Creamy Cilantro Sauce

This cilantro sauce is creamy, tangy, savory, sweet, and totally delicious! It’s plant-based and perfect for dolloping on baked potatoes, tacos and more.

Cilantro Sauce

Meet our new favorite sauce: this bright green cilantro sauce. And guess what? It’s 100% plant-based too, so it works for all sorts of eaters! For a while now, Alex and I have been using the idea of cashew cream to make creamy, dairy free sauces. It’s just soaked cashews blended with a bit of water, but it becomes so intensely creamy that it makes the perfect sauce for dolloping. This tangy green one is a big favorite in our household. It’s even pretty mild on the cilantro flavor: so it’s not even offensive to avowed cilantro haters!

Cilantro Sauce

What’s in this cilantro sauce?

For this creamy cilantro sauce recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Raw or roasted cashews (unsalted)
  • Lime juice
  • Cilantro leaves and stems
  • Salt

Look for unsalted cashews. If all you can find is salted, simply add half the amount of salt in the recipe below, then taste and adjust the salt as needed. Also, note that freshly squeezed lime juice will give you the best flavor in this sauce. We’re not big fans of the bottled stuff around here: it doesn’t have the right flavor!

How to make it!

This cilantro sauce is based on the concept of cashew cream. What is cashew creamCashew cream is a creamy blend of soaked cashews and water. You can use it in vegan recipes as a non-dairy substitute sour cream, heavy cream, yogurt, or mayonnaise. It’s what makes the creaminess in our Vegan Pasta Marinara and our Wild Rice Soup (and many of these cashew recipes).

This cilantro sauce is basically a cashew cream made with cilantro and lime! Here’s how to make cilantro sauce?

  • Soak the cashews: Soak cashews for 1 hour (30 minutes if you have a high speed blender). You also can soak them overnight if you think of it, but that’s not required. Whatever is easiest for you!
  • Add seasonings: To a blender, add the drained cashews, cilantro, lime, and kosher salt.
  • Blend: Blend until a thick, creamy green sauce forms!
Cilantro and lime

A note on soaking cashews

To soak the cashews for this cilantro sauce, you simply place them in a bowl and cover them with water. Then let them stand at room temperature for 1 hour! You may be wondering, though:

  • Can you soak the cashews any less than 1 hour? Alex and I have tried some shortcuts. The  least amount of time we can get away with is 30 minutes, and that’s with our high speed blender. (It’s more difficult work with a standard blender because it’s not as powerful.) We recommend soaking for 1 hour if you can, or try this trick for shortening the soak time.
  • Can you soak the cashews more than 1 hour? Absolutely! Longer is better for this cashew cilantro sauce. Start the soak the night before, then refrigerate in the morning until making the cilantro sauce.
Mexican Sweet Potatoes
Cilantro sauce on Mexican Sweet Potatoes

Ways to eat this cilantro sauce

There are endless ways to use this cilantro sauce — and we have several recipes on our website already that use it! Here are some of our favorite ways to eat it:

  1. Dollop it on roasted potatoes like in our Mexican Sweet Potatoes recipe! Or it would be delicious over these Roasted Smashed Potatoes.
  2. Drizzle it over nachos like our Greek Nachos or Mexican Fried Rice Nachos.
  3. Use it as a taco sauce like in our “Verde” Lentil Vegan Tacos.
  4. Use as a sauce for seafood like our Baked Salmon or Grilled Shrimp.

There are many more ways to use this cilantro sauce! What would you use it for?

This cilantro sauce recipe is…

Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, plant-based, dairy-free, and refined sugar free.

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Cilantro Sauce

Creamy Cilantro Sauce


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (44 votes, average: 4.05 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x

Description

This cilantro sauce is creamy, tangy, savory, sweet, and totally delicious! It’s plant-based and perfect for dolloping on baked potatoes, tacos and more.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw or roasted cashews*
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (juice from 2 limes)
  • 2 large handfuls cilantro leaves and tender stems**
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place the cashews in a bowl and cover them with water. Soak for 1 hour (or the very least, 30 minutes if you have a high speed blender). For preparation in advance, you can soak the cashews overnight, which is even better.
  2. Juice the limes.
  3. Drain the cashews. Add the cashews, water, lime juice, cilantro, and kosher salt to a blender, then blend on high for 1 minute. Stop and scrape, then add additional liquid if necessary to come to the desired creamy consistency (we added 2 additional tablespoons; you could add more for a more drizzle-able sauce). Blend for several minutes until creamy and smooth. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for several months.

Notes

*This recipe doesn’t call for salted cashews, but if that’s all you can find, add only half of the kosher salt when you first blend the sauce. Then add additional salt to taste.

**The cilantro flavor is fairly mild, so if you’re a big cilantro lover, add another handful or so of cilantro. You may have to add a bit more water too to get the desired consistency.

  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Blended
  • Cuisine: Vegan

Keywords: Creamy Cilantro Sauce, Cilantro Sauce, Vegan Sauce, Sauce Recipes, Essential Recipes, Cashews, Cashew Cream

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Whether it’s how to make salad dressing or homemade Yum Yum Sauce, our essential recipes are easy DIYs to make at home! Here are few more of our essential and DIY recipes:

Last updated: January 2020

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

8 Comments

  • Reply
    Laura
    February 4, 2019 at 7:10 pm

    This was totally delicious!! Thank your for sharing. Fresh and perfect for tacos!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      March 23, 2019 at 10:37 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it on tacos! Thanks for making it :)

  • Reply
    Bethanie
    February 18, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    I’ve been looking for sauces to splash on my mostly vegetarian cooking. Many recipes have yogurt or creme. I LOVE nuts so the cashews are perfect. My husband and I ate the full batch within a week, and they added so much to our tacos!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      March 23, 2019 at 10:37 pm

      Oh we’re so glad to hear it! It’s easy to find ways to use it up :) Thanks for trying it!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    April 17, 2019 at 9:45 am

    This recipe sounds so delicious! Do you think any other nut would work in place of cashews? My husband is allergic so I’m always looking for alternatives. We just got your cookbook and are getting into the delicious recipes!

    • Reply
      Alex
      April 17, 2019 at 10:02 am

      Hi! I’ve read that raw pumpkin seeds are a good alternative, but I’ve not tried it! Let us know if you do :)

  • Reply
    dmitri
    December 1, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    I pour boiling water over my cashews and let it sit for 15 minutes. comes out with only a 1/4 tsp or so of “pulp” left without a high speed blender.

  • Reply
    Eva
    March 25, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    This sounds so good! I’ve been discovering the world of plant-based Mexican food and the flavors are fantastic.

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