Orange Balsamic Cilantro Salad

$4.15 recipe / $1.04 serving

The other day at lunch, my coworker said, “Beth, you have to try this salad. It’s my favorite salad.” I tried a little bite and I have to say I was really impressed! The salad she had made was from Padma Lakshmi’s book, Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet: A World of Recipes for Every Day. It was a rather intoxicating mix of fresh cilantro, tangy balsamic vinegar, toasted sesame seeds, and sweet dried cranberries. There were so many flavors dancing around in my mouth that it was incredible.

My coworker told me a little about what was in the salad, although I didn’t get to see the recipe and I don’t know it’s exact title. She told me that the dressing contained balsamic vinegar, lime juice, and orange oil, among other things. She also told me about how she had to go to multiple markets around town before before finally finding the orange oil. I’m not crazy about using really hard to find or expensive ingredients, so I improvised.

I bought a fresh orange and used a small amount of the zest to replace the orange oil (that’s where the oil comes from, after all) and I used some of the orange’s juice to replace the lime juice. I did miss the bright freshness of lime in the flavor profile, but sometimes you have to compromise when working on a budget. I also added some edamame to make the salad a little more filling (and because I had it in my freezer and it needs to be used). I think I did pretty good for blindly trying to recreate a recipe. Padma’s was certainly better, but I still love this salad. It’s fresh, healthy, and flavorful. I ate the salad with some brown jasmine rice and would have added some grilled chicken if I had time. Honey Balsamic Chicken Tenders would also go great with it!

(now I’m going to have to buy Lakshmi’s book just to see what is really in the salad! The title leads me to believe that I’d love ALL the recipes!)

Orange Balsamic Cilantro Salad

Orange Balsamic Cilantro Salad

5.0 from 1 reviews
Orange Balsamic Cilantro Salad
Prep time
Total time
Total Cost: $4.15
Cost Per Serving: $1.04
Serves: 4 (3/4 cup each)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro $0.89
  • 2 medium carrots $0.28
  • 1 cup frozen, shelled edamame $0.82
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries $0.38
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds $0.15
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar $0.40
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil $0.02
  • 1 fresh orange, divided $1.05
  • ¼ tsp toasted sesame oil $0.14
  • ½ tsp brown sugar $0.02
  1. Pull the cilantro leaves from the stems and give it a very rough chop (don't chop too much or you'll loose the volume in your salad). Roughly chop the cranberries. Peel and grate the carrots with a cheese grater. Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat (stir continuously) until they are golden brown (about 2 minutes).
  2. Combine the cilantro, carrots, edamame, cranberries, and toasted sesame seeds in a bowl.
  3. Use a fine holed cheese grater or a microplane to remove about ¼ tsp of zest from the orange (the thin orange layer of the peel). Squeeze about 2 Tbsp of juice from the orange. Combine the zest and juice with the balsamic vinegar, vegetable oil, sesame oil, and brown sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine. It can be eaten immediately, but I like to refrigerate the salad for about 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors meld a little. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days once dressed.
Toasted sesame oil can be found with Asian ingredients in the ethnic foods aisle. You'll know it's toasted by it's deep amber color. If it's clear, it is plain sesame oil and will not have the nice toasty flavor.

Orange Balsamic Cilantro Salad


Step by Step Photos

Cilantro Salad IngredientsFirst gather the main ingredients for your salad: one bunch of fresh cilantro, two medium carrots, one cup of frozen shelled edamame, 1/4 cup dried cranberries, and 1 Tbsp sesame seeds. You’ll want to toast the sesame seeds briefly in a dry skillet over medium heat to get the most flavor out of them. They toast quickly (about two minutes) and you need to keep stirring to prevent them from burning. For pictures of this process, check out this post about How to Make Tahini.

Roughly Chop CilantroPull the cilantro leaves from the stems and give them a rough chop. Don’t chop too much, or you’ll loose the volume of your salad. The fastest way to remove the leaves is to hold a few sprigs in one hand and use the other hand to pull the leaves out away from the stems. You might get a little stem in there, but that’s okay because cilantro stems are tender and still flavorful.

Cilantro Salad Ready to DressPeel and then grate the carrot using a large holed cheese grater. I also chopped the dried cranberries slightly so that they would spread throughout the salad better. A little in every bite!

Orange ZestInstead of hunting down orange oil, I decided to use a fresh orange. I wish I would have gotten a smaller one because I only needed about half of it… but I ate the rest as a snack. :) Use a small holed cheese grater or a microplane to remove about 1/4 tsp of zest from the orange. Also squeeze out about 2 Tbsp of juice.

Orange Balsamic DressingCombine the zest and juice with 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbsp vegetable oil, 1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil, and 1/2 tsp brown sugar. I used vegetable oil instead of olive oil because I felt olive oil would be too strong of a flavor for this salad. Make sure you use toasted sesame oil instead of regular sesame oil. Toasted sesame oil has a deep amber color and a LOT of flavor.

Finished Orange Balsamic Cilantro SaladPour the dressing over top and stir it up. It’s good as is, but I found it got even better with about 30 minutes of refrigeration. It will last about 2-3 days in the fridge once dressed, and is a little more wilty (but flavorful!) each day.

Orange Balsamic Cilantro SaladI love the idea of eating this salad along side of some summer grilled chicken… or maybe even pizza! Because pizza. Of course, pizza. (can you tell what’s really on my mind?)

P.S. You really have to be a cilantro lover for this one. If you don’t like cilantro, I can’t offer any substitutions. Cilantro is the main flavor here and without it, it would just be a different salad entirely. :)


  1. This recipe is great. Perfect fresh salad for lunch. Here is the nutritional info:

  2. Kathleen says:

    Cilantro is my absolute favorite herb. I can’t wait to try this. And I’m glad that it keeps for a couple of days.

  3. This looks really good…. but i dunno about cilantro as a main green. I might combine this with some leafy greens for a more robust salad. I’m thinking spinach or romaine, since that’s what i usually eat.

  4. My husband made this last night for dinner – I loved it! Such great flavors. Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Beth says:

    Made this tonight for dinner and it is delicious!!! I have yet to make one of your recipes that I don’t like :). Thanks for making me look like a superstar in the kitchen!!!!

  6. This looks so great! I LOVE cilantro. I may even bulk this up even more and add some cabbage or broccoli slaw to make it a meal. The flavors sound amazing!

  7. This sounds delicious! I made an edamame salad the other day (recipe on my blog) and I think edamame in a salad might be my new favorite thing.

  8. The flavors in this beautiful salad sound amazing. Thanks so much for the recipe – pinning it now.

  9. Do you cook the edamame? I’ve read the above twice and don’t see info on this.

    • Oh you know what? I didn’t cook it this time! I just let it thaw in the salad as I mixed everything together. The instructions on the bag say to cook it (microwave for two minutes with a few Tbsp of water), but I forgot. It tasted exactly the same as when I cooked it for use in the Spicy Tuna Guacamole Bowls.

  10. I love cilantro. This salad is perfect for me. Love your version. Now I’m curious about Lakshmi’s recipe, though. Luckily I have that book so I can look it up.

  11. Valerie says:
  12. Valerie says:

    It looks great! Looks like she may have posted this recipe on her blog, although it seems the server isn’t working at the moment:

  13. Beth – this sounds amazing, just right for summer. I sometimes add garbanzo beans to green salads to add a bit of protein. Thanks for the recipe – I’ll try it.

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