Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette (Plus How to Make Grilled Fish Tacos)


So last week, when I posted these fish tacos, I promised to post my grilled fish tacos, too. Which I am doing today, but really, especially since once you’ve cooked your fish, you basically assemble the tacos in the same fashion that you put together the fried tacos, I want to share another recipe with you today as well.

We’ve posted a lot of Cafe Rio/Costa Vida-esque knockoff recipes that we’ve developed, like the Creamy Lime Cilantro Dressing and the Green Enchilada Sauce. Well, while I was living in Utah, but especially since I haven’t lived close to my favorite Mexican restaurants in over two years now, I have wanted a recipe for their Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette. See, some people are die-hard fans of their creamy dressing, while others prefer the vinaigrette, and I’m somewhere in the middle. In fact, I used to order a little cup of each because I could never make up my mind.

Well, I searched and searched the internet over and have not found any knockoffs of the vinaigrette. So I decided it was time to make my own. And I failed. A lot. This dressing has been a work in progress for a long time. But, my friends, the stars have aligned and the second I tasted this, I knew it was right. It doesn’t look exactly like their dressing because I emulsify the oil, but I promise, it tastes amazing.

I love this dressing on just about any salad, but I also love it because it works fabulously as a fresh, bright marinade for just about any kind of meat. For fish tacos, just marinate any kind of mild white fish (like cod, tilapia, red snapper, or mahi mahi) for about 20 minutes and then lightly brush a grill with oil and cook over medium heat for 8-12 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish) until the fish flakes easily. Flake the fish and season with Kosher salt and a little extra dressing if you like. Serve the flaked fish in either homemade flour tortillas or corn tortillas. Like with the fried fish tacos, you’ll need to slightly cook the corn tortillas so they don’t overwhelm the flavor of the fish; you can brush them with olive oil and bake them in an oven set to 425 for about 5-10 minutes, cook them in a skillet with some olive oil until they start to brown but are still flexible, or, as one of our readers suggested, run them under some water and then cook in a hot cast iron skillet. Serve with pico de gallo or mango pico de gallo, cabbage (cole slaw mix), cotija cheese, guacamole, and lime wedges and salt for seasoning.

But back to the dressing. You’ll just need a few ingredients that you may already have on hand–canola oil (olive oil was too strong), rice or white wine vinegar (regular white vinegar would also work), lime juice, sugar, Kosher salt, lots of garlic, and cilantro.

cilantro lime vinaigrette ingredientsIn the jar of your blender, combine the lime juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar. Blend on high until everything is combined. With the blender running, pour the oil in as a steady stream. Add cilantro and blend until the cilantro has broken down but it isn’t completely pureed–you want to see some of the texture of the cilantro leaves.
cilantro lime vinaigrette-2
Serve over greens, any kind of Mexican salad, or use as a marinade for meat or vegetables.
cilantro lime vinaigrette-3 copy


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Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

  • Author: Our Best Bites


A fresh-tasting Latin-inspired vinaigrette, this is perfect for salads or as a marinade for fish tacos.


  • 1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 23 juicy limes)
  • 1/4 c. white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 45 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher or sea salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 c. oil (extra-virgin olive oil, peanut oil, etc.)
  • 1/2 c. roughly chopped cilantro, stems removed


  1. In the jar of your blender, combine lime juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, and sugar. Blend until ingredients are completely combined. With the blender running, add the oil in a steady stream. Add cilantro and blend until the cilantro has broken down but still maintains some of its texture. Serve with greens, on any type of Mexican salad, or use as a marinade.


  1. You guys already know that at this point the creamy lime cilantro dressing is part of my DNA… is it possible that this NEW version will take it's place???

    I cannot wait to find out!

  2. I have to tell you…I've been scouring thrift stores (because I'm cheap…er…thrifty) to find a cute little glass pitcher like the one you guys always use for your pictures here. And a couple weeks ago I found one for a buck. I was so excited! It actually has some buttermilk syrup in it currently…yum!

  3. I had my very first taste of Cafe Rio a couple weeks ago when I went with my mom and youngest sister to drop off the middle sister at BYU… it did not disappoint!! I didn't get to try any of the dressing, but this looks great and I love a good marinade.
    PS: I also love your cool glass pitcher w/ stopper! 🙂

  4. I'm going to give this a whirl. I recently found a supposed copy-cat recipe on-line and it down right nasty. I've got my fingers crossed for this one. 🙂

  5. I saw this earlier and knew what we were having for dinner. I just finished a batch of the vinaigrette but mine end up being green goddess green. I think I blended it a bit too long but it's still tasty. Thanks for sharing.

