Creamy Homemade Southwest Salad Dressing

Fun and flavorful salad dressings, like a creamy Southwest Salad Dressing, can take a salad from good to fantastic. Traditional salad dressings are tasty, but Southwest salad dressing provides a fun uniqueness. The flavors can take your salad to the next level – so much so that it becomes your regular craving!

What is Southwest Salad Dressing?

Southwest salad dressing is one you don’t want to miss. Imagine Mexican-inspired flavors with a tangy and slightly sweet base. It likely originated from the famous Southwest sauce, which many chain restaurants feature. 

Subway, Buffalo Wild Wings, McDonald’s, Outback Steakhouse, just to name a few, all include a Southwest sauce or dressing on their menus. The Southwest sauce is commonly used on sandwiches or served with a bloomin’ onion or onion rings. My favorite pairing with this delicious dress? In some areas, restaurants pair the sauce with cheese curds. It’s delicious!  

If you’ve never tried making it at home, I highly recommend it! Sure, you can buy it online if you want or in the store. But the benefits of making it at home are two-fold: you know exactly the ingredients that are going into your body, and you can tweak it to please your specific taste.  

Fortunately, making the dressing from scratch is a breeze. Let’s get started! 

How to Make Southwest Salad Dressing

The total time required for this recipe is so slight you’ll have no choice but to try it. To make this Southwest dressing, you only need a few minutes of prep time and a handful of ingredients. There are several variations that you can use to fit your dietary needs, as the recipe is versatile. 

If you’re seeking the most creamy Southwest dressing recipe, this is the one to use.  

Ingredients

Sour cream – Creamy whole fat sour cream is the base to this delicious dressing. If you’re looking to go a little lighter, you can easily substitute low-fat sour cream or even full-fat Greek yogurt.

Apple cider vinegar – Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar that is made with crushed apples, yeast, and sugar. Apple cider vinegar has a ton of health benefits and lends a tangy flavor to this Southwest salad dressing recipe. 

Lime juice – For a further tangy punch, we leverage lime juice for this recipe. If you can, I recommend using fresh lime juice, but bottled juice will also work. 

Maple syrup – Maple syrup, real maple syrup that is, bring the slight sweetness this recipe calls for. Here’s my fave if you’re looking to treat yourself to a great bottle of maple syrup

Ancho chili powder – Ancho chili powder is made from dried poblano pepper. It brings the heat to this Southwest salad dressing recipe. 

Cayenne pepper – A dash of cayenne pepper also brings the heat. If you’re not a fan of too much spice, or have little ones, add both the ancho chili powder and the cayenne pepper slowly in small increments. 

Cumin – Dried ground cumin has a warm and earthy flavor that pairs well with the citrus and heat in this dressing. 

Garlic powder – A staple in your cabinet I’m sure. I can never keep enough in the pantry!

Onion powder – Both garlic and onion powder are made from dehydrated and ground onions and garlic. 

Smoked paprika – Smoked paprika is not to be mistaken for its non-smoked counterpart. It’s Spanish in origin and made by smoking pimentón Salt and black pepper– Use quality sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

Instructions

  1. Combine sour cream, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, and maple syrup in a medium bowl until well-mixed.
  1. In a small bowl, combine the dry spices: the ancho chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.
  1. When spices are thoroughly mixed, add the spice mixture to the sour cream mixture and stir until well combined.
  1. Pour over your salad of choice and enjoy! You may also store the dressing in a mason jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Be sure to store it separately from the salad to avoid soggy lettuce.

Making Southwest Salad Dressing Dairy-Free and/or Vegan

One of the great parts of a good Southwest dressing is the ability to alter it to meet your dietary needs. When you desire a dairy-free Southwest salad dressing, simply swap out the sour cream for mayonnaise. You can use the exact measurements, and while the taste will be slightly different than the original, the consistency is much the same. 

If you prefer a plant-based option, plain vegan yogurt instead of sour cream is a fantastic choice! Plain vegan yogurt has a similar taste to sour cream. The consistency is also similar, which makes this substitute ideal.

