This isn’t your typical cilantro sauce. There’s a secret spice inside that adds a layer of warmth to an otherwise basic dip. So good. Sooooooo good.
You can use it as a chip dip, a taco topper, a stir fry starter, or pretty much anything that needs a delicious flavor boost.
It’s also super easy: just 7 ingredients and 5 minutes. It keeps well in the fridge overnight, and can be frozen in ice cube trays for use when needed.
What’s the secret?
Most cilantro sauces have a flavor base made from cilantro (obviously), lime, and garlic. Then they typically mix in a fat like olive oil, cream, or avocado. Add a pinch of salt and you’re good to go… or so you thought!
The secret ingredient you’ve been missing in your cilantro sauce is CARDAMOM!
I first learned about adding cardamom to sauce with lots of acid like lime juice from a recipe called “zhug” from Yemen. The primary ingredient in zhug is spicy peppers, with cilantro as the main herb, and cardamom as a complimentary seasoning.
Some liken zhug to the Spanish chimichurri, another herb garlic sauce, but chimichurri is traditionally made from parsley rather than cilantro. It has a more earthy, grassy flavor that is often served in Argentina as a condiment for grass fed beef.
Zhug is more of a spicy, Middle Eastern salsa verde. Although, my recipe isn’t a traditional zhug, it borrows the chili peppers and cardamom to add heat and complexity to an otherwise basic (read: boring) sauce.
Without the cardamom, the cilantro sauce has a mostly garlic-lime flavor. With just a half teaspoon of cardamom, it becomes something new entirely.
Cilantro Sauce Serving Suggestions
This is one of the most versatile sauce recipes I know. Try some of these serving variations:
- In a dip bowl for tortilla chips, or drizzled on nachos
- Spread on a sandwich or wrap
- As a taco sauce or in an enchilada casserole
- Blend with cashews or avocado for a creamy cilantro dressing
- Mix into a veggie stir fry
- Freeze in an ice cube tray and use as needed
- Stir into vegan sour cream or hummus
- Use as a cilantro lime marinade for tofu or veggie kabobs
- If you want it even spicier, swap a hotter pepper like habanero for jalapeno, or add red pepper flakes.
- If you’re REALLY into that cilantro lime flavor, plop this sauce on top of my cilantro lime slaw recipe for vegan fish tacos!
I prefer to serve the sauce chilled, because it thickens up a bit after an hour or two in the fridge. It’s also a perfect make-ahead sauce because it keeps well for a couple days when chilled, and the flavor actually improves on day two. Expert bartenders ran a taste-test experiment that showed people prefer lime juice that’s a few hours old rather than fresh squeezed. Apparently fresh isn’t always best!
The oil may separate if stored in the fridge. Just let it sit at room temp for a minute or so, then stir.Print
A touch of cardamom brings warmth to this cilantro lime garlic dressing.
- 1 bunch (1 cups packed) cilantro leaves, some stems okay
- 2 jalapenos, halved and seeded
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- Juice from 1 lime
- Add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender. Blend until smooth.
- Serve chilled as a dip or meal topper. Sauce with thicken a bit after 1-2 hours in refrigerator.
Sauce will keep for 1-2 days in the refrigerator. If the oil separates from the mixture, let sit at room temperature for a couple mins, then stir well.
Have you tried other serving ideas or variations of this recipe? Comment below!