  6. "oh crap, don't have anything for dinner meal" Egg and (whatever I have to throw in it)potato Frittata!! Two main things that are usually in my kitchen.. eggs, cheese and potatoes! Fast, easy, cheap and all the picky eaters like it!

  7. I made this vinaigrette last night and brushed it over my chicken breasts. It was SOO good. My husband was sold. I think it is probably my new favorite way to cook chicken. I coupled it with the cilantro pineapple rice, chips with mango pico de gallo and some corn. YUM!!! Thanks for all the great recipes.

  8. these look DELICIOUS!!!!!!!! i will definitely have to attempt them- fish tacos were a weekly staple at home in Hawaii, and I have not found a decent recipe since. These look like they will satisfy my craving. Love the blog!

  9. I drizzled this on steak tacos with shredded lettuce and fresh pico de gallo and it was soooo good. A couple hours after dinner I went through my fridge in search of anything I could dip in the leftover dressing!

  10. Made the grilled fish tacos for dinner. Can I just say DELISH??!! Really, really good. The cilantro lime vinaigrette is the perfect sauce for drizzling. Thanks!

    Oh, and I used olive oil spray (found in the grocery store section by Pam, etc.) to spray my corn tortillas before cooking on my griddle. Perfect… not too oily, yet they were flexible and just the right amount of flavor.

  11. I've never been to Cafe Rio so I know nothing of their dressing, but Trader Joes has an awesome Cilantro Lime dressing that is always out when I go in to buy it! Now, I can make it anytime. Thank You!

  12. mmm thanks for posting this! Can't wait to try it? Have you come up with a recipe for costa vida sweet pork? You should post it if you do! MMM now I want costa vida!

  13. oh my goodness, these were amazing!! i poured a little dressing right on to the tacos as well! thanks for the recipe!

  14. Just made these – SO wonderful! I used mahi mahi and it was so moist and tender and flavorful after marinating in the dressing. Served with mango pico and slices of avocado (also fabulous!). So fresh and tasty. Thank you!

  15. I have been trying many similar recipes, but haven't found that right one yet. This recipe sounded perfect it smelled delicious, but tasted of canola oil only. Do you have any suggestions on how I can fix this or avoid it in the future?
    Thanks so much for many wonderful recipes.

  16. Analisha–My guess is that either the cilantro and garlic didn't get chopped up enough in the blender or that it hasn't stood for long enough. If you try it again (or try blending it some more and let it stand), let us know how it goes! 🙂

  17. Omg! I just tried making this salad dressing last night. I love cilantro and this dressing was amazing! It was not hard to make at all. Everyone enjoyed it and it was just on regular salad, no need for anything mexican themed.

  18. I made this dressing (with these tacos) tonight and at my first taste I also thought the flavor was overwhelmingly canola. By dinnertime (a few hours in the fridge to rest) the other flavors came out beautifully. That said, I think next time I'll decrease the amount of oil a titch.

    My husband, who does not like fish, loved these tacos. Yippee!

  19. Oh my this sounds amazing!! Its bright and early in the morning and I want to make this NOW! Thanks so much for sharing :):)

  20. I made this tonight and paired it with the Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia Salad (from Cooking Light). EX. CELL. ENT. Thanks as always for such great stuff!

  21. I have just discovered your web site after reading the article about you in LDS Living. This is a great website! I have loved the recipes that I have tried so far. Thank you for taking the time to share your talents with others!

  22. This was the best sauce ever! I am on the 17 day diet, and this dressing was perfect for fish and fit the requirements to loose weight. I think this may be the best sauce ever!

  23. I made this yesterday, snd realized this: i only like ranch on my salads. :-}
    Although there was enough of this dressing left over, that i used it to marinade my chicken. AMAZING! this is a keeper!

  24. UNBELIEVABLE!!! I am obsessed with fish tacos and made this vinaigrette, and the fish tacos (with both your mango salsa and pico de gallo recipes) just as recommended above and seriously will never be able to eat a different fish taco again! The flavors are incredible. Can’t wait to try the vinaigrette on something else! Thanks for sharing!

  25. Hi Kate. How long will this last in the fridge? Also, have you tried using this as a marinade for shrimp? Just wondering if it would work well? And if so, how long should I marinate the shrimp? I’m assuming longer than white fish?

    1. Megan–I probably wouldn’t keep it longer than a week. And it would be AWESOME on shrimp. If they’re in their shells, it would be longer (probably the night before), but if they’re out of their shells, it would be about as long as the tilapia.

  26. This is a phenomenal recipe!!! This is by far my new favorite way to prepare fish. It was hard to keep myself from eating all the fish before getting it into the taco. Fantastic!

  27. I LOVE!!!! this dressing. It has become a new family favorite and the best part is it’s light on calories so I don’t feel bad about having a good tasting dressing on my salads. Thanks so much for this!

