Cafe Rio-Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing

Cafe Rio-Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad DressingSheesh! This salad dressing is absolutely outstanding. I found myself eating it with a spoon…seriously. It is a knock-off of a dressing served at a local Mexican restaurant, Cafe Rio. I know that there are a gazillion knock-off recipes on the internet, but this one is my favorite. It is great served over Mexican-style salads or on tacos or burritos. Try it on a salad made with the Sweet Pork. You’ll love the flavor combinations!

As with the Cilantro Lime Rice and the Sweet Pork, I got this recipe from Mirien, who lives down the street and around the corner. I am so lucky to live in the same neighborhood with her!

This recipe makes over a quart of dressing, which is a rather generous amount. You might just have to have a party or something to use it all up. How tragic.

Light mayo and light sour cream can be used for this dressing, which greatly reduces the calories. Make it as spicy or as mild as you like by adjusting the amount of jalapeno peppers. I like mine with a little heat, but not scorching, so I remove the seeds and seed membrane from a small, fresh jalapeno. I also sometimes use a few bottled jalapeno rings instead of the fresh jalapeno, depending on what I have on hand.

Warning:  this dressing is very addicting. The fresh ingredients will keep you coming back for more and more.

Print green and blue-1Cafe Rio-Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing

Prep Time: 10 mins | Total Time: 1 hr—includes chill time | Yield: about 4 cups

Creamy and tangy with heat from a jalapeno, this salad dressing is especially tasty on “Mexican” style salads. Try it with Sweet Pork Salad for an exciting blend of flavors.


  • 1 package dry ranch dressing mix (I used Hidden Valley Ranch original)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I used light)
  • 2 cups sour cream (I used light)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 3 tomatillos, husked and well rinsed, then quartered
  • 1/2-1 jalapeno pepper, rough chopped with seeds and seed membrane removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • juice of one lime
  • milk or buttermilk to thin dressing to desired consistency (optional)


  1. Put all ingredients (except milk or buttermilk) into a blender and puree until smooth.
  2. Chill before serving. The dressing will thicken as it chills, particularly if you have used light mayo and light sour cream. Before serving, thin to desired consistency with milk or buttermilk. I chose buttermilk because I think that it better compliments the flavors in this dressing.

A few notes about tomatillos:

Cafe Rio-Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing
Fresh tomatillos have a papery husk on the the outside.  The husk needs to be removed before the tomatillos are used. It can generally be peeled off easily by hand. There is also a sticky, waxy film on the tomatillo skin. I wash this film off with a little bit of dish soap. It is probably unconventional to use a touch of soup, but I like all of my fresh vegetables as clean as possible prior to use. Plus, that sticky film is a dirt magnet and the dish soap cuts the film better than water alone.
Cafe Rio-Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing
/Once the husk has been removed, tomatillos look a lot like small green tomatoes. However, they don’t taste anything like green tomatoes.
When sliced open, the flesh is somewhat mealy and there are many small seeds present.  Deseeding is not necessary.

You may also like:

Cilantro-Lime Rice {Cafe Rio Copy Cat}
Cilantro-Lime Rice {Cafe Rio Copy Cat}
Restaurant-style Salsa
Restaurant-style Salsa
Spicy Chicken Salad Wrap
Spicy Chicken Salad Wrap



  1. says

    This was awesome. Even though I bought the jalapeno pepper – I forgot to add it in! Nevertheless it was a delicious dressing to go on our cheese and bean burritos!

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