There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love cilantro and those who are missing out. I personally have been in both camps. As a kid, I did not like raw cilantro; I could tolerate it mixed into salsas and guacamole or cooked into my rice, but I never ate it raw. (Really, I probably just had a general distrust for anything green.) It was basically something to be discretely scooped off my plate when eating tacos while smiling/grimacing politely at the relative that had innocuously placed it in my food.
Since then, I have come to love cilantro. There’s nothing like fresh cilantro and cebolla on top of a piping hot taco al pastor with a green avocado salsa all wrapped inside a delicious homemade flour tortilla…. but I digress. Back to cilantro! We love it. We put it into all the “normal” foods like salsas, pico de gallo, tacos, guac, rice, soup (pho!) etc. but if I am not careful, my thrifty, cilantro-loving husband will also sneak the stuff into unexpected plates like Korean jjigaes and ssam (yup, he’s Korean- hence Daniela ‘Cho’).
One of our favorite ways to eat cilantro is in this creamy dressing. I use the word “dressing” loosely because it can be used as a salsa for tostadas or as a dip for empanadas. I’ve tasted many variations of this dressing, but my favorite is still the recipe below. Ok, I might be lying a little. My favorite version of this dressing is made with crema fresca, but that pretty much quadruples the calories so I try to stick to yogurt. 🙂
This recipe is super resilient, meaning that it can be tweaked in a bunch of different ways and that it’s difficult to mess up. Like I mentioned earlier, my favorite but fattier version of this dressing is made with Mexican sour cream and is a little milder than the recipe below. My mom’s super secret version of this recipe also includes almonds for a thicker and nuttier dressing. Pepitas (Mexican squash seeds) also work well. Some cotija cheese can also turn this into a cheesier and more indulgent dressing. Basically, the sky’s the limit with this one, but the recipe below is my trusted base for any variation.
One important consideration is that the spiciness of your jalapeño peppers will really dictate the spiciness of the dressing. This seems obvious enough, but if you end up getting lame peppers that taste more like cucumbers, you’re going to get a mild dressing, whereas if you get a particularly fiery batch, you must deseed and even devein the peppers.
This salad dressing will work with pretty much any leafy greens and vegetables. Whenever my mother uses this dressing, she puts radishes in the mix, but they are a bit too bitter for my liking- it’s really up to you to experiment! One caveat is that this dressing doesn’t pair well with sweet ingredients like apples or cranberries. Feel free to share/comment what you think works with this creamy cilantro goodness!
For this particular post, I paired the dressing with a simple spinach salad, making use of some veggies that I had around the house (tomatoes, bell pepper, avocado). I did buy some jícama just for this salad because I’m pretty much in love with jícama these days. The subtle sweetness and crunch that it adds when paired with this dressing is just so refreshing. Jícama is my favorite root vegetable and I will definitely have to gush more about it at some point because it’s just too awesome!
Spicy Cilantro Dressing
Yields 1 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 1 clove of garlic
- ⅓ cup of olive oil
- ¼ cup of vinegar
- ⅓ cup of plain yogurt (or crema fresca/sour cream)
- 1 jalapeño (deseeded)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- Place all ingredients in a blender and puree. If you’re having trouble getting your blender to start, add water in small increments. Keep blending until you achieve a uniform, smooth consistency.
- Pour generously over your salad.
- Done! So easy!