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. Is this recipe similar to El Pollo Loco’s recipe? I’ve never eaten at Cafe Rio (where is it BTW?) but it sounds delish! I love El Pollo Loco’s recipe but the only one who claimed they were close was charging for the recipe and I’m just not willing to pay, even if its only $0.79.

  2. Since this is one of my favorite salad dressings ever, I “healthified” it so I can have it guiltlessly on my salads all the time. I use 1/2 cup of mayo and 1/2 cup of plain 2% Greek yogurt. It is just as creamy and delicious, and quite a bit lower in calories and fat without having that nasty taste that some low fat dressings can have. I haven’t dared to go 100% Greek (and no mayo) yet, but I’m thinking I’ll give it a try with my next batch.

  3. This is the best dip I have ever had. It is so versatile; I use it for tacos, chips, veggies and I’m guilty of eating it just by the spoonful. I would highly recommend this dip!

  4. Using this dressing with your Taco Chicken is excellent. Have you come up with anything similar to Cafe Rio’s pork barbecoa? (I think I spelled that right) I just LOVE that stuff!

  5. This is a random question, but is it possible to make this with dried cilantro? As strange as it is, I am allergic to fresh, but can eat dried cilantro. Thanks for you help and all your great recipes!

    1. Miriam, you certainly could. It definitely will taste different, but if you have an allergy to the fresh stuff, go for it. Generally the rule of thumb is to use 1 part dry for every 3 parts fresh. I would start with that and then add more if you need to for flavor (and I suspect you will need a bit more).

  6. YUM! I wanted to point out to anyone who might make the same mistake I did the first time…it’s important to use DRESSING mix & not the ranch DIP mix. The 1st time I made this recipe I grabbed the dip mix, which has 1 oz. in the envelope & is typically mixed w/ 2 cups sour cream, instead of the DRESSING mix, which has .4 oz & is typically mixed w/ 1 cup mayo. The DIP mix made it WAY TOO salty, and I love salt. Go with the dressing mix as stated in the recipe & it’ll be a HIT!

    P.S. I think it would be great made as a dip with the DIP mix, but use 2 cups sour cream or mayo mixture to dilute all that salt in the DIP mix. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your awesome recipes!

  7. when you say to juice the lime in there too. Do you mean to just throw the whole thing in? Do I fish out the rind? Help!

  8. has anyone tried this with sour cream. i HATE mayonnaise. can’t eat anything that contains it! thanks.

  9. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to make this (I’ve made the chicken tacquitos numerous times) but Oh My. I had to exert some serious self control to drink this from a glass. This is definitely one if my face on your site!

  10. Does anyone know about how many servings this recipe makes? We are making “costa vida/cafe rio” type salads for a bridal shower and we need enough for 75-100 people. Thanks!

  11. WOW!!! love this recipe! i made it, and took it to my sisters house, and they gobbeled it all up! you ladies are awesome! thank you

  12. I made this dressing yesterday and tried it side by side with the dressing from Cafe Rio I’d gotten a day or two earlier. It was almost identical except this recipe is missing one thing: grated Cotija cheese. Add a tablespoon or two of this and it’s perfect. So, so good. Thank you!!!

  13. Made this dressing and put it on a Pasta Chicken Salad and it oh-so-o-good! My son suggested that I might also make it thicker with maybe Sour cream so that he can eat it like a dip with chips. Whatever works! Thanks for your great site!!

  14. WOW! I can’t believe I just barely found your site!!! We made the Creamy Chicken Tacquitos last night, along with this dressing, and can I just say AMAZING! But you know that! Thanks for all the great recipes! I can’t wait to make more!

  15. Hi!!

    I was wondering if there was any way if you could add a “recipe box” function to your site. I have so many recipes I’d like to have all in one place.

    Thanks!
    k

  16. Hi!!

    I was wondering if there was any way if you could add a “recipe box” function to your site. I have so many recipes I’d like to have all in one place.

    Thanks!
    kd

    1. hey kate!
      Your idea was great but for now, just copy and paste the recipes into one document and then in order t find a recipe open the find and replace box then type in the name of the recipe! Hope this is a help! 😀
      Lexi

  17. Ok, love this dressing but HATE Mayo, I could still taste it in the dressing too and it made me a little queasy. So, substituted plain greek yogurt and it was awesome! And way healthier too! 🙂

    1. Love that Idea, and will try that-We just stay away from mayo in general! Thanks for the idea

  18. I don't often comment on recipe blogs- but I just had to tell you that I just made this and it's AMAZING! My husband, who ate at Cafe Rio 5-6 times a week his senior year in high school, tried it and exclaimed "that's Cafe Rio dressing!" Thanks for the awesome (and easy) recipe!

  19. Thank you! Right after I got your answer I had a little "aha!" Moment and remembered a little Mexican market. Sure enough, they had some! DELICIOUS STUFF! I served it with your creamy baked chicken taquitos & they were a HUGE HIT with my picky family!

  20. Melz- it will definitely be different with dried cilantro, but if it's all you've got- go for it! The rule of thumb is 1tsp dry herb = 1 Tablespoon Fresh

  21. Help! I live 2 hours south of the middle of nowhere….went to make this & there was no fresh cilantro at the store! I was able to get some dried cilantro in the spices. Can I use this (and how much?) Or do I need a new dinner plan?

  22. Tried your recipe tonight for some shrimp tacos I made and loved it. I did change it a bit. I used a half cup of sour cream and half cup of Mayo instead of one cup of Mayo and it came out great. I will definitely make this sauce more often. I'm addicted to it now. Thanks.

  23. This dressing is AMAZING! I didn't use the hot sauce, however, because the green salsa that I was able to find at my grocery store was pretty hot. I will never stop making this, thanks for the recipe! 🙂

  24. I made the dressing it came out great. I also made for dinner shrimp scampi with linguine.. I forgot the salad fixings at the store so I thought I could pour some of the dressing over the shrimp pasta dish. It was AMAZING….

  25. Hello, I was just googling for the medium enchilada sauce recipe from Cafe Rio, and it brought up your blog. I see here you may have a recipe. May I have it? That would be awesome…my email is [email protected]. Thanks!

  26. Anne-
    I have been meaning to try it with my ranch, but I have yet to do so! I'm sure it will work great. If I were you, I would just cut the buttermilk down a bit, maybe in half, and then add more in if the dressing is too thick. Let me know how it turns out, I'm interested to know!