Orange Balsamic Cilantro Salad

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 from 2 votes

Orange Balsamic Cilantro Salad

This fresh and tangy Orange Balsamic Cilantro Salad is light, fresh, and perfect for hot summer weather! 

Total Cost $4.15 recipe / $1.04 serving
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 3/4 cup each
Author Inspired by a Padma Lakshmi recipe



  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro $0.89
  • 2 medium carrots $0.28
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame $0.82
  • 1/4 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
  • 1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil $0.14
  • 1/2 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 1/4 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.

Recipe Notes

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 Ingredients

First 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 Cilantro

Pull 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 Dress

Peel 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 Zest

Instead 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 Dressing

Combine 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 Salad

Pour 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 Salad

I 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. :)