This cilantro garlic sauce is so simple and easy to make! It comes together in just 5 minutes and is perfect for drizzling over tacos, grilled chicken, salads, and much more.
Mexican-inspired recipes are some of my favorite types of recipes to make. I’m all about a good taco, burrito, fajita, or quesadilla. And with so many toppings, fillings, slaws, and sauces, you really could make a new recipe every night of the week.
One of my favorite sauces to pair with any Mexican dish I make is this cilantro garlic sauce. It’s perfect for the warm summer months when you want something that gives your meals a deliciously light and refreshing flavor. I love pairing it with smoky recipes like my Tequila Lime Shrimp Tacos because the smokiness provides a nice contrast to the vibrant flavors of the sauce.
That being said, you don’t have to limit yourself to just Mexican cuisine. This sauce literally tastes delicious on so many things! Try it on grilled chicken, salmon, salads, baked potatoes, or steamed vegetables.
So, if you’re looking for a versatile, healthy, and deliciously flavorful sauce to add a burst of amazingness to all of your summer recipes, keep reading to learn how to make my favorite cilantro garlic sauce.
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Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Easy to Make- I love a recipe that is quick and easy, but also makes a meal feel like it came from a restaurant. This sauce does just that to any recipe you pair it with.
- Light & Fresh- Between the light, citrusy flavor of the lime juice, the pungent spice of the garlic, and the creamy freshness of the yogurt, this sauce really packs a punch in the flavor department.
- Versatile- If you’re looking for that special something to jazz up just about any meal you make, this cilantro garlic sauce may be your answer. I’ve drizzled it over tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, used it as a marinade for grilled chicken and seafood, as a salad dressing, and as a sandwich sauce. The possibilities are truly endless!
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Greek Yogurt- I like to use plain Greek yogurt as a base because it’s packed with protein and has a wonderful tangy flavor that plays well with the other ingredients. You can use regular plain yogurt if it’s what you have on hand, keeping in mind that the final product will have a thinner consistency.
- Cilantro- Since we’re using a food processor, you don’t have to worry too much about removing all of the stems. Just rinse the cilantro well (it can be dirty) and trim the tougher stems. The smaller stems near the leaves have plenty of cilantro flavor and are tender enough to blend right into the sauce.
- Garlic- The flavor of raw garlic can be strong, especially after the sauce sits for a few hours. One clove may not seem like much at first, but over time, the garlic flavor will really start to come through. If you plan on using this sauce right away, you can use two cloves for a stronger flavor, if desired.
- Lime Juice- Freshly squeezed lime juice is best, but you can used bottled lime juice in a pinch. The acidic flavor pairs well with the creamy yogurt and olive oil.
- Olive Oil- A touch of olive oil makes this sauce extra creamy. You can use your favorite dressing oil or leave it out entirely, if you prefer.
- Salt- Just a pinch of salt is best as it can be quite easy to add too much. I like to start with just a 1/8 teaspoon and adjust up, if needed.
Step by Step Instructions
Here is how to make this cilantro garlic sauce.
Step 1: Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender. Into the bowl of a food processor, add Greek yogurt, olive oil, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and salt.
Step 2: Blend until smooth. Blend on high power until the sauce is completely smooth and just flecks of cilantro remain, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if needed. Serve immediately or pour into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
That’s it! See how easy that was?
Substitutions and Additions
- Vegan/Dairy-Free- To make this sauce vegan or dairy-free, swap the Greek yogurt for a vegan sour cream or yogurt. If the dairy-free product you choose has a thinner consistency than traditional Greek yogurt, your sauce may come out a little thinner (but still delicious).
- Sour Cream or Mayonnaise- Not a fan of Greek yogurt? Try replacing it with sour cream or mayonnaise, if you prefer.
- Parsley- While this is a cilantro garlic sauce, if you or a family member think cilantro tastes like soap, you can swap it out for parsley and get a similar style sauce. While it won’t taste exactly the same, it will still work in many of the same applications as this recipe does.
- Roasted Garlic or Garlic Powder- If the spicy bite of raw garlic is too much for you, try swapping it out for a few cloves of roasted garlic or a 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Lime Zest- Want to amp up the lime flavor? Try adding a few pinches of fresh lime zest to really hit those citrus notes.
- Jalapeño- If you’re a fan of spicy food, a bit of fresh jalapeño would be a nice addition to this sauce. I’d start with a 1/4 of a jalapeño pepper and adjust from there.
- Cayenne Pepper- Maybe a fresh jalapeño is just a little too spicy for your tastes, but you still want a touch of heat. Cayenne pepper is the perfect addition for you! Start with 1/8 teaspoon and adjust as desired.
- Cumin- Another seasoning that would pair well with the flavors in this sauce is cumin. A little goes a long way so I’d start with just 1/4 teaspoon.
How to Store
Refrigerator: Store this sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. I actually prefer to make this sauce a day or so before I want to use it. This allows all of the flavors to meld together and lets the garlic flavor really start to come through.
Freezer: Since this is a dairy-based sauce, I do not recommend freezing it as doing so will give it an unpleasant texture.
- Drizzled on tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and fajitas
- Marinade for chicken or seafood
- Creamy salad dressing
- Dip for tortilla chips or fresh vegetables
- Sandwich sauce
- Baked potato topping
- Chicken wing dipping sauce
Frequently Asked Questions
While it will take a little more effort on your part, you can certainly make this cilantro garlic sauce without a food processor or blender. All you have to do is finely mince your cilantro and garlic (I’d actually recommend smashing the garlic into a paste) and then mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl by hand.
Yes, this cilantro garlic sauce is naturally gluten-free! Of course, carefully check any labels to be 100% sure, but none of the ingredients should contain gluten. Rejoice, all of my celiac and gluten-sensitive friends!
One of the stars of the show, cilantro is somewhat of a polarizing flavor in the culinary world. For some unlucky folks, cilantro tastes like soap. This is due to certain genes, which allow them to taste the aldehydes in cilantro more strongly than others can.
While I’ve never tried it from there myself, I know cilantro garlic sauce is a big hit in southern parts of the United States because of a fast-food restaurant called Pollo Tropical. I discovered cilantro garlic sauce on my own, seeing the recipe on a blog I can’t remember anymore.
Over the years, I’ve adjusted the recipe to suit my tastes and landed on what I’m sharing with you today. So, while I can’t say if this tastes exactly like a Pollo Tropical copycat recipe, I do know this sauce is dang good.
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Cilantro Garlic Sauce
- 1 cup Greek yogurt plain, 2% milkfat
- ½ cup cilantro washed and stems removed
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime) freshly squeezed
- ⅛-¼ teaspoon salt to taste (be careful not to over salt)
- Add all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or blender.1 cup Greek yogurt, ½ cup cilantro, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime), ⅛-¼ teaspoon salt
- Blend on high power until the sauce is completely smooth and just flecks of cilantro remain, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if needed. Serve immediately or pour into an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Did you try this recipe?
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