I make a lot of dressings that do double duty for salads and dips, but this Cilantro and Pepita Dressing gets used time and time again when I want a bold flavor for dinner salads with grilled chicken or steak in the summer time. I reconstructed the recipe from memory of a dressing I always ordered at El Torito restaurants. It's creamy and full of cilantro, pepitas, and cotija cheese and comes together in minutes!
Ingredients and Preparation
The list of ingredients in the recipe below looks like a lot, but this dressing is loaded with flavor and everything comes together so quickly that you won't regret pulling it all out to create this dressing. The only real preparation you have to do is to toast the pepitas. I buy mine raw from Trader Joe's and this extra step of toasting them brings out their nutty flavor. Just place them into a dry pan over medium-high heat and toss them around until you smell the toasty notes and hear them popping and snapping.
This recipe is also a great place to use the cilantro stems. They are packed with flavor and I often encourage using them in sauces where you would normally use only cilantro leaves. This makes your recipes taste better and eliminates food waste! Win-win.
I usually prepare this dressing in the pitcher that my stick blender came with. It's not a huge volume, so I have trouble with blending it up in a blender. I also use my mini food processor occasionally. A full-sized processor bowl will have trouble with the small volums (at least mine does). Of course, you can always double the amounts and find double the ways to use it!
Use this Cilantro and Pepita Dressing Everywhere!
Like I said above, this dressing can be used in a variety of dishes. The most common way I enjoy it is as a sort of twist on the classic wedge salad. Instead of the typical blue cheese, bacon, and tomato ingredients in the common wedge salad, I use cotija cheese, avocado, and pepitas in addition to tomatoes for this version. Top off a halved head of Romaine lettuce, and drizzle over this Cilantro and Pepita Dressing and you have a starter or side that will stand out for dinner parties or make an easy lunch main dish.
I use a similar set of ingredients to make a big dinner salad with either gilled or broiled flank steak or chicken. Dust the protein with a mixture of cumin, salt, pepper, and chili powder before grilling and then let it rest a bit after it is cooked. Slice the steak or chicken into strips and add it to the avocado, cotija cheese, pepitas, and tomatoes over a bed of shredded lettuce and top it all off with this dressing. Chef's kiss!
The Cilantro and Pepita Dressing works well as a dip for vegetables in a snack platter and I've caught myself dipping tortilla chips directly into this dressing because I love the combination of flavors so much. I happily dip wedges of refried bean quesadillas in this tangy dressing, too. One last great way to use the dressing is a sort of modified esquites side. I use frozen roasted corn kernels (another favorite Trader Joe's find) that have been sauteed in a bit of olive oil or butter. Then I toss the corn kernels with a dollop of this dressing and dust the whole dish with chili powder. Sweet, salty, sour, and smoky... such a treat!
Cilantro and Pepita Dressing
- stick blender
- small food processor
- ⅓ cup cilantro stems and leaves
- 2 tablespoon pepitas (pumpkin seeds), roasted in a dry pan
- 2 tablespoon crumbled cotija cheese
- 6 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon water or as needed for desired consistency
- Add all ingredients to the container for your stick blender or the bowl of the food processor. Blend until well combined and you reach a smooth consistency.
Try It and Share
I hope you try this Cilantro and Pepita Dressing and find some creative ways to enjoy it. I want to see your results! Tag your photo with #planeatpostrepeat and mention me @planeatpostrepeat on Instagram. I can give you a virtual high five and thank you for cooking one of my recipes! Comment below with any questions and please leave a review so others can find this recipe more easily.
Are you looking for any other tasty salad dressings to turn your greens from blah to wow? Try my Thai Peanut Sauce, Pomegranate and Red Pepper Dressing, and Thai Basil Pesto.
Please drop a comment if you have any questions about the recipe!