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Chimichurri is an Argentine uncooked sauce, better described as a salsa made with fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, garlic, oregano and ají (cayenne flakes) doused in red wine vinegar and olive oil.
This zingy and vibrant chimichurri is used mainly to add as a condiment to grilled or barbecued meat, as the Argentines say, “a la parrilla”.
What is Chimichurri similar to?
For those familiar with gremolata, chermoula or salsa verde, Chimichurri is like a cousin to these similar condiments.
Different versions of Chimichurri
Like with any national dish, there are hundreds of family recipes to make the best chimichurri from super simple to a complex list of ingredients with a maturing period to develop more flavour.
My recipe is a basic and easy one that can be whipped up in 30 minutes. My Argentine grandmother, Abuela, was always in charge of making the chimichurri at the family BBQ, known as asado in Argentina. While the meat and chorizos were slowly sizzling on the grill, she would pluck some fresh flat-leaf parsley from her herb garden, chop it away together with the garlic and eyeball the rest of the ingredients, resulting in a fragrant and vivid-looking sauce. Leaving the chimichurri to rest for 20 minutes was a must, better yet if left to bask in the sun.
On the other hand, my brother-in-law, Pancho, makes an amazing chimichurri with a long list of ingredients that require several weeks of marinating. His recipe is so impressive that he has won Chimichurri of the Year several times in Argentina!
I have seen ready-made chimichurri sold in some stores, but it’s just not the same as making a fresh batch!
About the ingredients used to make Chimichurri:
Only use the Italian flat-leaf parsley for chimichurri for that distinct flavour and texture. English or curly parsley does not work in this recipe.
I usually aim for a large size garlic clove and remove the inner green or fibrous steam from the middle. This part of the garlic is bitter and can be too powerful especially when eaten raw.
Using dried oregano is preferable, however, if fresh oregano is the only option available, make sure to double the quantity needed in the recipe for dried oregano.
Ají (cayenne pepper flakes)
Ají is the common name given to chilli pepper in Argentina, which is usually cultivated from the wild South American capsicum (Capsicum Baccatum).
This intense red South American chilli is slightly fruity, spicy and smoky, which gives chimichurri and meat empanadas that distinct, typical flavour.
An extra-virgin or light olive oil is a better choice over the cooking-type oil which can be quite strong in taste and over-power the parsley and other ingredients in chimichurri.
The top choice and typically used, is red wine vinegar. The fragrance and flavour are so symbolic in chimichurri, that anytime I smell red wine vinegar in other dishes, I think of chimichurri!
White or apple cider vinegar are okay substitutes, but for a more typical flavour, add a dash of red wine to the vinegar to mimic the red wine vinegar.
Why do I add boiling water to the parsley and garlic? The water mellows the garlic a step further and softens and hydrates the fresh parsley leaves. Let the water soak for 10 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients to complete the chimichurri.
How to eat Chimichurri
As chimichurri is a salsa condiment, adding it to certain dishes is a matter of personal preference, but here are some typical ways of eating chimichurri to add a pop of freshness to your dish:
Served on top or the side of grilled or barbecued meat from steaks to chicken.
Drizzled over split-opened chorizos or sausages in general.
As a topping to grilled sliced Provoleta cheese, also known as the Italian, Provolone cheese. This cheese is made to withstand high temperatures and stay intact around the edges, but soft and gooey in the centre, like a dip. Another good cheese to have chimichurri with is Haloumi, although this is not served in Argentina, it is my go-to in Europe.
As a salad dressing, mainly using the cut-up cold leftover meat from the BBQ. Add a few more tablespoons of olive oil and vinegar to get the dressing more fluid.
As a condiment to fish and seafood.
On roasted vegetables, especially pumpkin, peppers and zucchini or to add to stuffed potatoes or sweet potatoes.
As a salsa in burgers.
To dip fresh bread in as an appetiser or to top some avocado toast with.
And finally, one of my favourite ways to enjoy chimichurri is for breakfast with fried eggs. Guaranteed to start your day with a bang!
I hope you give the Chimichurri recipe a go and get your taste buds going while trying one or many of the above meal suggestions, especially if you like a bit of a bite and spice in your food!
Easy Chimichurri Sauce
- Double-blade herb chopper or sharp knife
- Glass jar with a screw-top lid
- 3 heaped tbsp fresh Italian parsley (do not substitute with English parsley!)
- 1 large garlic clove
- 2-3 tbsp boiling water
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried ají or cayenne pepper flakes
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Preparing the sauce
- Gather and measure the ingredients.
- Chop the parsley semi-finely and discard any stems.
- Peel and remove the inner stem from the middle of the garlic clove. Crush the garlic and chop it finely.
- Mix the parsley and garlic together in a bowl and add the boiling water. Leave to soak for 10 mins.
- Add the salt, oregano, aji and black pepper to the bowl.
- Pour the olive oil and vinegar until it submerges the contents. Add a little bit more of each if it appears too dry.
Marinating the sauce
- Leave the mixture to rest for 20 mins. If it is sunny, let it bask in the sunshine.
- Mix again and taste. Season accordingly.
- Serve immediately or store the chimichurri in a glass jar. If possible, place the jar in the sun to develop more flavour for 1 hour.
- Serve with your chosen meat or one of the listed suggestions located at the start of the blog or chill until needed.
- Keeps for 1 week, shake the jar often
- Not suitable to freeze