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The best Cafe Rio Dressing is a copycat recipe from the popular Mexian food restaurant. A creamy dressing with tomatillos, ranch seasoning, cilantro, lime, jalapeño, mayonnaise, and buttermilk. This tastes exactly like the real thing and you’ll be drizzling it over everything!

Try this tomatillo ranch Cafe Rio dressing over these turkey taco burrito bowls or use it as a dip for these quick and easy chicken flautas

A bowl of green dressing with a wooden spoon inside of it. Lime pieces and cilantro pieces off to the side.

CAFE RIO DRESSING RECIPE

If you’ve ever been to Utah then I am certain you have probably seen a Cafe Rio. It’s a popular restaurant that serves really delicious salads, burritos, tacos, enchiladas with homemade tortillas. But the best part is that Cafe Rio Dressing which is like a creamy ranch dressing but taken up a notch with cilantro, lime, jalapeño, and tomatillos. 

I have tried lots of copycat dressing recipes and I have found that the tomatillos and the amount of buttermilk make all the difference! Which is why this is my tried & true, tested, copycat recipe for Cafe Rio Dressing. I can’t promise it’s exactly like it, because I have never worked there nor do I know their exact recipe, but I can promise it tastes just as good.

Bowl of Cafe Rio dressing with cilantro, lime, and a wooden spoon on the outside.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE IT

Making your own Cafe Rio Tomatillo Dressing at home is actually so simple. Just add everything into a blender and blend it up until smooth. 

  • Mayonnaise – After years of making this, I have found that if you want the best flavor and perfect thickness (but not too thick) you need to use full-fat mayonnaise. I think it tastes better than the lite mayonnaise anyways, so I always use it. Yes, you could get away with using lite mayonnaise but just know that the flavor won’t be as rich and creamy, and I think it changes the taste of the dressing slightly. But that may be just me. 
  • Buttermilk – It’s fine to use reduced-fat buttermilk in this recipe. My store does not stock the regular, full-fat buttermilk so I have always used the reduced-fat. Also, just to note, I have found that the buttermilk substitutes don’t taste as good in this recipe for some reason. So I really suggest buying buttermilk when making this. 
  • Ranch Seasoning Packet – You need just one of the packets for this dressing. No need to prepare it. Just dump in the dry seasonings from the packet. If you have a larger, bulk container of the ranch dressing then use 3 tablespoons. 
  • Tomatillos – This is probably something that lots of you have not used before. They look like small green tomatoes and they have this rough, paper type husk on the outside. Peel off the husk and then chop them half before throwing them in the blender. 
  • Cilantro – One bunch of cilantro will do. This gives the sauce that really pretty green color!
  • Jalapeño – Don’t leave this out! I promise it is not too spicy for kids. If you want a mild heat then remove the seeds and white membrane. You could also just use half of a jalapeño but whatever you do, don’t leave it out of the dressing. It provides so much flavor and mild heat (even with the seeds removed) that this dressing needs. 
  • Lime Juice – Use fresh lime juice from a lime. No bottled lime juice.
  • Garlic – Mince or press fresh garlic cloves or you can use the jarred chopped garlic or garlic paste from the tube. Either one will work just fine. 

How to make Cafe Rio dressing with step by step picture collage.

HOW TO MAKE THIS CREAMY TOMATILLO RANCH CAFE RIO DRESSING

Making copycat Cafe Rio Dressing at home is so easy! All you need is a blender, knife, and cutting board. 

Blend : Add all ingredients, in the order listed in the recipe below, into the blender. Blend on high for about 1 minute, or until it’s blended well and combined. 

Refrigerate : Pour the dressing into a container with a lid, like a Tupperware container, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. This can easily be made the day before and refrigerated overnight until ready to use. I actually think it tastes better after it’s been in the fridge longer so I will either make it the day before or the morning of, and then let it refrigerate all day until dinner (so about 8-10 hours in the fridge).

