Cafe Rio Copycat Creamy Tomatillo Dressing (Lime Cilantro Ranch)

This Creamy Lime Cilantro ranch dressing is a great Cafe Rio Copycat for their Creamy Tomatillo Dressing. There are a lot of recipes out there for this type of thing and a lot of the good ones call for fresh tomatillos. However, after experimenting quite a bit, I decided, in this instance, I didn’t like the fresh tomatillos. For one thing it’s not something I have laying around my kitchen on a regular basis, so I have to plan in advance to buy them. Then I didn’t like the weird, watery texture they added to the dressing. So I started using a much easier substitution: green salsa. This dressing takes just minutes to buzz up in a blender and it’s perfect on salads, drizzled on nachos, as a dip for veggies or taquitos, or Latin-themed grain bowls.

copycat cafe rio dressing

Ingredient Notes

  • Ranch Seasoning: I only use Hidden Valley brand, personally. That’s not to say another brand might be just great, but that’s the brand I always use! Grab the buttermilk recipe packet if you can, but the regular will work just fine as well.
  • Lime Juice: I suggest using juice from fresh limes here, as opposed to pre-bottled lime juice, which tends to be bitter. If you don’t have access to fresh limes, I suggest using one of my pantry staples- True Lime. It’s granulated fresh lime and absolutely wonderful. You’ll notice it in my photo below.
  • Mayonnaise: I personally use Best Foods/Hellmans. I suggest using a mayo that you like the flavor of otherwise. I’m not a fan of most light mayo so I don’t think the flavor is optimal, but as long as you like the flavor on its own, it will work just fine here.
  • Green Salsa: Look for one that has tomatillos listed in the top ingredients.
Lime Cilantro Ranch Dressing Ingredients

How to Make Creamy Lime-Cilantro Ranch

This isn’t difficult, you literally just blitz everything up in a blender! It’s so simple, and so fast. Feel free to adjust liquid for consistency and remember that dressing usually thickens a bit after standing. This copycat Cafe Rio Tomatillo Dressing will be your favorite condiment!

It’s obviously awesome on salads, and also as a dip for things like chicken fingers, veggies and steak fries.  If you’re making our Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos, this is pretty much required to go along with them.

Creamy Lime Cilantro Dressing

If you love Cafe Rio/Costa Vida-type salads, you’ve got all of the ingredients to make an Our Best Bites version right here. Start with a fresh homemade tortilla, layer on some lime-cilantro rice (pineapple optional) and black beans, then some crispy romaine lettuce. Top with either taco chicken or lime-chili steak, some fresh Pico de Gallo and guacamole and quickly fried tortilla strips for the big finish. Smother it in this salad dressing or this vinaigrette and you’ve got a salad ready to send you to food heaven!

Did You Make This?

I’d love to hear from you! Snap a picture on tag me on Instagram, then come back and give this recipe a rating!

Lime Cilantro Ranch Dressing

Lime-Cilantro Ranch Dressing

4.84 from 6 votes
This Lime Cilantro Ranch is a tangy, flavorful must-have for all sorts of Latin food! From salads to taquitos to everything in between, this dressing (made from fridge and pantry staples) will become a favorite!
Prep Time 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1- ounce package ranch dressing mix (ignore directions on package
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk plus more if necessary to thin out the dressing
  • 1-2 limes enough for 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup green salsa
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Hot sauce to taste

Instructions

  • Place buttermilk, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, and ranch mix in a blender. Add the garlic and green salsa and blend until smooth. Add the cilantro and pulse until the cilantro is well combined. Add hot sauce to taste. Chill for several hours before serving (if possible.)
Cuisine: Latin
Keyword: Lime Cilantro Ranch Dressing
Author: Sara Wells
Did You Make This Recipe?Snap a picture, and hashtag it #ourbestbites. We love to see your creations on our Instagram @ourbestbites!
*Disclaimer: this post includes affiliate links.
woman in denim shirt holding a salad bowl
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. Have you ever made this with your own ranch dressing? (which we're newly addicted to, btw. I used to make my own ranch with fresh herbs but yours is SO much easier–and way tasty!) And if so, how much? I have a newly made batch o' ranch in the fridge and would like to try this sans using a packet mix. I guess I'll just experiment, but wondered if you had already! Planning on making the taquitos tonight!

  2. This is so funny that I found this recipe on your blog today. I make a similar one, but with buttermilk instead of milk. I'm glad to see that regular milk works.

