotdogs, and meaty sandwiches in general. Try mixing some with mayonnaise and drizzling over cold cuts for a delicious deli sandwich.
There are also plenty of non-traditional ways to enjoy chimichurri. It’s great at cutting through bold flavours, so try it drizzled over grilled vegetables or a spicy meat pizza, mixed with crispy roast potatoes for a delicious, herby side, or to add interest to bacon and eggs.
For the ultimate barbecue and chimichurri combo, try this slow-cooked beef short ribs with chimichurri recipe, created by chefs Ben Milgate and What is chimichurri sauce?, from Sydney’s legendary asado style restaurant, Porteno.
Chimichurri sauce tips
Chimichurri is a pretty basic recipe, but there are still a few simple tips and tricks you can use if you want to take your sauce to the next level.
Firstly, don’t be tempted to use a food processor. Making chimichurri takes 10 to 15 minutes of chopping and mixing at most, and it really tastes so much better if you do it by hand. The best chimichurri are a loose mixture, where you can taste all of the ingredients individually, and this is much easier to achieve by hand. If you use a food processor you run the risk of over-blending and ending up with an homogeneous paste.
Instead of throwing everything in together right away, try building your flavours until you have the perfect balance. Start with the milder ingredients, then add the more powerful flavours (i.e. garlic, chilli and salt) in increments, tasting as you go. Use the quantities in the recipe as a guide, but feel free to add a little more of this or a little less of that to suit your palate.
Vinegar gives chimichurri its distinctive, tangy flavour, so it’s important to use the right one. Red wine vinegar, with its strong flavour and high acidity, is the best choice for adding some bite to your chimichurri. If you don’t have any, lemon juice is actually a better substitute than other vinegars, many of which are too mild or too sweet.
Finally, allow your flavours to develop. You should allow your chimichurri to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow all the flavours to infuse the oil. For best results, leave it for up to 2 hours.
How to store chimichurri sauce
Chimichurri is at its most vibrant and flavourful when prepared fresh. It will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, but the herbs will start to wilt and lose some of their flavour quite quickly.
You can also store chimichurri in the freezer for up to a month, although again, it will lose a little of its vibrancy. Try freezing it in an ice cube tray so you can use it a little at a time, as and when you need it.
Chimichurri sauce recipe
To make your own chimichurri at home, follow these simple steps:
1, finely chopped
Fresno chili or red jalapeño,
1, finely chopped
3-4, finely chopped
Red wine vinegar,
1 tsp., plus extra, to taste
½ cup, finely chopped
¼ cup, finely chopped
2 tbsp., finely chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil,
Add the herbs, shallot, vinegar and oil to a small mixing bowl, along with half each of the garlic, chilli and salt, and stir with a fork until well mixed.
Leave to sit for 2 minutes to allow the flavours to develop, then taste and add more garlic, chilli or salt as needed. Repeat this step until you are happy with the balance of flavours.
Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Use to baste meat as it cooks on the grill, and add a couple more teaspoons to the finished steak to serve.