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

Here are a few extra tips that will hopefully help you make this recipe at home!

  • Use Full-Fat Mayonnaise : Probably my #1 tip for this recipe. Not only does it taste better, but it’s so creamy and has this rich flavor that is so delicious in this dressing. 
  • Refrigerate Before Serving : The dressing is not anything special after you make it. But once you refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, it tastes amazing! It needs that time in the fridge to thicken up and to have time for all the flavors to come together. 
  • Use the Jalapeño : If you want mild heat then take out the seeds and white membrane part before adding it into the blender (this is what I do). It’s not too spicy for kids. You can also just use half of the jalapeño. You want that mild heat and flavor for this dressing. If you like spice then add the jalapeño in with the seeds and all. 
  • Add Ingredients in Order : Add the ingredients into the blender in order of the recipe below. You want to be sure you are adding the liquid and mayonnaise first so it blends up easier. 

A bowl of dressing with a wooden spoon resting on top showing the thickness of the dressing.

VARIATION IDEAS

There are not a whole lot of variations to this recipe but there are a couple things you can do if you want to switch it up.

  • Make it Spicy! : If you want all the spice then be sure and add the jalapeño in whole (meaning don’t remove the seeds). You can also add some cayenne red pepper if you want it even spicier.
  • Swap out for Healthier Ingredients : I don’t do this because it changes the taste significantly, but you can use half Greek Yogurt and half mayonnaise if wanted to reduce some of the fat. Be sure you use plain yogurt or Greek yogurt. Again, I don’t do this because it ends up not tasting like the real thing. 

SERVING SUGGESTIONS FOR THE BEST CAFE RIO DRESSING

Probably the #1 way we serve this is as a dipping sauce for taquitos or flautas. But you can literally put this stuff over anything and it will be amazing. My kids may or may not use a spoon to eat the extra sauce… 

Drizzle it over nachos

Use it as a topping for tacos

A dip for quesadillas

On top of this grilled cilantro lime chicken

Over these slow cooker Mexican haystacks

Drizzle it over enchiladas

I love making some Cafe Rio sweet pork, cilantro lime rice, and then this fiesta avocado salad, and topping it with some of this dressing. Which is close to what they serve at the restaurant. You can also make this lime chicken instead of the pork if you prefer. 

WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS

Leftovers of Cafe Rio dressing keep really well in a covered container, like Tupperware with a lid, for several days. I find that it tastes best when eaten within about 4-5 days of making it. 

When I make this I always make it the day before, or morning of, and refrigerate it until it’s serving time. Leftovers seem to taste even better on day 2 and 3 because the dressing has had time to really soak up all the flavors. 

A spoon full of Cafe Rio dressing with cilantro on the side of the picture.

TRY THESE OTHER HOMEMADE RECIPES

The Best Homemade Ranch Dressing – The best recipe for making ranch at home! Uses buttermilk, mayo, sour cream, and dried seasonings. 

Homemade 10 Minute Blender Salsa – Easy, homemade salsa made right in the blender. 

 

A bowl of green dressing with a wooden spoon inside of it. Lime pieces and cilantro pieces off to the side.
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The Best Cafe Rio Dressing


Author Jessica - Together as Family
Course condiments
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 10 servings (1/4 cup each)
The best Cafe Rio Dressing is a copycat recipe from the popular Mexian food restaurant. A creamy dressing with tomatillos, ranch seasoning, cilantro, jalapeño, mayonnaise, and buttermilk. This tastes exactly like the real thing and you'll be drizzling it over everything!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (full-fat is best)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 packet ranch seasoning mix
  • 2 tomatillos (husks removed and cut in half)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro (roughly chopped)
  • 1 jalapeno (seeds removed for mild heat, roughly chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1/2 of a lime)
  • 2 cloves garlic

Instructions

  • Add ingredients into the blender, in order as listed above. Blend on high for at least 1 minute, or until everything is combined and blended up really smooth.
  • Pour into a covered container, like Tupperware, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
  • This can also be made the day before and refrigerated overnight. 
    If you prefer a thinner sauce try adding a little more buttermilk. I think this recipe is the perfect texture (not too thick and not too thin). Don't exceed 1 cup of buttermilk.

