10-Minute Cilantro Garlic Sauce Inspired By Pollo Tropical

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Pollo Tropical’s cilantro garlic sauce inspired this recipe. It’s incredibly easy to make, creamy, and delicious.

Who doesn’t love a good sauce? Personally, I feel that sauces add so much flavor and excitement to any dish.

I can never say no to a classic combo of mayo and ketchup sauce on my burgers. Chimichurri on a grilled Argentinian skirt steak, or the garlic cilantro sauce on my roasted chicken from Pollo Tropical.

Side view of a small bowl with pollo tropical inspired cilantro garlic sauce and quesadillas rellenas in the background

The cilantro garlic sauce from Pollo Tropical is made with fresh garlic, sour cream, cilantro, and lemon juice, and trust me, it’s delightful.! When I tried it, I fell in love with its creamy, garlicky, and tangy flavor.

It’s the perfect dipping sauce that pairs well with yuca fries and maduros – two of my favorites at Pollo Tropical.


What Makes This Cilantro Garlic Sauce So Good?

  • Less than 10-minutes for a sauce that can transform a meal
  • Prepping ingredients takes most of the time, but the sauce can be made in under a minute.
  • Create a fun dipping sauce for your favorite snacks
  • This is a great option for planning your meals. You can store it in the fridge and enjoy it throughout the week.

What Is Pollo Tropical? 

If you’re in Florida, you might already be a huge fan of Pollo Tropical. However, those of us in the Northeast can only enjoy the pleasure of Pollo Tropical when we visit Florida.

You may have never heard of this amazing Floridian franchise that originated in Miami in 1998. But don’t worry, they have expanded to other cities throughout Florida.

I loved visiting my family in West Palm Beach because we always made a trip to Pollo Tropical for their delicious roasted chicken, rice, black beans, maduros and sauce.


Ingredients For A Creamy Cilantro Garlic Sauce Recipe

I want to start by mentioning that the original creamy garlic sauce at Tropical served as inspiration for this recipe. According to Pollo Tropical’s nutrition breakdown, the sauce is vegetarian. This indicates that it may be prepared using mayonnaise sour cream, or a combination of both, to achieve that smooth and creamy texture (without all the other chemicals and preservatives).

After some trial and error, I decided to go with a recipe that uses sour cream as the base ingredient. However, here’s a list of ingredients with alternative options that you can use for this recipe.

  • Sour Cream (Organic pasture-raised) – If you love mayo like many of us do and prefer a mayo and sour cream combination, then substitute half of the sour cream for mayo. You can also substitute sour cream with Greek yogurt. For a vegan option, go with a vegan mayo.
  • Garlic Cloves – fresh garlic cloves or roasted garlic are delicious! However, if you’re out of fresh cloves of garlic, incorporate garlic powder, but know that fresh or roasted ones are ideal.
  • Cilantro Leaves, including Tender Stems. If you love a greener, cilantro-forward sauce, add extra cilantro. You can also make a version with a bit more herbaceous combination of greeds like parsley, then swap half of the cilantro by adding parsley instead.
  • Fresh Lime Juice
  • White Distilled Vinegar – for extra tartness, but you can exclude it from the recipe if it feels too tart.
  • Avocado Oil or olive oil: I love avocado oil because it’s a neutral oil, but olive oil is also perfect for this recipe.
  • Salt
Overhead view of Ingredients for pollo tropical inspired cilantro garlic sauce

Instructions For This Cilantro Garlic Sauce Recipe

What’s amazing is that this sauce took me all in 5 minutes. What took the longest was cleaning the cilantro well. I love soaking the cilantro leaves in baking soda and vinegar, then rinsing them using a fine mesh strainer.

Step One: Clean the Cilantro well.

As mentioned above, I love to soak the cilantro in a cleaning mixture like water, baking soda, and vinegar. Then rinse it at least twice to get the baking soda mixture off of the leaves, allow it to strain, and dry relatively well. To simplify this, I love to use a fine mesh strainer.

Step Two: Food Processor

Add all your ingredients to the food processor except for half of the oil. Start by chopping the ingredients for 5-7 seconds. Then, slowly add the rest of the oil. You can adjust based on your preference, but the oil gives this flavorful sauce and a luxurious finish.