  3. I've tried a lot of knock-offs of Cafe Rio's dressing, and this one is by far the closest… almost hard to tell the difference! Not to mention the green salsa is a HUGE convenience factor.

    Amazing.

    Thank you!

  4. Shayla- so glad I'm not the only once addicted to this! To answer your questions:

    1. don't pick off the leaves of the cilantro, just bundle it all up and cut it stems and all. Just stop cutting when you get about 2/3 of the way down, or when you start seeing more stem than leaf. There's a good picture (of parsley, but same concept) in this chimichurri post:

    https://ourbestbites.com/2009/07/pork-tenderloin-with-chimichurri.html

    2. You are welcome to use our pictures, as long as you say they came from our site and you place a link back here. Steal away!

  5. I can't get enough of this stuff. Seems like I'm making it every other week. Question about the cilantro: Do you mostly try to use only the leafy part, or are the stems equally as good if you're gonna blend it all up anyway?

    Another question. How do you feel about people stealing pictures from your blog? I'd like to put a link to this recipe on my own blog and thought a picture would be nice. I could easily take one of my own, but it's not going to look nearly as yummy as this one of your pitcher of dressing sitting on a blanket lime and cilantro goodness!

  6. Wow, this dressing is so good! My husband wants salad every night just so he can eat more of this dressing!

    I did make one small adjustment because I'm weird about large amounts of mayo- I subbed half of it with fat-free plain greek yogurt and it was so amazing, and a tiny bit better for us. 🙂

    Thanks for the great recipe; it is already a new staple in my kitchen!

  7. oops, I didn't mean to call you Olivia- you just told me you were Sara! lol

  8. Oh ya Olivia, it's definitely good for a week, even longer actually. Although I can't tell you how much longer because it doesn't last very long in our house! I'm so glad you like it.

  9. hi sara! i'm a sara too and i love LOVE this dressing! i have finally been able to get my picky family to eat salad! two nights in a row even! :O amazing! lol
    Question – how long does the salad dressing last once it's made? I would like to make a double batch and eat it at the beginning of the week and then the weekend… any ideas?
    Thanks!

  10. okay, I think I figured out this little conundrum! The different “styles” of Hidden Valley Ranch packets have different weights/volumes. So it doesn’t really matter, you just need one regular packet. The instructions should call for 1 cup liquid (either milk or buttermilk) and one cup mayo. It looks to me like the regular ranch mix is 1 oz and the buttermilk mix is .4

  11. Melanie-

    It’s just the normal ol’ pack of ranch dressing. Is it .4oz?? I swear I looked at the package when I wrote out the recipe! I may have made a typo- I’m not home right now to double check, but you could totally be right. If it’s just the normal sized one from the grocery store (I think it only comes in one size) then you’ve got the right one! I’ll double check that and fix the recipe when I get home again.

  12. Just wanted to say that I found your site through foodgawker- and I LOVE THIS DRESSING- I put it on a salad of romaine, red onions, and oven roasted grape tomatoes and fresh jalepeno slices- it was absolutely heavenly. Thanks so much for the recipe!!

  13. I’m totally with you when it comes to using tomatillos! I’m excited to try this version of it. Sure sounds good!!

  14. I’ve seen several recipes for this type of dressing–yours could be the winner! I haven’t had luck with tomitillos so this could be the answer! Thanks!

  15. Kara, I have a recipe for the sauce that’s pretty similar! Shoot me an email and I’ll send it to you! 🙂

  16. Mmmm, Cafe Rio! Any ideas on their enchilada sauces? Like the medium green sauce that they do? I need that so I can make me a smothered burrito.

  17. I’ve made the dressing with tomatillos and love it, but this does look much easier.

    I’m making 20 pounds of Bajio chicken for a RS dinner tomorrow, so I might just have to buy some of that green salsa-thanks for the idea!

  18. I love this dressing at Cafe Rio and have tried other versions of the recipe. I like the substitution you made with the salsa and no tomatillos – can’t wait to try it! Thanks!

  19. Mmmmmmmm I LOVE this dressing. Word to the wise… don’t bother trying to make it with light mayo… it RUINS it!
    I love it on salads and as a dipping sauce for flank steak… YUM!

  20. Thanks for posting that you use green salsa instead of tomatillos- I’m in a part of the world where there seems to be no tomatillos, so yay- now I can make this dressing!