This El Pollo Loco Creamy Cilantro Dressing recipe is so good you’ll go a little loco! It’s tangy, healthy, and easy to make!
El Pollo Loco is a chain restaurant serving delicious Mexican-style grilled chicken, among other tasty dishes. And in 1975, when Juan Francisco Ochoa opened a small shop in Sinaloa in Northern Mexico, that’s what he served.
His food was so good that he could open more restaurants and even expand into California. Now, there are about 400 franchises in the US!
One of the most popular items on the menu is the Mexican Caesar Bowl. It comes with chicken in a citrus marinade and a creamy cilantro salad dressing.
For instance, I add much more cilantro to boost the flavor and color. As well, I stir in a spoonful of honey to balance the tangy lime juice.
With just a few ingredients and a couple minutes in the kitchen, you can make a terrific and versatile sauce. And, you can adjust this easy recipe for gluten-free or vegan diets!
So, let’s get cooking!
The Main Ingredients in this El Pollo Loco Creamy Cilantro Dressing Recipe
In this El Pollo Loco salad dressing, fresh cilantro is the star! This delicious herb gives the dressing a bright green color and punchy flavor.
And don’t toss the stems! They are just as tender as the leaves, and they’re actually more flavorful.
There are a few different bases that you can use in a creamy dressing, such as sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, or pureed avocado. However, El Pollo Loco makes their creamy cilantro dressing recipe with mayonnaise.
Mayo helps all the ingredients incorporate and bind together. Plus, it tastes delicious!
For an acidic zing, this creamy cilantro dressing uses lime juice. And that gives it a Southwest vibe!
For this recipe, you only need 2 teaspoons of lime juice. But a standard lime will give you 2 tablespoons!
So, you can use the rest in other recipes, or add a splash to a cold glass of water for a refreshing treat.
Whole milk adds richness to this creamy cilantro dressing recipe, and it’s healthy for you! Milk is a great source of protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
As well, you can use whole milk to thin out the dressing if it’s too thick for you.
Vinegar is another acidic ingredient in this sauce, and it gives the dressing tanginess without overpowering the other ingredients. As well, it helps brighten the other flavors.
For this recipe, you can use regular distilled white vinegar. Or you can substitute other mild vinegars, such as white wine, apple cider, or rice vinegar.
Garlic & Onions
Using fresh onions and garlic will add a pop of flavor to your dressing. In fact, they add a little spice and sharpness to contrast with the creaminess of the mayo.
However, make sure you mince your veggies as finely as possible so you don’t end up with big chunks in your dressing.
Flavors & Seasonings
To finish off your El Pollo Loco Creamy Cilantro Dressing recipe, you need a few more seasonings. These include salt and pepper, honey, sugar, cumin, and a touch of cayenne pepper. Yum!
Easy Tips for the Best El Pollo Loco Creamy Cilantro Dressing
Dry the Cilantro
When you prep your ingredients for this dressing, make sure you wash your cilantro thoroughly. However, you also need to dry it!
If your cilantro still has water on it, your dressing will end up too thin. Therefore, I like to wash my herbs, towel-dry them, and then let them sit on the towel for a few minutes before I start making the dressing.
Thin It Out
If your creamy cilantro dressing recipe comes out too thick, don’t worry! Simply add more milk or a little water to give it the right consistency.
But I also love to make this dressing extra thick intentionally, and then I use it as a dipping sauce!
For the best results, refrigerate this creamy cilantro dressing for an hour or more before serving. That way, the flavors have a chance to meld.
In fact, you can even make it a day ahead to save time later.
Use Fresh Ingredients
Homemade sauces always taste better than bottled ones. And that’s because you use fresh ingredients!
So, try to use the freshest herbs and seasonings that you can find, and avoid using dried herbs. As herbs get older, they actually get less flavorful.
Make It Vegan
This El Pollo Loco Creamy Cilantro Dressing recipe is easy to veganize. To do this, simply swap vegan mayo and plant-based milk for the non-vegan ingredients.
There are several ways to make this dressing, and using a blender or food processor really speeds up the process.
Also, you don’t have to chop the ingredients as finely if you do it this way! In the bowl of your appliance, just add all the ingredients and whizz them together.
Or, you can make the dressing manually with a mixing bowl and a whisk. Whichever is easier for you!
El Pollo Loco Creamy Cilantro Dressing Recipe
- Prep Time5 min
- Cook Time0 min
- Total Time1h5 min
- Servings1 ¼ cups
- Yield1 ¼ cups
Chill Time: 1 hr
- Prepare the Cilantro
If you haven’t already prepared your herbs, wash them with plain water. Then, dry them thoroughly and remove as much moisture as possible.
Next, chop the leaves and stems into very small pieces.
- Prepare the Other Veggies
Again, if you haven’t already done so, mince the onion and garlic. As well, cut open a fresh lime and squeeze out 2 teaspoons of juice, removing any seeds that may fall in.
- Combine the Ingredients
If you’re using a blender or food processor, add all of the ingredients to the bowl. Then, process everything together until you have a smooth dressing.
Or, to make the dressing by hand, add all of the ingredients to the mixing bowl. Then, use a spoon or whisk to combine everything until there aren’t any lumps.
- Adjust Seasonings
Now, taste your dressing and adjust the balance of flavors if you need to.
- Refrigerate and Serve
Finally, pour the El Pollo Loco Creamy Cilantro Dressing into the container or jar, cover it, and refrigerate it for an hour. When you’re ready to eat it, pour it over everything and go loco!
Ways to Enjoy El Pollo Loco’s Creamy Cilantro Dressing
With this dressing, you can make any food into a tasty dish!
- For example, you can use it as a classic salad dressing over lettuce and fresh veggies. Or, try it on meats like chicken, beef, or fish.
- Additionally, you can use it to top rice, quinoa, or pasta bowls for a kick of flavor. Or, spread it on sandwiches instead of plain mayo.
- Another way to enjoy the dressing is to use it as a dip for potato chips, baby carrots, celery, quesadillas, or empanadas. And try it on any of your other Tex-Mex favorites, such as burritos, tacos, or fajitas.
- And if you want to change it up, try adding other seasonings such as chopped green onions or a dash of hot sauce.