Garlic cilantro sauce is a flavorful sauce made by blending together a few simple ingredients. The main ingredients in garlic cilantro sauce are garlic, cilantro, olive oil or vegetable oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Additional ingredients like onion, jalapeño, vinegar, mayonnaise, or avocado are sometimes added as well to create different takes on the sauce. Garlic cilantro sauce makes a delicious topping for tacos, burritos, fajitas, sandwiches, chicken, fish, and more. It provides a bright, fresh flavor from the garlic, cilantro, and lime. The sauce is easy to make and customize to your tastes.
Here are the main ingredients that go into making classic garlic cilantro sauce:
- Garlic – The garlic provides a strong, pungent flavor that gives the sauce its signature taste. Using fresh garlic will provide the best flavor.
- Cilantro – Cilantro leaves and stems are blended into the sauce to provide fresh herbal notes. Cilantro’s grassy, bright flavor pairs perfectly with the garlic.
- Lime juice – Freshly squeezed lime juice adds acidity and brightness to balance out the other flavors in the sauce.
- Olive oil or vegetable oil – The oil emulsifies the sauce and rounds out the flavors.
- Salt – Salt is added to season the sauce.
- Pepper – Black pepper adds a touch of spiciness.
These simple ingredients are all you need for a tasty garlic cilantro sauce. But feel free to tweak the ingredients to suit your tastes. For example, you could use lemon juice instead of lime, or add some cumin or chili powder for more spice. The basic formula is garlic, cilantro, acid from citrus, oil, and salt at its core.
How to Make Garlic Cilantro Sauce
Making garlic cilantro sauce is very easy. Here is a step-by-step guide:
- Chop the garlic. Use 2-4 cloves of garlic, finely minced.
- Chop the cilantro. Measure out about 1/2 cup packed chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems.
- In a blender or food processor, combine the chopped garlic and cilantro.
- Add the juice from 1 lime or lemon.
- Pour in 2-4 Tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Blend until smooth. Add a touch more oil if needed to blend.
- Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Add more lime juice for acidity, salt for overall flavor, or pepper for a kick.
The sauce can be used right away or refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week. Give it a stir before using.
There are many ways to adapt garlic cilantro sauce to give it more flavor:
- Onion – Add 1/4 of a diced yellow onion for a deeper, richer flavor.
- Jalapeño – For some heat, add half of a seeded jalapeño pepper.
- Vinegar – A splash of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar can provide a tangy zing.
- Avocado – Blending in half an avocado contributes creaminess and thickness.
- Mayonnaise – Folding in a tablespoon or two of mayonnaise adds a rich, creamy element.
- Cumin – A pinch of cumin brings an earthy, warm note.
- Chili powder – A small amount of chili powder can amp up the spice level.
Feel free to experiment with ingredients you enjoy to create your own signature version of garlic cilantro sauce. The possibilities are endless for customizing this bright, flavor-packed sauce.
Uses for Garlic Cilantro Sauce
Garlic cilantro sauce is versatile and can be used in many recipes. Here are some of the most popular ways to use this vibrant sauce:
Drizzle garlic cilantro sauce over meat in tacos for an extra flavor punch. It’s especially delicious with shrimp, fish, chicken, or carnitas tacos. The cool, fresh taste contrasts beautifully with the warm taco fillings.
In burritos, a dollop of garlic cilantro sauce adds moisture and a brightness that cuts through the other fillings like rice, beans, cheese, etc. Add it on top of your burrito fillings before rolling.
For steak, chicken or shrimp fajitas, garlic cilantro sauce adds a tasty complement to the savory meat and peppers. Serve it alongside the hot sizzling fajitas.
Use garlic cilantro sauce as a flavor-packed spread on sandwiches in place of traditional condiments like mustard or mayo.
Toss green, grain, pasta, or potato salads with some garlic cilantro sauce for a fresh herbal flavor.
Add garlic cilantro sauce to an omelet or scrambled eggs for a really delicious boost of flavor.
Spoon garlic cilantro sauce over simply cooked fish filets like halibut, cod, or salmon for an easy weeknight meal.
Marinate or coat boneless chicken breasts in garlic cilantro sauce before cooking for incredibly moist and flavorful chicken.
Drizzle garlic cilantro sauce over cooked vegetables like broccoli, green beans, asparagus, cauliflower, etc. The brightness pairs perfectly.
Garlic cilantro sauce also makes a great dipping sauce and pairs well with dishes like dumplings, spring rolls, fried appetizers, etc. Don’t be afraid to experiment with creative ways to use this versatile sauce!
Storing and Shelf Life
Properly stored, garlic cilantro sauce will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.
Here are some tips for storing garlic cilantro sauce:
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Glass jars or plastic containers work well.
- Make sure the sauce is completely cooled before storing.
- If it seems to be separating, give it a good stir before using.
- For maximum freshness and flavor, use within 1 week.
- The sauce may start to oxidize and turn brown after about a week.