Notes

Servings : Recipe makes about 2.5 cups of dressing. The nutrition information is per 1/4 cup of dressing, which makes this recipe able to serve 10 people. 
Tomatillos : Found in the produce section, usually by the cilantro and jalapeños. They look like small green tomatoes and have this rough, paper-like husk on the outside. Remove the husk and chop the tomatoes in half, or fourths, before adding to the blender. 
Jalapeño : Don't leave it out! If you want mild heat then take out the seeds and white membrane part before adding it into the blender. You could also try using half a jalapeño. 
Mayonnaise : Full-fat tastes regular mayo tastes the best in this recipe. I highly suggest using it. I don't love mayo but when I do use it, my favorite is Hellman's or Best Foods. 
Refrigerate : It needs the fridge time for best flavor! Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving or more. You can also make it the day before and let it refrigerate overnight.

Nutrition

Calories: 175kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 11mg | Sodium: 372mg | Potassium: 59mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 122IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg

Did You Make This Recipe?

I'd love to see it! You can share it with me on @togetherasfamilyblog and follow on Pinterest @together-as-family-blog-recipes or Facebook @togetherasfamilyblog for more!

 

 

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Recipe Rating




17 Comments

  1. Pingback: Midweek Meals
  2. 5 stars
    I’ve been looking for a copy cat recipe ever since we moved to North Carolina, where Cafe Rio isn’t. 😭 I did make this with Primal Kitchen mayonnaise, despite the instructions. When I first made it, it tasted so much like mayonnaise. However, after letting it sit in the fridge for about two hours, it tastes amazing! It’s the closest I’ve gotten to their creamy tomatillo. Definitely saving this recipe.

    1. Together As Family says:

      That fridge time is magical for this recipe. I agree, it does taste odd at first, but once you refrigerate it the flavors are amazing. Thank you for leaving your comment and feedback.

  3. 5 stars
    It was Amazing for our Taco Night!, I would put this on most anything!! Thank u🕺

    1. Together As Family says:

      Yes, me too! Even my kids want to drink this up with a spoon, haha 🙂

  4. Delicious! I didn’t have the ranch seasoning and you do not need it, it still tastes EXACTLY like cafe rio dressing. I just used garlic salt and a little bit of sour cream as a replacement. Thanks for the recipe!!

  5. I made this twice and both times it came out runny. what am I doing wrong?

    1. Together as Family says:

      This dressing is runnier than your common ranch dressing from a bottle, so you probably made it correctly but weren’t expecting the different consistency.

  6. 5 stars
    The best!!! I honestly want to drink this sauce and add it to so many dishes. Packed with flavor! Thank you 👏🏻

    1. Together as Family says:

      I’ll join you in drinking this sauce 🤤

  7. What ranch do you use?

    1. Together as Family says:

      I like to use the Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning packet.

  8. Sally Cote says:

    5 stars
    Made this exactly as written in a food processor. Spectacular!!! Delicious flavors immediately. Will definitely make again. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Together as Family says:

      Thank you so much! Happy to hear they turned out good!

  9. Teri Chappell says:

    I made this and made it all from scratch I made my mayonnaise right along with making the dressing. I also roasted my jalapeños, garlic, and tomatillos with some white onion. Blended my vegetables (cilantro included)with the lime juice and cooled them then added my mayonnaise ingredients, ranch packet, and buttermilk. I then used a squeeze bottle to add the oil to emulsify the dressing. My problem the last time I made this was the dressing separated. Problem solved and tastes amazing…

    1. Together as Family says:

      That sounds incredible!! I’m so glad it worked this time!