Creamy Garlic Sauce Variations

Roasted Garlic

if you prefer roasted garlic, grab a whole garlic bulb, cut half an inch off the other end of the root, place in aluminum paper, drizzle on some avocado oil, and roast in the oven. Then, once it’s roasted, squeeze the garlic into the food processor.

Turn It Into A Spicy Sauce

Add jalapeño without the seeds or any other green chile, and add to the food processor to incorporate well for a spicy, creamy cilantro sauce.

Hand-Chopped Alternative

If you love a more herbaceous sauce with fresh herbs, then roughly chopped cilantro in a sauce is so good! Instead of using a food processor, grab your favorite chef knife and hand-chop the cilantro, use a microplane for the garlic, or finely chop and mix all ingredients using a silicone spatula.

This recipe is a big hit like the original pollo tropical cilantro garlic sauce!

What To Serve With This Sauce?

If you love the way cilantro tastes with chicken quesadillas, then you’ll love the combination of the tangy lime juice, cilantro, and garlic with this Chipotle pollo asado recipe, and especially with this Chipotle copycat version as a dipping sauce with this pollo asado quesadillas rellenas recipe

This creamy cilantro garlic cilantro sauce is a great addition to some of my favorite sauces, like this authentic chimichurri sauce recipe, ancho aioli recipe, aji picante Colombian empanada sauce recipe, and cherry pepper aioli recipe.

Create a sauce bar for dinner – sauces can turn dinner into a fun dinner with the family. A good sauce, can transform any meal.

Side photo of quesadilla rellenas dipped in cilantro garlic sauce inspired by pollo tropical

See Below for Detailed Instructions


The Right Equipment For This Recipe

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • 1 Small Food Processor
  • 1 Medium Mixing Bowl
  • 1 Measuring Cup
  • 1 Cutting Board
  • 1 Chef or Pairing Knife
  • 1 Fine-mesh Strainer

Top Tips For The Best Cilantro Garlic Sauce

After testing this recipe, I learned some tips that made the best quesadillas ever!

  1. Try not to over-process the cilantro in the food processor. It’ll give the sauce a slightly bitter taste.
  2. Rinse and clean the cilantro well to clean off all of the dirt well. Allow it to drain well using a fine mesh strainer.
  3. Fresh garlic over powdered garlic for a fresh sauce.
  4. Store the sauce in an airtight container in the fridge.

Storage

The best way to store a batch of freshly made garlic sauce is in an airtight container. It seals the sauce and can extend the life of the sauce in the refrigerator.

Serving

Leave the garlic cilantro sauce at room temperature before serving. Pour in small individual bowls like the one in the photo above for each person to enjoy.

These small bowls are perfect if you’re setting up a sauce bar. They can hold from one to two tablespoons of sauce.


Side view of a small bowl with pollo tropical inspired cilantro garlic sauce and quesadillas rellenas in the background

10-Minute Cilantro Garlic Sauce Inspired By Pollo Tropical

Olga Muñoz
Garlicky, cilantro-forward sauce- a perfect dipping sauce.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 9 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Brunch, Dinner, Lunch, Sauce, Snack
Cuisine American, Cuban
Servings 10 people
Calories 72 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Fine Mesh Strainer
  • 1 Medium Mixing Bowl
  • 1 Wooden Cutting Board
  • 1 Chef Knife
  • 1 Small Food Processor

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup Cilantro Leaves, tender stems
  • 1 whole Lime, Juiced
  • 2 tbsp Avocado Oil
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 5 cloves Fresh Garlic
  • 1/4 tsp White Distilled Vinegar

Instructions
 

Clean, Rinse and Prep

  • Clean and rinse the cilantro, and keep the leaves and stems.
    Measure out all of your ingredients

Food Processor

  • Add the ingredients to the food processor and chop for 10-12 seconds. For finely chopped cilantro, continue for an additional 2-5 seconds.
    Adjust as needed.

Notes

Tips

Try not to over-process the cilantro in the food processor. It’ll give the sauce a slightly bitter taste.
Rinse and clean the cilantro well to clean off all of the dirt well. Allow it to drain well using a fine mesh strainer.
Fresh garlic over powdered garlic for a fresh sauce.
Store the sauce in an airtight container and store it in the fridge.

Nutrition

Calories: 72kcal
Keyword cilantro dipping sauce, cilantro garlic sauce, copycat pollo tropical recipe, pollo tropical cilantro garlic sauce recipe
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