Each country in Latin America has a national salsa, or sauce. In Argentina, it’s chimichurri.
Chimichurri sauce is made of finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, white or red vinegar and red pepper flakes. Oregano can be added. Cilantro can replace parsley in some regions; vegetable oil can replace the olive oil.
The original sauce is green from the parsley; later red versions add tomatoes, red bell peppers and/or hot chiles.
In beef-endowed Argentina chimichurri is the steak sauce of choice, also used with other beef-based dishes and any grilled meats.
As one story goes, the name name evolved from “Jimmy McCurry,” an Irishman who developed the recipe in Argentina. However, there is no written documentation of this.
Purportedly, McCurry was sympathetic to the cause of Argentine independence in the 19th century, and served in a troop under the command of General Jasson Ospina. The sauce was popular but “Jimmy McCurry” was difficult for Argentineans to say, so it became “chimichurri” sauce (pronounced chimmy CHOO-ree).
Classic: grilled beef with chimichurri sauce. Photo courtesy D’Artagnan.
Another theory is that the name comes from the Basque settlers who arrived in Argentina in the 19th century. According to grilling expert Steve Raichlen, the name of the sauce comes from the Basque term tximitxurri, loosely translated as “a mixture of several things in no particular order.” [Source: Raichlen, Steven, “Planet Barbecue!,” Workman Publishing Company. p. 159. ]
It’s easy to make chimichurri in a blender or food processor; but purists may want to make it the original way, with a mortar and pestle. We find that pesto made this way tastes better than food processor pesto, even when the exact same ingredients are used.
RECIPE: BASIC CHIMICHURRI SAUCE
Ideally, make the chimichurri sauce a day in advance to allow the flavors to meld. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Ingredients For 1-1/2 Cups
2 cups fresh Italian parsley leaves, tightly packed
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 cup packed fresh oregano leaves or 4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. PLACE the parsley, garlic, oregano, vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a blade attachment. Process until finely chopped, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, about 1 minute total.
2. ADD the oil in a steady stream, with the motor running. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse a few times to combine.
3. TRANSFER the sauce to an airtight container and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 1 day, allowing the flavors to meld. Stir, taste and adjust seasonings before serving.
This chimichurri sauce has been made elegant by pureeing. It’s served with a vegetarian dish, Grilled Halloumi And trumpet Mushrooms. Photo courtesy Gardenia Restaurant | NYC.
CREATE YOUR SIGNATURE CHIMICHURRI SAUCE
You can adding or substitute other ingredients to create a signature chimichurri:
Substitute lemon or lime juice for the vinegar.
Use fresh or roasted chiles instead of the red pepper flakes.
Add minced onion.
Try balsamic or flavored vinegar instead of wine vinegar
Give it an Asian spin with fresh ginger and mint, or an Indian influence of green curry and cilantro.
Turn it into mint sauce by substituting mint for the parsley; or make a parsley-mint blend.
Substitute basil for “Caprese sauce.”
Add a spoonful of Dijon mustard.
Make red chimichurri sauce by adding red bell peppers and/or raw or roasted tomatos (Red Chimichurri Rcipe).
For elegance, purée the naturally textured sauce into a smooth one (see photo at left).
21+ WAYS TO USE CHIMICHURRI SAUCE
Like Italy’s pesto, chimichurri is a bright green, herb-based, versatile sauce that you can use with:
Beans and legumes
Caprese salad dressing
Crostini (serve the toasts with grilled meats)
Eggs, any style
Egg salad, chicken salad, potato salad, tuna salad, etc.
Fries and onion rings
Grilled fish or seafood (recipe: Mango Grilled Shrimp With Chimichurri Grilled Mango-Citrus Chimichurri Shrimp)
Grilled halloumi or other grilling cheese (see photo above)
Grilled or roasted beef, chicken, lamb, pork
Hot dogs, brats and other sausages
Marinades (add more oil, vinegar, citrus juice or and/or water to thin out)
Pasta (toss pasta lightly with EVOO before adding the chimichurri)
Rice and other cooked grains
Soup and stew garnish
Sandwich spread (mix with mayo or mustard)
Vegetarian dishes, including veggie wraps
Yogurt sauce (blend into plain Greek yogurt)
Other ideas? Post them here.
SEE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SALSA IN OUR SALSA GLOSSARY.