  28. A friend of ours just gave us a bunch of fresh caught mahi.I just recently heard of your website and thought I’d pop on for ideas.This will be perfect w/ fish tacos.Yum.Can’t wait.Ps- love your site!

    1. If you use virgin or extra virgin olive oil, the flavor of the oil will be very strong, but if that doesn’t bother you, go ahead. I’d recommend either pure olive oil (which is much milder) or sticking with a vegetable oil.

  29. Just tried this and it was amazing! Everyone raved over this dressing! I will definitely be adding this to my repertoire!

  30. I love your wonderful Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette! Somewhere between reading your recipe and watching a recipe on television I put La Costena Green Mexican Salsa on my grocery list and now can’t find the recipe it goes to! Do you have a recipe that uses this ingredient? I vaguely remember it being mentioned with tomatilas. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks so much!

    1. Cathy, you’re probably thinking of the Creamy Lime-Cilantro Dressing. It uses the La Costena Green Mexican Salsa. I make the dressing to dip with the chicken taquitos from this site. One word — awesome!!!!!

  31. Okay, I am obsessed with Cafe Rio’s vinaigrette and I’ve tried EVERY copy cat recipe on the internet. None of them even come close except yours! Thank you a million!! I am sooo happy I found this! This is how obsessed I am… I made your dressing Friday night. Saturday night I went to Cafe Rio and brought back an extra container of vinaigrette. Compared the way they looked (I didn’t blend mine) and tasted them side by side. I think theirs has less oil and more sugar, but that is an easy tweak, and otherwise it was pretty darn close! Yay!

  32. I was not impressed with this recipie. I bumped up the cilantro and used the whole bunch, increased the salt to 1 1/2 tsp. and used a full 3 limes. It tasted so much better.

  33. Made this with fresh lime juice and fresh cilantro – WOWSERS!! We all loved it! Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

  34. I subbed parsley for cilantro because I don’t care for cilantro and it was delicious. Also I used sunflower oil instead of canola and it came out great!

  35. I made this the other day and it was a hit… great over fish tacos or any fish dishes..and chicken..i like it also as a salad dressing…if you have not tried’s a MUST MAKE!! ***** stars

  36. I make this dressing once a week to have with my salads. I’ve found that it tastes MUCH better if you let it sit for a couple hours so the vinegar can break down the flavors in the lime and cilantro. Perfect on salads, chicken, fish… really anything! Easy and cheap to make!

  37. We marinated and grilled some Alaskan cod with this dressing for our fish tacos and was DELICIOUS! It is definitely comparable to Rubio’s!

  38. It came out delicious. But I was wondering how thick is it supposed to be. Mine is pretty thick and vinaigrette is usually runny.

  39. Your recipes says use white wine vinegar or rice vinegar but the picture is of seasoned rice vinegar. Does it matter? I have to watch the sodium and the seasoned has sodium whereas the others do not. Just curious. 🙂

    1. It’s hard to say–usually when it comes to fresh produce, a week is a good rule of thumb. I wouldn’t keep it for longer than 2. If it starts taking on a weird color or smell, I’d toss it. Wish I could be more specific!

  40. I have made this before and put it on our fish tacos and it was so yummy. I had everything on hand except for the limes but I had lemons so I decided to go for it. Don’t do it!! For some reason using the lemon juice turned it into a mayo consistency! Glad I hadn’t put the cilantro in yet. Off to the store for some lime juice. ha ha

  41. So had a bunch of cilantro, what am I going to do with it? Pinter estate, Tada.
    Canola oil, check
    White & apple cider vinegar, okay
    Cilantro yep
    Garlic, indeed
    Limes, yep
    OK, let’s try it.
    Oil,garlic, vinegar, salt, lime juice, into blend. Next Cilantro, looks great. Tastes too oily for me, add more lime juice, and zest. Okay not bad, needs something else, fresh black pepper, and how about a couple of spoons of Tequila! Yeah that is awesome.

  42. i am unable to find your grilled fish tacos recipe anywhere on here. i click on the word these next to fish tacos i get to a page that says apologizes, the page can not be found, perhaps searching will help. so i then click on a picture for maybe what looks like a grilled fish taco it does not take me anywhere. which is an absolute bummer. because i wanted the grilled fish taco recipe that you are saying you posted on here with this dressing recipe. maybe i am not clicking the picture enough times or i don’t know what i need to do, . i was so looking forward to reading the grilled fish taco recipe. and pinning it on pinterest. would it be anywhere on your pinterest boards?
    please let me know.

  43. This recipe was really good. Refreshing over crisp lettuce. I added a container of Lime Greek Yogurt to it so it would be creamy. Wow was it good!

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