Is El Pollo Loco creamy cilantro dressing dairy free?

El Pollo Loco is a popular fast food chain known for its fire-grilled chicken and Mexican-inspired entrees. One of their most beloved menu items is the Creamy Cilantro Dressing, a cool, tangy sauce that perfectly complements El Pollo Loco’s citrus-marinated chicken. With its bright, herbaceous flavor, the creamy cilantro dressing is a favorite among customers. However, for those with dietary restrictions like lactose intolerance or veganism, enjoying this creamy sauce poses a challenge. The central question is: is El Pollo Loco’s famous Creamy Cilantro Dressing dairy-free?

What is El Pollo Loco’s Creamy Cilantro Dressing?

El Pollo Loco’s Creamy Cilantro Dressing has a smooth, creamy texture and a bold cilantro flavor. It is made with a combination of sour cream, milk, cilantro, garlic and spices like cumin, oregano, and black pepper. The dressing is tangy, cooling and pairs perfectly with El Pollo Loco’s grilled meats and citrus-marinated chicken. It adds a refreshing contrast to the smoky char flavors. The creaminess and herbaceousness of the cilantro dressing make it a customer favorite. It is often used as a salad dressing, sauce for chicken, or even as a dip for El Pollo Loco’s signature chicken taquitos.

Ingredients in Creamy Cilantro Dressing

According to the ingredients listed on El Pollo Loco’s website, these are the main components of their Creamy Cilantro Dressing:

– Sour cream
– Milk
– Cilantro
– Garlic puree
– Onion powder
– Cumin
– Oregano
– Black pepper

The core ingredients in the Creamy Cilantro Dressing are dairy-based – sour cream and milk. This gives the dressing its trademark creamy, cool texture. The cilantro, garlic and spices add lots of flavor.

Does El Pollo Loco’s Creamy Cilantro Dressing Contain Dairy?

Yes, El Pollo Loco’s Creamy Cilantro Dressing does contain dairy ingredients. The main dairy components in the dressing are:

Sour Cream

Sour cream is made by fermenting regular cream with lactic acid bacteria. This gives it its tangy, acidic taste. Sour cream has about 20% milk fat, making it a high fat dairy product. It is the ingredient that gives El Pollo Loco’s dressing its signature creamy texture.


The dressing also contains milk, which adds to the creaminess. Milk contains two main types of protein – casein and whey. Along with milk fat, these proteins are what make milk creamy and give it a smooth mouthfeel.

So in summary, the two dairy ingredients – sour cream and milk – are essential components of El Pollo Loco’s Creamy Cilantro Dressing. They provide the cool, creamy texture and make the dressing smooth and lush.

Why Does the Creamy Cilantro Dressing Contain Dairy?

There are a few reasons why El Pollo Loco uses dairy ingredients like sour cream and milk in their Creamy Cilantro Dressing:


Dairy ingredients provide creaminess, viscosity and a rich, smooth mouthfeel. Sour cream and milk have natural fats and proteins that give the cilantro dressing its lush, creamy texture that coats the tongue.


Sour cream has a tangy, acidic taste from lactic acid fermentation that balances out the spice and flavor of the cilantro dressing.


Milk products have a mild taste that doesn’t overpower the herbaceous cilantro and spices. The dairy enhances other flavors rather than competing with them.


Dairy ingredients like sour cream and milk tend to be relatively inexpensive, especially compared to plant-based alternatives like nut milks. Keeping costs down allows the dressing to be produced commercially at scale.

So in short, El Pollo Loco relies on economical dairy ingredients to produce a creamy cilantro dressing with a tangy, cool flavor profile.

Are There Any Dairy-Free Options?

Unfortunately, El Pollo Loco’s Creamy Cilantro Dressing does not currently have any dairy-free or vegan options available. The sour cream and milk are integral components of the recipe.

Some customers have asked about possible dairy-free alternatives, such as:

– Vegan sour cream
– Nut milk like almond milk, oat milk or soy milk
– Tofu or silken tofu
– Vegan mayonnaise
– Avocado

However, El Pollo Loco has not introduced any official dairy-free varieties of their famous Creamy Cilantro Dressing. The standard dressing served in their restaurants contains both sour cream and milk.

So for now, the creamy cilantro dressing is off limits for those avoiding dairy due to dietary needs or personal preferences.

Allergy Information

For customers with food allergies or sensitivities, it is important to note that El Pollo Loco’s Creamy Cilantro Dressing contains dairy. Those with dairy allergies or lactose intolerance need to avoid this sauce.

According to El Pollo Loco’s website, their creamy cilantro dressing contains:

– Milk
– Sour cream (which also contains milk)

These two dairy components means the dressing is not safe for those with milk allergies. There is a risk of an allergic reaction.

