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Kalyn's Kitchen

Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing

If you’ve had the creamy tomatillo dressing from Cafe Rio, this recipe for Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing can help you make it at home! And this tasty dressing is low-carb, low-glycmeic, gluten-free, and South Beach Diet friendly! Use the Diet-Type Index to find more recipes like this one.

Click here to PIN Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing!

Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing found on KalynsKitchen.com

Every place has its own food culture, and if you live in Utah, Cafe Rio is a big part of that culture. I’ve loved Cafe Rio Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing since the first time I tried it, and ten years ago my brother-in-law Kelly gave me some copycat recipes for Cafe Rio Dressing, Chicken, and Rice, which I posted on my then brand-new food blog. This Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing is the adapted version I’ve made over and over since then, and it really does taste just like the famous creamy Cafe Rio dressing.

I love the slightly sharp tomatillo flavor that makes this Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing so good, so when I have lots of tomatillos, I sometimes increase the number of tomatillos and decrease the amount of buttermilk in the ranch dressing. Do that if you’re a tomatillo fan like me and you want more tomatillo flavor.

Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing found on KalynsKitchen.com

I’ve seen various versions of this dressing around the web, sometimes with canned tomatillos but I always use fresh Tomatillos. (Back in 2007 an anonymous commenter left the tip of roasting the tomatillos before using them in the dressing. I’ve tried it both ways and still feel that the roasting step is completely optional. If you’re trying the version with roasted tomatillos, cut them up and roast for 15-20 minutes in a 400F oven. Watch them, and remove when they start to get barely browned.)

I confess I often use a package of Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Style Salad Dressing Mix for the base of this dressing, but you can make your own Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing or Buttermilk Dressing to use as the base if you prefer. Whichever version you’re using, mix up two cups of Ranch dressing in a small bowl. (If you’re using the package mix, it will seem thin because the dressing needs to chill for an hour or so.)  If you’re planning to increase the amount of tomatillos, remember to put a little less buttermilk or milk in the dressing.

Remove large stems from the cilantro, wash and spin dry or dry with paper towels, then finely chop it in the food processor. Add the tomatillos, garlic, lime juice, and Green Tabasco sauce or jalapeno pepper and process about 30 seconds, until ingredients are finely pureed. Then add the 2 cups of Ranch dressing and pulse a few times, just until ingredients are well combined. Chill Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing for an hour or two and serve!

Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing found on KalynsKitchen.com

Some Salad Ideas with Cafe-Rio Flavors:

Leftover Chicken Chopped Salad with Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing ~ Kalyn’s Kitchen
Copycat Cafe Rio Veggie Salad with Vegan Tomatillo Dressing ~ Happy Food Healthy Life
Chopped Chicken Salad with Cafe Rio Flavors ~ Kalyn’s Kitchen
Pressure Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Taco Salad ~ Pressure Cooking Today

Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing

This dressing tastes just like the famous creamy Cafe Rio dressing.


  • 2 cups prepared Ranch Dressing
  • I usually use a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch buttermilk mix, but you can make your own (see notes)
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, large stems removed (about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro)
  • 2 large or 4 small tomatillos
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 T fresh lime juice (see notes)
  • 1 tsp. Green Tabasco sauce or 1 diced jalapeno pepper


  1. Prepare Ranch dressing according to directions on the package or recipe you’re following and put in the fridge to chill. (If you have time, chill the dressing made from the package mix for an hour or two so it can thicken.)
  2. Remove large cilantro stems, then wash leaves and spin dry or dry with paper towels.
  3. Add cilantro to food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until finely chopped. (If you don’t have a food processor, I’d chop all ingredients well by hand and then blend dressing in a blender.)
  4. Add tomatillos, garlic, lime juice, and Green Tabasco or chopped jalapeno to the food processor and pulse until ingredients are finely pureed.
  5. Add the 2 cups of prepared dressing and pulse just a few times, until ingredients are well combined.
  6. Chill dressing for an hour or two and serve.


Try Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing or Buttermilk Dressing if you prefer to make your own. I use my fresh-frozen lime juice.

This recipe adapted from a recipe for Cafe Rio Dressing, Chicken, and Rice that I got from my brother-in-law Kelly.

