Charred Citrus Dressing

We use charred whole lemons and limes to create a deeply flavorful, creamy, and unforgettable all-purpose dressing. Amp up any salad, consider it an instant sauce for grilled chicken, or use it as a citrusy marinade.

Creamy lemon and lime dressing in a glass jar set on a plate with a lemon and lime next to it.

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

During winter, when fresh, bright flavors can be hard to come by, Charred Citrus Dressing hits those lovely notes.

A whole lemon and lime are thinly sliced and lightly charred on the stove top. They're blended with more lemon and lime juice and oil to create a punchy dressing that goes beyond salads. Use it as a marinade for chicken or as a warm sauce to drizzle over cooked vegetables or grains.

I had this dressing at a café and I was instantly enamored. It became a staple at home and for my personal chef clients. They are enticed by its richness compared to standard citrus vinaigrettes. Plus, I enjoy how well it keeps in the fridge.

This recipe calls for a whole lemon and a whole lime, instead of just the juices for two reasons:

  1. The rind (the peel plus the white pith) mellows as it cooks, so it won’t be bitter. And even though you’re charring the citrus until blackened in some spots, it won’t taste burnt either. Instead, it will be deep and dark in flavor, almost as if you’ve added bacon fat. Plus, the sharp, acidic citrus juices are mellower than in other vinaigrettes.
  2. The inclusion of whole citrus makes this dressing thick and rich. The texture is more like a sauce than a vinaigrette. It makes for a multi-purpose dressing that can stand up to cooked proteins, starches, and vegetables.

What is Charred Citrus Dressing?

Charred Citrus Dressing can be used as a salad dressing, a marinade, or an all-purpose sauce. Instead of using only the juice of lemons and limes, for this recipe you’ll use the whole fruit.

Slice and char them on the stovetop, then blend them along with oil, garlic, salt, and black pepper into a thick and creamy vinaigrette that’s dark in color—it’s a pretty, light caramel brown—and robust in flavor.

Creamy lemon and lime dressing in a glass jar set on a plate with a lemon and lime next to it.

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

What Does It Taste Like?

It has the acidity, tang, and punch of a lemon and lime juice, but because the whole fruit is used, you can taste the zesty and slightly bitter peel. The recipe calls for one clove of raw garlic, which gives the dressing a soft garlicky bite.

Tips for Top Notch Dressing

This is a forgiving recipe, but the below tips and tricks will ensure you make the best possible version.

  • Rinse your lemons and limes under cool running water before using. Since you’ll be eating the whole fruit including the peel, you might want to buy organic citrus, if available.
  • Choose juicy lemons and limes with a thinner skin and a small amount of give when you press it with your fingers. Rock hard, thick-skinned citrus should be avoided here. It’ll be too bitter.
  • Blend the dressing on low speed for a perfectly emulsified dressing, which means the oil will not separate and it will be thick and creamy. Take your time to blend it so that your dressing gets, and stays, emulsified.
  • Unless you’re using the dressing immediately, opt for a neutral oil, not olive oil. Olive oil solidifies in the fridge, so the dressing will be difficult to use unless warmed through after being stored in the fridge.
  • Slice the citrus as thinly as possible, no more than 1/4-inch thick. Sometimes I find it easier to slice it with a mandoline.
  • I like a cast iron pan for the charring, but any heavy-bottomed pan will do. A cast iron pan yields the best result because it offers a stable source of heat, which means the citrus chars gently without ever burning.
Charred lemon and lime dressing drizzled over a bowl of greens.

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Easy Swaps and Substitutions

This is a versatile dressing. Here are some of my other favorite ways to make it.

  • Make it with any combinations of just lemons, just limes, and their juices.
  • Add orange or grapefruit juice instead of the lemon or lime juice. You need the acidity of the lemon or lime juice, so you’d be substituting only half of the juice. Because oranges and grapefruit have more pith, you do not want to use a whole orange or grapefruit. The dressing will be too bitter.
  • Add fresh or dried herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, or dill.
  • Add spices like ground chipotle, white pepper, or cumin.

Many Ways to Serve this Dressing Warm

There are so many ways to serve this dressing, which is still warm once blended. Here are some ideas:

  • Drizzle it over hearty greens like spinach or kale, for a slightly wilted salad.
  • Serve it over a seared steak or a simply grilled chicken.
  • Brighten up a batch of cooked rice, quinoa, farro, or millet.
  • Drizzle it over roasted, steamed, or sautéed vegetables.
  • Marinate chicken, steak, or tofu in it.
Creamy lemon and lime dressing in a glass jar set on a plate with a lemon and lime next to it.

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Make it Now for Later, But Chilled

Make it ahead, chill it in the fridge, and serve it cold.

  • Toss it with a spring mix topped with chicken, fish, or tofu, for a light, bright, and filling lunch. 
  • Use it as a dressing in a sandwich with sliced steak and a mashed avocado or one with thinly sliced cucumbers, turkey or chicken, and roasted bell peppers.
  • Add it to a pasta salad with cooked pasta (any shape!), sliced onions, tomatoes, and lots of chopped herbs.

Storage Instructions

This dressing keeps well in the fridge for up to one week. Since it contains a clove of raw garlic, its flavor may intensify over time. If this is of concern to you, try half of a clove or omit it. I don’t find the garlic overwhelming since the flavor of charred citrus is most prevalent.

Store the dressing in a tightly sealed container like a mason jar. It may separate as it sits, but the blended lemons and limes act as an emulsifier—it should not break the way many dressings do. Shake it to re-incorporate the dressing.

Creamy lemon and lime dressing in a glass jar set on a plate with a lemon and lime next to it.

Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

More Dressing Recipes

Charred Citrus Dressing

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Servings 1 1/2 cups dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 limes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup neutral oil, such as grapeseed, avocado, or vegetable

Method

  1. Char the lemons:

    Thinly slice 1 lemon and 1 lime, about 1/4 inch thick. Remove and discard the seeds. In a large cast iron or non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. When the oil starts rippling but not smoking, add the lemon and lime slices in an even layer. They can be closely next to each other but should not overlap.

    Cook them for 3 minutes, until browned all over and charred in some spots. Use a pair or tongs or a fork to flip them over. Cook the other side for 1 to 2 minutes, then turn off the heat.

    Slicing lemons and limes to make whole lemon dressing.

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

    Charring lemon and lime slices in a skillet to make creamy and garlicky lemon lime dressing

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

    Charring lemon and lime slices in a skillet to make creamy and garlicky lemon lime dressing

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

  2. Make the dressing:

    Transfer the charred citrus into a blender. Juice the remaining lime and lemon. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon and 2 tablespoons of lime juice to the blender. Save any remaining juice for another day.

    Add the garlic, salt, and black pepper to the blender. Place the lid on and blend on medium speed until the citrus is broken down, about 15 seconds.

    Lower the speed to low and remove the center cap off the lid. Slowly, drizzle in the oil. This should take about 30 seconds. If the dressing splatters out the top, you can use a clean dish towel or your hands to partially cover the opening as you drizzle the oil in.

    Increase the speed to medium speed and blend until the dressing is smooth and emulsified, about 15 seconds.

    Ingredients blended in a blender to make creamy and garlicky lemon lime dressing

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

    Ingredients blended in a blender to make creamy and garlicky lemon lime dressing

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

    Ingredients blended in a blender to make creamy and garlicky lemon lime dressing

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

  3. Serve:

    The dressing will be warm. Serve it immediately or transfer it into a lidded container, like a mason jar, cool, and refrigerate it until ready to use. 

    Whole lemon dressing in a glass jar.

    Simply Recipes / Lori Rice