Cotija-Pepita Dressing

Get out of your homemade dressing rut with this tangy, creamy Mexican-inspired dressing flavored with cotija cheese, pepitas, roasted chiles and cilantro. Great on anything from salads to grilled veg or drizzled in a fish taco.

Do you find yourself in a bit of a rut when it comes to dressing your salad?  I'm right there with you. I often fall back to the same old same old when it comes to homemade dressings. I tend to go the apple cider vinegar, dijon, olive oil route pretty much every time. So I was on a hunt for something new to keep in the fridge that would be versatile. Obviously I wanted something that would make fresh greens pop but I also wanted a dressing that would perk up roasted vegetables or compliment pan roasted chicken and add the finishing touch to a  homemade fish taco.

Tall order, I know.

A month ago, I attended a special dinner at Puesto in La Jolla billed as a traditional Oaxacan dinner experience. I’ll go more into detail on the menu in another post. For now, I just want to focus on the dressing that was on one of the appetizers. It was billed as a cotija-pepita dressing and I became obsessed. I mean, O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D.

After some research and experimentation, I think I’ve come pretty darn close to the dressing I had that day. I’ve had this dressing as a spread in a sandwich, to dress a salad, drizzled on my beer battered fish tacos and used as a dip for slices of cucumber and radish. I love it.

And the best part? It’s super easy to put together. This recipe makes about 2 ½ cups so you can halve the recipe if you like or share a jar with a friend.

With grilling season upon us, this dressing would also make a killer dressing for a fresh take on a potato or macaroni salad. Toss in fresh chopped cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and some minced jalapeƱos for an added kick.

Until next time friends … ¡Buen Provecho!
Xo, ani

Cotija-Pepita Dressing

Cotija cheese is a salty, crumbly Mexican cheese. I don’t add additional salt as I find the cheese brings more than enough but feel free to adjust to your taste.

Makes 2 ½ cups


2 fresh Anaheim peppers, rinsed and dried
½ cup pepitas
½ cup cotija cheese
2 fat cloves garlic, peeled
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
1 bunch cilantro, bottom ⅓ of stems removed
½ cup avocado oil (or other neutral oil)


Roast the peppers: If you have a gas stovetop, place the peppers directly on the grates over a high flame to char, turning so all sides have blistered and have started to blacken. Remove the roasted peppers to a plastic bag and twist to seal. Set aside to sweat. If you have an electric stove, place peppers on a sheet tray and broil on high. After the first minute, flip peppers. Continue flipping every 30 seconds until the peppers are blistered and have started to blacken. Remove to a plastic bag and twist to seal. Set aside to sweat.

Toast the seeds: Add the pepitas to a heated skillet over medium-high heat. Shake pan continuously, flipping pepitas until they are fragrant, about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Remove to the jar of a blender.

Make the dressing: Add the cheese, garlic, vinegar, water, mayonnaise and blend on high until smooth. Remove the peppers from the bag and peel the skin off with your fingers or use the back of a spoon or the blade of a knife to gently scrape off the skin. Remove as much of the skin as possible but do not rinse the peppers or you’ll remove the smoky flavor you spent all this time adding to them; a few flecks of blackened skin left behind are fine. Cut the tops off, discarding the stems. Slit open the peppers and carefully remove and discard the seeds. Rough chop the peppers and add them to the blender along with the cilantro. Pulse until the cilantro and peppers have been broken down and incorporated into the dressing. Remove the clear lid plug, with the blender running, slowly pour in the oil. Continue blending for 30 seconds after the last of the oil has been added.

To store: Transfer to a tightly sealed glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.