So if you’re familiar with Cafe Rio, a Utah-based fresh Mex chain that’s kind of starting to spread throughout the rest of the United States, you may have seen this chicken recipe floating around the Internet. I’ve done some poking and prodding and I’m not exactly sure WHERE it originated, but if you google Cafe Rio chicken, invariably a WHOLE BUNCH of blogs will pop up with a recipe for Crock Pot chicken and Italian salad dressing and a packet of Ranch.
Which is cool, because it’s super delicious.
But I’ve eaten a lot of Cafe Rio chicken in my days and I’m pretty sure this isn’t actually Cafe Rio chicken (I think it’s the cumin…shhhh.).
Which is cool because even if it’s not really Cafe Rio chicken (who am I to say that? Maybe it is. Maybe I’m wrong. It happens sometimes…), it’s family friendly and SO good and versatile and something everyone should know how to make because it’s something you’ll make for company and something you’ll make on busy nights, something to fill tortillas with and make taco salads with and maybe enchiladas or even our famous taquitos.
You’re going to need 2-2 1/4 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts (which I don’t normally do in a slow cooker because they’re so lean that they tend to dry out, but when you add the other stuff, you’ll be fine), Italian salad dressing (I use Kraft, not fat-free; I wouldn’t use low-fat, either, but I tend not to be a wild rebel when it comes to chicken and salad dressing), a packet of Ranch dressing (yes, yes, we are aware that we’re poisoning the world one packet of Ranch dressing at a time. Sometimes that happens and it’s unfortunate.), water, chili powder, cumin, coriander (this is where I veer off into adaptation territory), a whole bunch of fresh garlic, and dehydrated onion.
Place the chicken breasts in your slow cooker and add the spices.
Fill a liquid measuring cup with 1/2 cup of water and add the Ranch.
Whisk the ranch into the water and then pour it over the chicken. Add 1/2 cup of Italian dressing and the garlic.
Cook for 5-6 hours on LOW or until the chicken shreds easily with a fork. When done, shred the chicken with two forks and sprinkle with the juice of one lime. Taste and season with salt and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce (it’s smokey and a little milder than the original Tabasco Sauce, so it’s perfect here) to taste. Serves 8-10.
So…what can you do with it??
My favorite thing is to set up a taco bar with this chicken, shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled cotija cheese, tortillas, chopped romaine lettuce, tomatoes,
(I just had to throw this pic in because they were so perfect and pretty. Carry on.)
avocados or guacamole, pico de gallo (or mango or pineapple pico de gallo), Pineapple Cilantro rice, rinsed black beans, Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette, and Creamy Lime Cilantro Dressing (if you really want to complete the experience, you could throw in this green enchilada sauce and this mint limeade). Then people can make whatever they want–tacos, salads, enchiladas, burritos. I’m not a total overachiever and don’t do ALL of that every time (because, after all, this is supposed to be an easy meal!), but I guess what I’m trying to say is that you have options.
You can ALSO use this to make loaded up quesadillas with chicken, beans, corn, chopped green onions, whatever you want to throw in there. Or you can use it in this Chicken Tortilla Soup. Or you can just eat it straight out of the crockpot. You know I won’t judge you.
Nutritional Information (per 4 ounces):
WW Points Plus: 5
South Beach Phase 1, 2, & 3
Slow Cooker Taco Chicken
Recipe adapted by Our Best Bites
2-2 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing (I use Kraft)
1 packet Ranch dressing
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
6-8 cloves smashed garlic (don’t worry about actually chopping it…unless you want to…)
1 tablespoon dehydrated onion
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste
Chipotle Tabasco Sauce to taste (optional)
Place all the ingredients except for the lime, salt, and Tabasco sauce in your slow cooker and cook for 5-6 hours on LOW or until the chicken shreds easily with a fork. When done, shred the chicken with two forks and sprinkle with lime juice. Taste and season with salt and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce (it’s smokey and a little milder than the original Tabasco Sauce, so it’s perfect here) to taste. Serves 8-10.
In crockpot now. Smells delicious. Very excited to try a different kind of taco. As for those who commented they don’t want to do the Ranch Dressing packet: skip this recipe! There’s like thousands of taco recipes on the Internet. You don’t have to complain about this one having Ranch Dressing packet.
Is there a way to make this in the oven? We don’t have a crock pot. Thanks!
Sure! Cover the pan and cook at 350 for about an hour- I’m totally guessing on the time, you’ll just want to check the temp and take it out when it the internal temp reaches 165.
I have some of this chicken leftover and I was wondering if I could use it in the baked creamy chicken taquitos?
Does it matter if the coriander is whole or ground?
Yep, you’ll want ground!
Made this for the first time today – delicious! However, I ended up using the meat a little differently.. I Decided to turn this recipe into enchilada filling and and added some sour cream. Wrapped in tortillas, topped with cheese and baked.
Made this in my electric pressure cooker with breasts manual 7-8 min and immediate manual release of steam. Had to put a larger breast back in for a few minutes but regular size was done in 7. Delicious!!!! And I used ranch dip packet because it was all I had.
This is exactly what I was wondering. How to convert this to pressure cooker! Thank you!!
I want to make this but I don’t have any coriander! I’m horrible with spices. Could I add smoked paprika instead to add zip? I really don’t know what I’m doing. haha This just looks so good though!
Haha. You could leave out the coriander. Coriander comes from the cilantro plant, so it’s kind of a fresh, citrus-y flavor. Smoked paprika wouldn’t be bad in there either though, it just adds a smoky flavor!
just made this last week. So. Good.
And so easy! I didn’t realize, until I read later, that I was supposed to use the water for the ranch packet, so just an FYI that it still tastes amazing when you just rip the packet open and dump it into the crockpot. 🙂 (at least with the brand of ranch packet that I bought anyways…)