Cafe Rio Salad Dressing
If you like the creamy tomatillo salad dressing from Cafe Rio, this copycat recipe for Cafe Rio Salad Dressing can help you make it at home! And if you’re a fan of this creamy dressing with cilantro and lime and just a touch of spicy flavor, you’ll probably want to make it over and over.
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 the creamy tomatillo style of Cafe Rio Salad Dressing since the first time I tried it, and many 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 copycat recipe is the adapted version I’ve made over and over since then, and it really does taste just like the famous creamy Cafe Rio salad dressing. This dressing recipe is a big favorite in my huge extended family of Cafe Rio fans, so you know it must be good!
Even if you’ve never been to Cafe Rio if you like these flavors I bet you’ll love this dressing, and for this week’s Friday Favorites pick I’m reminding you about this favorite salad dressing so many people have loved; enjoy!
What ingredients do you need for this recipe?
- Ranch Dressing (I usually use a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Style Salad Dressing Mix (affiliate link), combined with buttermilk and mayo, but you can make your own; see notes.)
- Minced Garlic (affiliate link)
- fresh squeezed lime juice, I use my fresh-frozen lime juice
- Green Tabasco Sauce (affiliate link) or 1 small diced jalapeno pepper
What makes Cafe Rio Dressing so flavorful?
It’s the slightly sharp tomatillo flavor that makes this Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing so good, and 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. And this tasty dressing also has lots of flavor from cilantro, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and Greek Tabasco sauce.
Options for the Tomatillos in Cafe Rio Rio Salad Dressing:
I’ve seen various versions of this dressing around the web, sometimes with canned tomatillos but I always use fresh tomatillos when I make Cafe Rio Salad Dressing. However, there’s a note in the comments from someone who replaces the tomatillos with a little over a cup of Herdez Salsa Verde (affiliate link). I haven’t tried that myself, but I think it sounds great for a shortcut!
An anonymous commenter left the tip of roasting the tomatillos before using them in the dressing, but 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.)
My Favorite Cafe Rio Inspired Recipe to try:
Check out my recipe for Chopped Chicken Salad with Cafe Rio Dressing if you want to see my favorite thing to make at home with Cafe Rio Dressing!
How to make Cafe Rio Salad Dressing:
- I usually use a package of Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Style Salad Dressing Mix (affiliate link) 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.)
- Here’s a photo of the tomatillos that add so much flavor to this recipe; remove the papery skins and chop them coarsely.
- 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 chopped tomatillos, Minced Garlic (affiliate link), lime juice, and Green Tabasco Sauce (affiliate link) or a small chopped 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 Salad Dressing for an hour or two and serve!
Salad Ideas with Cafe-Rio Flavors:
Copycat Cafe Rio Veggie Salad with Vegan Dressing ~ Happy Food Healthy Life
Chopped Chicken Salad with Cafe Rio Salad Dressing ~ Kalyn’s Kitchen
Pressure Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken Taco Salad ~ Pressure Cooking Today
- 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)
- 4 small tomatillos
- 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
- 2 T fresh lime juice (see notes)
- 1 tsp. Green Tabasco sauce or 1 small diced jalapeno pepper
- Prepare Ranch dressing according to directions on the package or recipe you’re following and put in the fridge to chill. I use a package of Hidden Valley Ranch Buttermilk Style Salad Dressing Mix (affiliate link), but use any ranch dressing you prefer.
- If you have time, chill the dressing made from the package mix or homemade dressing for an hour or two so it can thicken.
- Remove papery skins from the tomatillos and coarsely chop.
- Remove large cilantro stems, then wash leaves and spin dry or dry with paper towels.
- 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.)
- Add tomatillos, garlic, lime juice, and Green Tabasco Sauce (affiliate link) or chopped jalapeno to the food processor and pulse until ingredients are finely pureed.
- Add the 2 cups of prepared dressing and pulse just a few times, until ingredients are well combined.
- Chill dressing for an hour or two and serve.
- This makes about 2 1/2 cups dressing, or 20 servings if you use a serving size of two tablespoons.
~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.
This recipe adapted from a very old recipe for Cafe Rio Dressing, Chicken, and Rice that I got from my brother-in-law Kelly.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 106Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 223mgCarbohydrates: 2gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.
Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
This Cafe Rio Salad Dressing would be good for any phase of the original South Beach Diet, and it’s also great for other types of low-carb eating plans as long as you use low-carb ingredients or a low-carb dressing as the base. 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 Salads to find more recipes like this one. Use theDiet Type Index to find recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest, on Facebook, or on Instagram to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.
Historical Notes for this Recipe:
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! It was last updated with more information in 2022.