Cilantro Lime Dressing Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 10 min.
This cilantro lime dressing, no matter if you're using it to top a salad or as a marinade, tastes fresh, bright and oh, so delicious.

Updated: May 29, 2024

Herbs and citrus juices infuse a bright, fresh taste into everything, from simple cucumber slices to crisp salads to a whole roasted chicken. Yet even if you store fresh herbs the right way, they last only a short time. This is why we love homemade salad dressing recipes: They use up so many short-lived ingredients. When you have an excess of cilantro on the verge of wilting, this cilantro lime salad dressing recipe is the tastiest way to use the greens.

Cilantro Lime Dressing Ingredients

  • Cilantro: Cilantro’s fresh leaves and tender stems have a mild flavor with undertones of lemon, lime and pepper (and occasionally a flavor reminiscent of soap). The leaves come from the coriander plant, whose seeds are also used as a whole and ground spice but taste decidedly different. In America, the names cilantro and coriander distinguish the leaves and seeds, but in British English, “coriander” describes the entire plant.
  • Lime juice: Lime juice—either freshly squeezed or bottled—brings out the natural notes in cilantro, making them popular companions. The juice’s acidity adds some of the tanginess you expect in vinaigrettes.
  • Cider vinegar: Cider vinegar has acidity similar to that of lime juice but with a sweeter apple base. Pairing the two acids keeps either flavor from overpowering the recipe’s other ingredients.
  • Honey: Honey plays two roles in salad dressings: It adds sweetness, and it helps vinegar and oil cling together. This latter quality makes honey an emulsifier, an agent that stabilizes two ingredients that don’t like to mix on their own.
  • Seasonings: With so much herb and citrus flavor, a few basic seasonings—salt, garlic powder and pepper—round out this cilantro lime dressing. Freshly ground black peppercorns have complexity beyond the direct sharpness of preground pepper.
  • Olive oil: Adding oil slowly to the other ingredients gives the honey a chance to thicken the dressing. Regular olive oil has been refined to remove compounds, and because those compounds can lead to bitterness when blended at a high speed, regular olive oil may make a better choice than extra virgin olive oil for this vinaigrette.

Directions

Step 1: Mix the dressing

Place the cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, honey, salt, garlic powder and pepper in a blender, and process until combined.

Step 2: Add the oil

While the motor is running, gradually add the oil in a steady stream until the dressing is smooth and creamy.

Editor’s Tip: If all you have available is extra virgin olive oil, whisk it in by hand. You’ll still need to pour it in a slow stream and work it in evenly.

Recipe Variations

  • Try it creamy: For an even creamier lime cilantro dressing, replace half the olive oil with Greek yogurt. If it’s too thick, blend in 1 tablespoon water at a time until it thins out.
  • Make it greener: Add the flesh of a small avocado to the blender when processing the cilantro lime dressing recipe. You might not need all the oil, so drizzle it in slowly and stop when the dressing reaches your desired consistency.
  • Swap the herb: Replace half or all the cilantro with fresh parsley or basil. You can use the stems and leaves of fresh cilantro, but parsley and basil stems tend to be tough and slightly bitter so for those you may want to stick with just the leaves.
  • Add some heat: Cilantro and lime play well together in Thai and Mexican dishes, so try adding up to 1 tablespoon minced jalapeno if you like heat. Choose a different type of pepper for more or less heat: a milder banana pepper or a hotter serrano chile. Chile peppers have oils that can burn your skin, so wear gloves and avoid touching your face when removing the seeds and mincing.

How to Store Cilantro Lime Dressing

Homemade cilantro lime salad dressing lasts for at least one week in the refrigerator when sealed airtight in a jar, bottle or other container. Olive oil can coagulate when cold, causing white flecks or a separate solid layer to form while the dressing is in the fridge. To restore the dressing’s texture, bring it to room temperature and whisk or blend it again until smooth.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Tips

Why is the cilantro lime dressing bitter?

Cilantro, lime juice and olive oil are the ingredients in this dressing that can taste bitter. When harvesting herbs from your kitchen garden, snip cilantro before it bolts and use just the freshest leaves. Pasteurization stabilizes bottled lime juice but can also enhance its bitterness, so fresh juice can be a brighter, sweeter choice when done properly. When extracting the juice, make sure your reamer or juicer doesn’t scrape into the lime’s bitter white pith. Use the juice within a few hours; it grows bitter the longer it sits.

Olive oil varies widely in flavor and bitterness depending on the olives used to make it, and it can become more bitter when its compounds are distributed at speed. Instead of extra virgin olive oil, choose refined olive oil for salad dressings made in a blender.

How do you use cilantro lime dressing?

Cilantro lime salad dressing can top all your favorite greens but is also delicious on a cabbage Thai salad or a hearty white bean salad made with bulgur wheat. Go beyond dressing salads and use it as a marinade for grilled shrimp or chicken. Drizzle it over grilled steak fajitas or blackened tilapia. Just a little adds flavor and combats dryness in sandwich wrap recipes.

You can also stir it into plain steamed rice, and then drizzle more over steamed or grilled veggies for a quick rice bowl. If you’re making Thai recipes like pork satay or shrimp cakes, use lime cilantro dressing as a dipping sauce.

Cilantro Lime Dressing

Prep Time 10 min
Yield 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash pepper
  • 2/3 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. Place the first ingredients in blender. While processing, gradually add oil in a steady stream.

Nutrition Facts

2 tablespoons: 167 calories, 18g fat (2g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 75mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 0 fiber), 0 protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 3 fat.

Cilantro is one of those ingredients that adds bright, fresh flavor to almost any dish it's in. Drizzle this irresistible cilantro lime vinaigrette recipe over grilled steak, avocado salad, sliced tomatoes and more. Don't miss these other homemade salad dressing recipes —Taste of Home Test Kitchen