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Monday, March 24, 2014

Creamy Tomatillo Dressing

If you live in the western U.S. (and now Virginia or Maryland, too!), you’ve probably heard of Cafe Rio. It’s a Mexican food chain with the best darn pork barbacoa and creamy tomatilla salad dressing you ever did eat. Seriously, that dressing is downright drinkable.

creamy tomatillo dressing (cafe rio knock off) from @janemaynard

My cousin Jamie and her family visited us last week. One night we made fajitas for dinner and Jamie whipped up some of the Cafe Rio dressing. It was mighty fine! Honestly, I can’t remember exactly how Cafe Rio’s dressing tastes, but Jamie says this recipe nails it! I did a google search and there are a bunch of blogs and websites with almost the exact same recipe posted, so I have no idea who the source is. But Jamie and I discussed the recipe and realized that she regularly changes up some of the proportions, so we made it our own. Also, I am changing the amounts because the original recipe makes about 30 ounces of dressing! That is a whole lot of dressing that, quite frankly, is more than our family needs.

creamy tomatillo dressing (cafe rio knock off) from @janemaynard

This dressing is delicious served over salad or as a sauce topped on tacos, fajitas and burritos. Go crazy!

Creamy Tomatillo Dressing
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This recipe is a knock-off of Cafe Rio's creamy tomatillo dressing and is delicious served over salad or in tacos, fajitas and burritos.
Recipe type: Dressing
Cuisine: Mexican
  • Half of a packet of Ranch dressing mix
  • ½ cup buttermilk (or ½ tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice + regular milk added to make ½ cup, let sit for five minutes)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 small tomatillos
  • 1 clove garlic, cut into a few chunks
  • ½ bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 jalapeno, roughly chopped (leave the seeds for a little more heat - it won't be that hot, don't worry)
  1. Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender until it's pulverized! Refrigerate to store.
  2. Dressing will get spicier over time.
  3. Quick note: You can substitute the ½ packet of ranch, ½ cup buttermilk and ½ cup mayo for 1 cup already prepared Ranch dressing.
  4. This recipe will make about 15 ounces of the creamy tomatillo dressing.



  1. i love dressings like this! sounds great.

  2. 2
    Kelly J

    Does Jamie have a good copycat recipe for the pork barbacoa?

  3. 3

    I experienced cafe rio in between flights at SLC airport. I think about that meal often. So dang good!!! I’m so glad you posted this.

  4. Beautiful Creamy Tomatillo Dressing!
    Keep up the great work!

  5. 5

    This looks so delicious! I am pinning and sharing on my Facebook wall. Thank you for sharing!! 🙂

  6. 6
    debbie rough

    could we use plain greek yogurt instead of mayo?

  7. Whenever I get tomatillos in my farm share, I make salsa or I chop them into a salad. I am so happy to have a different recipe for tomatillos! I’ll have to pin this for later.

  8. You’re right, that is downright drinkable. It looks delicious. I’m definitely making up a batch to have on hand for any number of dishes.

  9. 9

    Spicy and beautiful! It sounds like a fantastic recipe!

  10. 10

    It’s been five years since I have had Cafe Rio food. Seeing this, I am feeling a Cafe Rio copycat night (or week) coming up. I might even go buy some tin foil cake pans to serve everything up in, just to be authentic!

  11. 11
    Rachel U

    Cafe Rio is pretty much my all time fave. Excited to try this recipe!

  12. 12

    Could I make that recipe vegan, you reckon? Like substitute the mayonnaise for cashew cream, and the buttermilk for almond… I wonder… looks so delish!

    • go for it! the cilantro and tomatillos are what provide the most flavor (well, the ranch does, too, but it doesn’t taste like ranch in the sauce)…anyway, if those are common substitutions that you make for those ingredients, I would totally give it a try!

  13. 13

    Could I bottle or can this?

    • I never have, so I can’t answer definitively. however, I do think that if you do want to can or bottle it, do so before you add the cream. then, when you get it out to eat later and are heating it up, you could just add the cream at that point. I believe that canning dairy is a bad idea in general, but that would be a good workaround!

  14. 14

    I make it once or twice a week. We put it on everything.

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