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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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The Best Cafe Rio Dressing
- 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
- 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.