Variations on Southwest Salad Dressing

Vary the Sour cream base

There are many possibilities for variation in this particular dressing, including a way to decrease the calories. Aside from vegan yogurt or mayonnaise, you could also use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. If you’re looking for a vegan alternative, vegan mayo is also an option.

Apple Cider substitute

When you want to take out the apple cider vinegar, it is possible by upping your lime juice measurement. Ensure there is enough liquid to make the sour cream (or alternative) thin enough to pour as a dressing. You could use a combination of lemon and lime juice or use lemon juice instead of lime juice. 

Swap out the sweetener

Another variation includes substituting maple syrup. Fortunately, there are a few options that can take the place of maple syrup. The most similar options include honey, molasses, or agave nectar.

Mix up the spices

You could also change up the ancho chili powder. If you choose to use regular chili powder, consider adding ⅛ teaspoon of crushed red pepper to create a similar heat. A similar substitution for smoked paprika is possible with two parts regular paprika and 1 part cumin.

With various possibilities for a Southwest dressing, you could alter the original recipe for your flavor desires. Whether you prefer more spice or less sweet, vegan ingredients or full fat, there is a combination that will work for you. Get creative and see what you can make using this recipe as a base!

How to Use this Creamy Southwest salad Dressing

on salads

This tasty and flavorful dressing is versatile in its use. It is commonly used to dress up a Southwest style salad.  

Crisp romaine lettuce topped with grilled chicken strips starts a great salad. Add sweet corn, black beans, diced Roma tomatoes, sliced red onions, tortilla strips, and shredded cheddar cheese. Douse in this creamy Southwest salad dressing, and your Southwest chicken salad will be complete with a kick!

As a dipping sauce

In addition to salad, you can use Southwestern salad dressing in other ways. It can serve as a yummy dipping sauce for chicken tenders or other proteins, onion rings, or various appetizers.

One other possible option for use is on a veggie tray. Slice up some green, yellow, and red bell peppers, cauliflower, and carrots. Provide the dressing in the center of the tray for a crowd-pleasing treat.

In potato salad

A great use is to get creative and use it in a mouthwatering potato salad! For an impressive Southwest potato salad, begin with a few pounds of diced, cooked potatoes. Add chopped bacon, sliced green onions, fresh cilantro, and a cup of shredded cheddar cheese before mixing in the dressing. It will surely be a party favorite – or keep it all to yourself! 

Use it as a marinade

Another great way to use this creamy Southwest salad dressing is as a marinade. Simply put it in a ziplock bag with some raw chicken breast or tenders and leave it in the fridge overnight. Bake it as usual and ensure the temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit to make a delicious and juicy meal!

southwest salad dressing drizzled on salad bowl
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Southwest Salad Dressing

Creamy and spicy, with a hint of sweetness.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time2 mins
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Spicy
Keyword: salad dressing, Southwest salad dressing, Southwestern dressing
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 70kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp  lime juice
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • tsp black pepper

Instructions

  • Combine sour cream, apple cider vinegar, lime juice, and maple syrup in a medium bowl until well-mixed.
  • In a small bowl, combine the dry spices: the ancho chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.
  • When spices are thoroughly mixed, add the spice mixture to the sour cream mixture and stir until well combined.
  • Pour over your salad of choice and enjoy! You may also store the dressing in a mason jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Be sure to store it separately from the salad to avoid soggy lettuce.

Nutrition

Calories: 70kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 93mg | Potassium: 74mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 457IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 38mg | Iron: 0.4mg
Southwest Salad and Dressing - Daily DIY Life

More yummy dipping sauces and dressings

Outback Ranch Dressing

Lawson’s Chip Dip

Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil Bread Dip

Boom Boom Sauce

Imagine any number of meals that could use some Mexican-inspired flavor. Adding a unique dressing as a dip, marinade, topping, or other feature in the dish can bring your cooking to the next level. This creamy Southwest salad dressing is a crowd-pleaser you will want to use in every way! 

Have questions or suggestions? Leave them in the comments below.

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