To extend the shelf life, you can also freeze garlic cilantro sauce in freezer-safe containers or bags. It will keep for 2-3 months in the freezer before losing flavor and freshness.
Canned garlic cilantro sauce is not readily available in stores. But the sauce is so quick and easy to make fresh, canning it at home is unnecessary. Enjoy garlic cilantro sauce at its peak by making it as you need it!
Is Garlic Cilantro Sauce Spicy?
In its most basic form, garlic cilantro sauce is not spicy. The primary flavors are bright and herbal from the garlic and cilantro. However, you can easily give the sauce more heat by adding spicy ingredients.
Here are some ways to make garlic cilantro sauce spicy:
- Add 1/2 jalapeño or serrano pepper
- Use a hot pepper like habanero or Thai chili
- Add red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
- Add dried chile peppers or chili powder
- Use extra garlic for more bite
When adding spicy ingredients, start with small amounts and adjust to your desired level of heat. The amount needed will vary based on the type and freshness of the peppers and spices used.
If you prefer a mild sauce, simply leave out the spicy ingredients. The sauce will still have lots of flavor from the garlic, cilantro, lime, and seasonings.
Garlic Cilantro Sauce Nutrition
Garlic cilantro sauce is a nutritious condiment, thanks to its fresh ingredients. Here is the nutrition information for a serving (2 tablespoons) of basic garlic cilantro sauce made with garlic, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper:
As you can see, garlic cilantro sauce is low in carbs, sugar, and protein. The majority of calories come from the olive oil. It does contain a decent amount of sodium from the salt added.
Garlic cilantro sauce also provides some beneficial nutrients:
- Vitamin C – Fresh cilantro contains high levels of vitamin C, an antioxidant that supports immune function.
- Phytonutrients – Garlic and cilantro provide phytonutrients that act as antioxidants in the body.
- Vitamin K – Cilantro leaves are a good source of vitamin K, which promotes proper blood clotting.
- Potassium – Cilantro provides potassium to help regulate fluid balance.
- Iron – Iron in cilantro helps transport oxygen in the blood.
The fresh ingredients in garlic cilantro sauce make it much more nutritious than store-bought condiments high in processed ingredients, sugar, and preservatives. So you can feel good about adding this flavor-packed sauce to your favorite Mexican and Latin dishes!
Buying Garlic Cilantro Sauce
While it’s best and easiest to make fresh garlic cilantro sauce at home, you can sometimes find prepared versions at grocery stores to use for convenience:
- Jarred garlic cilantro sauce – Several brands sell garlic cilantro sauce in jars, often found by the Mexican ingredients or salsa. These tend to be more watery and mild than fresh.
- Refrigerated garlic cilantro sauce – Some grocers have started stocking garlic cilantro sauce in the refrigerated produce section, which maintains fresher flavor.
- Frozen garlic cilantro sauce – You may also be able to find frozen pouches of garlic cilantro sauce, which can be thawed as needed.
- Bottled garlic cilantro dressing – Bottled salad dressings featuring garlic and cilantro are widely available as a shelf-stable option.
When buying pre-made garlic cilantro sauce, read the ingredient list carefully. Look for versions with minimal added sugars, preservatives, and fillers. Sauces made with just the core ingredients – garlic, cilantro, oil, citrus juice – will provide the highest quality and best flavor.
Jarred or bottled garlic cilantro sauce costs $3 to $6 for an 8 to 12 ounce container. Refrigerated versions tend to be slightly more expensive. Making your own only costs a dollar or two and takes just 5 minutes!
Most standard grocery stores carry at least one type of pre-made garlic cilantro sauce, often Newman’s Own brand. Larger supermarkets will have a greater variety of options from multiple brands. Specialty Latin markets usually have the best selection of authentic, homemade-tasting garlic cilantro sauces.
Once opened, store-bought garlic cilantro sauces will last 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Look for sauces packaged in glass jars rather than plastic tubs to avoid BPA and phthalates. Transfer to an airtight container if not using the sauce quickly. As with homemade sauce, freezing is not necessary for store-bought versions.
Prepared garlic cilantro sauces have added water, thickeners, and preservatives so they will not be quite as nutritious as fresh homemade sauce. But they can still provide health benefits from the garlic, cilantro, citrus juice, and olive oil. Check the label to avoid products with excess added sugars, oils, and sodium.
Garlic cilantro sauce is one of the most refreshing and versatile sauces you can have in your culinary repertoire. Made from just a handful of vibrant ingredients, it adds a bright pop of flavor to tacos, salads, meats, sandwiches and more. While store-bought versions are convenient, making your own garlic cilantro sauce truly only takes minutes and allows you to control the quality of ingredients. Experiment with additions like spicy peppers, avocado, onion, vinegar and more to put your own spin on this classic sauce. With its quick prep time, 1-week fridge life, and endless ways to use it, garlic cilantro sauce should be a staple in every home cook’s kitchen.