Those with lactose intolerance may also experience gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, bloating or diarrhea after consuming the dairy-containing cilantro dressing.

El Pollo Loco does not specifically list out other common allergens like soy, nuts or wheat in the Creamy Cilantro Dressing. However, the dressing is made in facilities that may handle those allergens. Extremely sensitive individuals should exercise caution or ask about preparation procedures.

Gluten-Free Status

The Creamy Cilantro Dressing does not contain gluten-based ingredients. It is safe for gluten-free diets according to El Pollo Loco’s website. However, there is a possibility of cross-contact with gluten-containing foods during storage, preparation or cooking. As always, individuals with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use their best judgment.

Vegetarian Status

While the cilantro dressing does not contain any meat ingredients, it is not considered vegetarian. This is because it contains milk and sour cream, which are animal-derived dairy products. Strict vegetarians and vegans would not be able to consume this sauce.

Nutrition Information

El Pollo Loco provides full nutrition information for their Creamy Cilantro Dressing on their website:

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving Calories Fat Protein
2 tablespoons (30g) 45 4g 0g

As you can see, just 2 tablespoons of the Creamy Cilantro Dressing contains 45 calories and 4g of fat, coming predominantly from the dairy ingredients like sour cream. There are no significant protein or carbohydrates.

For those tracking macros, a serving of the dressing contains:

– Fat: 4g
– Carbohydrates: 2g
– Protein: 0g

So the cilantro dressing consists almost entirely of fats and carbs from the dairy components. There are minimal vitamins or minerals.

This nutritional breakdown is important for those monitoring fat or calories for health or dietary reasons. The Creamy Cilantro Dressing can certainly fit into a balanced diet, but portion size matters, especially given the high fat content coming from the sour cream and milk.


El Pollo Loco charges extra for a side of their Creamy Cilantro Dressing. The current price is:

– Small: $0.50
– Large: $1.50

The dressing also comes included in menu items like salads, bowls, and tacos at no extra charge.

This affordable pricing makes the El Pollo Loco cilantro dressing easily accessible for customers to enjoy with their meal. For an additional 50 cents to $1.50, you can get a cooling, creamy dipping sauce to complement your fire-grilled chicken and citrus flavors.

Taste Reviews

The Creamy Cilantro Dressing receives rave reviews from El Pollo Loco customers:

Cool and creamy texture

Reviewers love the smooth, creamy mouthfeel of the dressing. It has a lush quality and coats your tongue thanks to the sour cream and milk. The cilantro dressing provides a cooling contrast to the charred chicken.

Bright, herbaceous flavor

Customers highlight the fresh, potent cilantro taste. The lime juice and garlic also give it a zesty, citrusy flavor. For cilantro lovers, this dressing does not disappoint on the flavor profile.

Pairs perfectly with the chicken

Many reviews mention that the creamy cilantro dressing completes an El Pollo Loco meal. Its cooling creaminess perfectly balances the smoky chicken. Overall, it receives rave reviews from customers.

How to Make a Dairy-Free Version

Because El Pollo Loco’s original Creamy Cilantro Dressing contains dairy, vegans and those avoiding milk need to get creative to replicate the flavor. Here is one recipe for a dairy-free Creamy Cilantro Dressing:


– 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained
– 1/4 cup lemon juice
– 1/4 cup water
– 1 cup fresh cilantro
– 2 cloves garlic
– 1/2 jalapeno pepper, deseeded
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon oregano
– Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a blender, combine the drained cashews, lemon juice, water, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, oregano and salt and pepper.

2. Blend on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add more water if too thick.

3. Adjust seasoning as desired with more lemon, salt, or herbs.

4. Store leftover dressing in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

This dairy-free cilantro dressing uses smooth cashews as the base for creaminess instead of sour cream and milk. The cumin, oregano and jalapeno mimic El Pollo Loco’s signature flavor profile. You get the same fresh, herby tang without the dairy!


El Pollo Loco’s popular Creamy Cilantro Dressing contains both sour cream and milk, making it decidedly not vegan or dairy-free. These two dairy ingredients provide the trademark creaminess and tangy flavor. Those avoiding milk for dietary restrictions do not have an alternative option at El Pollo Loco currently. However, the dressing’s simplicity lends itself well to plant-based adaptations at home, capturing the same bold cilantro profile without the dairy. Overall, the Creamy Cilantro Dressing remains a beloved signature sauce for El Pollo Loco fans who can enjoy its cool, herby creaminess accompanying the chicken. Just steer clear if you have a milk allergy or follow a vegan diet.

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