This Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing is packed with bright, fresh flavor and jalapeno and tomatillos for a bold, tangy taste with a little kick. Use it on anything from salads and veggies to burritos and quesadillas!
If you have ever been to Cafe Rio or Costa Vida, this dressing is a popular copycat version of their tomatillo ranch dressing. Be sure to grab my recipes for Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa, Cafe Rio Black Beans and Cilantro Lime Rice, Flour Tortillas, and Pico de Gallo to complete the meal with a big pile of crunchy romaine lettuce for an at home version of their fantastic salad!
My family obsesses over this easy, creamy dressing that I can whip up in my blender in less than five minutes flat. It's herbaceous and punchy with lime juice and tomatillos for a vibrant, clean taste that is balanced by the creamy, smooth mayo and sour cream.
The packet of ranch mix gives this cilantro lime dressing a major flavor boost while also serving to help thicken the dressing a bit as it sits in the fridge. You can make the dressing without the ranch packet and it's still delicious, but we definitely prefer the hint of classic ranch flavor with the Mexican twist of cilantro and jalapenos.
You can easily make adjustments depending on how you want to use it. When I know I'm making this more for dipping veggies, I will leave out the milk so it's slightly thicker. Or leave out the jalapeno seeds for a perfectly mild dressing or keep most of them for a spicy version. If it's too tangy for you, add a teaspoon or two of honey to balance out the tart from the tomatillos and lime juice.
Salad ideas for cilantro lime dressing
It's seriously so easy to throw together a fantastic salad with a great homemade dressing like this to go with it. Start with your favorite lettuce like crunchy romaine or peppery arugula, then build with other veggies, proteins, and textures.
Here are some of our favorite salad ingredients that combine to make great salads using this dressing. I can throw whichever of these I have on hand and call it a "Southwest" or "Santa Fe" salad and our kids will gobble it right up!
- black or pinto beans
- sliced avocado
- pico de gallo
- crispy tortilla strips
- grape tomatoes or sliced fresh tomatoes
- red or green onions
- grated cheddar, monterey jack, or pepper jack cheese
- additional fresh cilantro leaves
- grilled corn kernels sliced off the cob
- crispy bacon
- sliced radishes
- sliced red or yellow bell peppers
- jicama (one of my favorite crunchy veggies for dipping in this dressing too!)
- grilled chicken, shrimp, or steak
Ingredients in cilantro lime dressing
- Cilantro: If you have a genetic cilantro aversion like Julia Child or Ina Garten, I'm sorry but this probably isn't the dressing for you. But cilantro really is one of my all-time favorite herbs that I buy almost every single time I'm at the store.
- Ranch dressing mix: Get the traditional ranch packet - it adds great flavor and helps thicken the dressing a bit.
- Limes: Look for soft, ripe limes for the most juice.
- Garlic: When in doubt, add more garlic, right?
- Tomatillos: If you have never bought tomatillos before, they are in the produce section right by the jalapenos. Just remove the papery skin and chop up the fleshy fruit (vegetable?) inside. If you don't want to buy tomatillos, you can use ¼ cup of salsa verde instead.
- Jalapeno: When I like this dressing to have a spicy kick, I will leave in some of the seeds, but most of the time I scrape them out entirely for a very mild version that my kids enjoy best.
- Mayonnaise: I always use real mayonnaise like Hellman's, but you could substitute with Greek yogurt for a lighter version, although the taste won't be the same and the dressing might be a bit thinner.
- Sour cream: I love the richness this gives the dressing.
- Milk: Add as much or as little as you like to get the dressing to your desired consistency.
How to make cilantro lime dressing
To make this easy dressing, put everything in a blender except for the milk. It helps to roughly chop the tomatillos, jalapeno, and garlic first, but for the most part the blender does the work for you.
It's okay if some of the cilantro stems go into the dressing, so there is no need to worry about meticulously plucking off the leaves before adding them. Just grab the leaves from half a bunch of cilantro and rip them off in one big handful.
Blend until everything is smooth and combined, then add the milk as needed to reach the consistency you like best. Keep in mind that the dressing will thicken slightly in the fridge. You can always thin it out with a little extra milk later.
What to serve with cilantro lime dressing
Think beyond the salad and serve this dressing up to dip in or drizzle over:
- taquitos or flautas
- pizza (anybody else like me and love dipping their pizza in ranch?)
- grilled chicken, fish, pork, or beef (especially carne asada)
More dressing recipes
- Olive Garden Salad Dressing
- Creamy Parmesan Peppercorn Dressing
- Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing
- Papaya Seed Dressing
- Poppy Seed Dressing
- Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Honey Mustard Dressing
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tablespoons ranch dressing mix (a 1 ounce packet)
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ bunch fresh cilantro, packed
- 2 tomatillos, husks removed, roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeds removed, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
- ½ cup milk or buttermilk, as needed
- Combine all dressing ingredients except milk in a large blender. Blend until smooth. Add milk as needed to get the consistency you like.
- Chill for 30 minutes. The dressing will thicken slightly in the fridge.
- Keeps for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.
- If tomatillos aren't available, you can substitute ¼ cup salsa verde.
- If the dressing is too tangy, add 1-2 teaspoons honey to tone it down.