~To make a roasted tomatillo dressing, dice tomatillos, place on a baking sheet, and roast at 400F for 15-20 minutes before adding them to the food processor.
~If you’d like even more tomatillo flavor, use 4-5 large tomatillos and decrease the buttermilk or milk in the Ranch dressing by about 1/4 cup.


All images and text ©

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
This Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing would be good for any phase of the South Beach Diet, or most other types of low-carb eating plans. I often use this dressing on a salad with leftover roast chicken, which makes a great low-carb meal.

Find More Recipes Like This One:

Use the Recipes by Diet Type photo index pages to find more recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You can also Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Nutritional Information?

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Blogger Stuff:
This recipe was first posted for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Anna’s Cool Finds. Anna has some Utah roots, so I think she might have liked the recipe!

Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing found on KalynsKitchen.com

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50 comments on “Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing”

  1. This is really good! I wanted to make it today but didn’t have tomatillos so I used Herdez (brand name) Salsa Verde instead, ratio about 2 parts ranch, 1 part salsa, with a squirt of fresh lime juice. I used it to make coleslaw today and can’t wait to try it on other salads and will also try the original recipe when I have tomatillos. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: Here's What To Buy At The Farmer's Market This Month: August

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  4. We love this dressing too. Such a great bottle 🙂 Thanks for linking to my salad recipe.

  5. Mimi, great idea; thanks for sharing!

  6. One Thanksgiving I made an all Southwestern meal, which included a side dish of sweet potato enchiladas topped with tomatillo sauce. This is definitely a creamier version of what I made, but it's still a fabulous combination. And, you could add turkey to the enchiladas!

  7. Well, I've seen tomatillos on rare occasion in grocery stores but never had the slightest clue what to do with them. If I ever see them again, I'll get a few and then revisit this recipe.

  8. Regina, honestly I don't know how that would taste. It might be close if you added the cilantro.

  9. Would you get the same taste, if I was being lazy and bought green salsa and added it to the ranch dressing?

  10. This will stay good a little over a week in the fridge.

  11. I love, love, love this dressing. I got pregnant after moving out of Utah, and was craving Cafe Rio salads painfully. My question is; how long does this keep in the fridge? Not that I expect it to go uneaten for long, but just in case.

    Thank you!

  12. Leigh, I can't think of anything you could use instead of tomatillos, but they do come in cans. I think they are pretty widely available year round. Maybe try Latin market if you have one of those.

  13. This dressing looks amazing! This may seem like a strange question, but can I use anything to replace the tomatillos?? I've never seen them in our stores & would imagine them to be expensive as they are not "normal" around here. (in BC, Canada)

  14. Thanks Kristi. It is good on lots of different things. I really like it as a dip for sugar snap peas!

  15. I love the color of this dressing, and the simplicity. I can see all kinds of uses for it along with my favorite Mexican chicken salad.


  16. Nicole, that's just how I feel about Ranch dressing too. You MUST go to Cafe Rio if you're in Utah!

    Julie, that sounds easy and good!

  17. I love this dressing! I have a recipe that looks identical as far as the ingredients, but everything is just dumped into a blender together, including the Ranch dressing components, blended, and then chilled for a couple of hours.

  18. I've always loved "homemade" Buttermilk Hidden Valley Ranch dressing. Can't stand it from the bottle, but mixed from the packet, it's absolutely delicious. That combined with cilantro, tomatillo, and Tabasco Jalapeno sounds so good I think I'll make it for dinner tonight! Also, when I come visit, I want to check out Cafe Rio 🙂

  19. Krystal, I've been making it for years and loving it!

  20. so glad to have come across this (and to see you're in utah too!) I have been wanting to make it for a while!

    -Krystal @ recipesofacheapskate.blogspot.com

  21. You can be sure I will. I'll take a look in my personal recipe book!
    Regards from Spain!

  22. Yes, I can imagine there is no Cafe Rio in Spain. I don't really have time to individually swap recipes with anyone, but if you have an idea for a Spanish-inspired recipe that's South Beach Diet friendly you can send it to me through the e-mail at "how to contact Kalyn" and I'd love to try it out.

  23. I love your Blog! I'm a Cafe Rio fan too!

    I was living in SLC for a few months but now I come back to my country, Spain. I miss Utah so much, but unfortunately I cant go there now…

    I love to cook ,and If you are interested in Spanish recipes, please, let me know!!
    I will be happy to swap recipes with you!

