This creamy cilantro lime dressing recipe is naturally vegan and oil-free with 5 simple ingredients for a quick dressing brimming with zesty flavor and a hint of spice.
Table of Contents
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- A thick and creamy dressing that uses ground pepitas for extra nutrients and replaces processed olive or avocado oil for a tasty low-fat dressing.
- Bright and fresh cilantro and lime juice make a vibrant, healthy dressing with bold flavors.
- Make your own salad dressing and get exactly the texture and spiciness you want. Now, that's better than store-bought!
Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Fresh cilantro. Use the cilantro leaves and tender stems of cilantro (coriander). A bunch is about 2 cups, loosely packed.
Lime juice. Fresh lime juice adds an intense sour, slightly sweet flavor. Lemon juice or orange juice will change the taste, but I'm always up for an experiment. You can use the squeezy kind.
Pepitas. Pepitas are the green insides of pumpkin seeds and can be found in most grocery stores. A good alternative is sunflower seeds which we use for making vegan sour cream.
Chili powder. I use a homemade blend, but a commercial brand works as well. Substitute with cayenne pepper (use ¼ teaspoon to start), paprika, or red pepper flakes.
Maple syrup. Balance the sharpness of the lime juice with a liquid sweetener. Date paste makes the best healthy sugar substitute for maple syrup.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for ingredient amounts and complete instructions.
Pro tip: The best way to prep the pepitas is to grind them dry and separately. They don't break down as well when mixed with fresh ingredients.
Step 1: Grind the pepitas into a fine powder.
Step 2: Transfer the pepitas to a high-speed blender, small food processor, or container for an immersion blender.
Step 3: Add the rest of the ingredients.
Step 4: Blend the ingredients smoothly. Add more lime juice or water to thin, if desired.
This cilantro lime dressing recipe goes well with Mexican dishes, including taco salad, burrito bowls, black beans, or grain bowls. It can also double as a dipping sauce with tortilla chips, fresh veggies, and cherry tomatoes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Seeds like pepitas, sunflower seeds, chia, flax, or hemp seeds, are easier to break down if they are dry rather than soaked. Use a spice grinder to break them down for best results before blending them with other ingredients.
In some dressings, adding olive oil can result in a bitter flavor. That’s another reason why we use pepitas for thickening cilantro lime dressing. It’s healthier, with less saturated fat, and less likely to be bitter.
Besides sunflower seeds, substitutes for ground pepitas include ground hemp seeds, chia seeds, or flax seeds. Finally, a ripe avocado, a healthy fat, can also be used as a substitute for pepitas for making creamy avocado cilantro lime dressing.
Store leftover dressing in an airtight container or glass jar with a lid for 5 days. Allow it to warm to room temperature and stir before serving. Stir in a bit of lime juice if the dressing is too thick.
More Serving Ideas
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Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing
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- ¼ cup pepitas - ground
- 2 cups cilantro
- ¾ cups lime juice
- ½ teaspoon chili powder - adjust according to taste
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup - date paste, agave syrup, or another liquid sweetener
- Using a spice grinder or high-speed blender, grind ¼ cup pepitas into a powder.
- Combine the ground pepitas, coriander, lime juice, chili powder, and maple syrup in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Test the thickness and add more lime juice or water if necessary.
- Makes about 1 cup.
- Store dressing in an airtight container or glass jar for 5 days. Stir it before serving.
- Grind dry pepitas in a spice grinder or blender before adding the rest of the ingredients.
- If ground sunflower seeds are the best substitute. If you want nut/seed free, consider using avocado to thicken the dressing.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.