    Thaks for your blog!

  24. I am Addicted to Cafe Rio and the real reason why is there house dressing. I glad you were able to decode their secret recipe. I tried it but I kind of just eyeballed the measurements of the ingredients and it turned out good but not cafe rio good. Thanks a lot tough, next time Ill try to be a little more precise.

  25. Erin, you're welcome! So glad you liked the recipes. No idea where these recipes actually were printed when my brother-in-law found them, but I think they're pretty close, especially the salad dressing!

  26. Thank you so much! I've looked for Cafe Rio recipes in the past and couldn't find what I was looking for: the dressing, the chicken, and the rice. I happened to google it again and found your recipes for all 3 of my favorite things at the restaurant! We recently moved out of Utah, so it was a like a little miracle that I found your awesome recipes! I just wanted to say thank you and that your recipes were great, I tried them all and it was almost like we were eating the real thing!

  27. The recap is published, it's always great to see your WHB posts!

  28. We visited Utah last week & my only MustDo thing on my list was Cafe Rio. We accidentally ended up with salad dressing on our tray & may I just say that I am in love. I used it for a chip dip! Now I am thrilled to know how to make it.

    And I appreciate knowing how to cut lettuce. THanks for all you do!

  29. That looks like an absolutely fabulous salad dressing! Pretty easy to make too! I can't wait to try this out. Now I would just have to search for the tomatillos 🙂

  30. That looks and sounds amazing!


  31. Beautiful color! We don't see many tomatillos on suburban Long Island, so I may need to do some hunting in NYC.

  32. We've been on a try out new salad dressing kick in our house. I am definitely adding this one to try!

    It was fantastic meeting you this past weekend, Kalyn. Can't wait to see you again soon!

  33. Very unique dressing! would like to try making it! tq

  34. OMG! that looks like a spicy version of a green goddess! I am on it!

  35. This looks DELISH!!! I'm trying it tonight. I love tomatillo salsa and this sounds like a fabulous dressing!!

  36. I'm off to Sprouts for tomatillo's at this very moment. This looks wonderful and will be great with some grilled salmon & a salad. Can't wait! Thanks Kalyn for sharing.

  37. This morning at the bank, a friend asked me what to do with the motherlode of tomatillos that appeared in his garden last week. I suggested he give them to a friend (me)! Now I know what I will do with them — this dressing sounds delicious.

  38. Oh yum! I can't find tomatillo here in Bangkok but once I'm back in Canada (next month) I'll be sure to try this dressing! Cheers!

  39. I love tomatillos. I live in Dallas and there are some fantastic hispanic grocery stores that bring in loads of tomatillos, and at a great price. I've never put them in a dressing but it sounds great.

    Once I started making my own dressings, I vowed to never buy store-bought dressings again.

    I appreciate the valuable information about different options. I learn so much – thank you.

  40. I hope we get tomatillos here this year (there's worry that we won't because of the tomato blight). And when we do, I can't wait to make this tart, creamy dressing!

  41. It just so happens that the daughter half of Fab Frugal Food is visiting the mother half in Utah this week – now we're torn. Do we go to Cafe Rio to satisfy the craving you've just awakened? Or do we make some of this ourselves?

    Or BOTH?

    Dilemmas, dilemmas . . .

  42. I had salad last night and was wishing for some yummy dressing. I wish I would have some of this. What a great recipe!

  43. I notice the Utah people are weighing in! (Cookin' Canuck and Maria are Utah food bloggers. Go check out their blogs!)

    Kristina, I have volunteer tomatillos and they're going wild!

    Katerina, mine usually doesn't last very long, but I'm guessing it will keep at least 2 weeks in the fridge. Tomatillos are great!

  44. Looks great! I still have never cooked with Tomatillos. How long do you figure this would keep in the fridge?

  45. This sounds fabulous! Our tomatillo plants are growing like crazy this year so I'm always on the lookout for more recipes to use them up.

  46. I love Rio. I always get their veggie salad with a whole wheat tortilla. Yum!! Thanks for the recipe!

  47. You are my hero! This is one of my all-time favorite dressing. I'm so excited to make this at home.

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