Our Version of Cafe Rio’s Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

Yesterday was a big day for me. After YEARS of trying to figure out this recipe.. I have FINALLY figured it out. I spent all day in the kitchen yesterday trying to get this just right and I finally did it! All of you Cafe Rio and Costa Vida lovers, get excited! You will be so surprised how right, smack on this is.
Update: Thanks everyone for all the positive feedback on this recipe! I have made it so many times since I have first posted and I still love it! I usually make a big batch of it and use it on ALL of my salads! It is such a great, fresh recipe. I still can’t get enough of it!
If you haven’t seen all of our other Cafe Rio recipes, click HERE to view them ALL in one convenient place!
Our Version of Cafe Rio’s Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
  • 2 tamatillos
  • ½ bunch cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. diced jalapeno (canned) --you can use less if you don't like it spicy at all. I like a little kick.
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 c. balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (NOT balsamic VINEGAR... there is a difference. We used Kraft brand vinaigrette)
  1. In a food processor or blender, combine tamatillos, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, and sugar. After it is all blended up well combine with balsamic vinaigrette in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is best).


  1. yay yay yay. really and truly? i have made the creamy dressing befor but never seen the vinegarette. thanks!

  2. Erica, your Cafe Rio recipes are the closest and best I've ever tried. in fact our whole Memorial Day party last year was centered around all of your Cafe Rio recipes. My huge extended family (lives in CA and don't have a Cafe Rio) now all use YOUR recipe to recreate! Thank you for perfection!

  3. Thank you! I've been looking for this recipe for years. I'm so glad I found your site. I made the dressing Sunday and it was perfect.

  4. Thank you!!!! I have been looking for this recipe for years also!!!! Your recipes are definitely the closest. Thanks for your hard work. I really appreciate it. I LOOOOOOVE Cafe Rio.

  5. I was so excited to find this recipe, so I made it tonight. Mine looks NOTHING like yours, however, and I feel like there's way too much vinegar in it. Is it really supposed to be a full cup of balsamic vinegar? It doesn't taste quite right. HELP! I think I screwed it up! Leave it to me to do it wrong…..

    • 1 pkg of ranch dressing mix
      1 cup mayo
      1 cup buttermilk, (You can use 1 TBLS of vinegar and add enough milk to make 1 cup.)
      2 Tomatillos
      1 bunch of fresh cilantro
      1 clove of garlic
      juice of one lime
      1 jalapeño.
      Blend all in blender and use. Refrigerate left overs.
      My sons friend works at Cafe Rio, he said this is the best copy cat recipe he has ever tried. He said they use “a crap load of mayo.”

  6. @ Carly— I hope you didn't use balsamic vinegar! It's a cup of Balsamic Vinaigrette, the salad dressing. You can use Newman's Own or we just use Kraft vinaigrette. One cup of balsamic vinegar WOULD be too much vinegar.. sorry!!! I hope this helped!

  7. I'm so excited to find this recipe! Now I can enjoy the wonderful taste of Cafe Rio from Washington D.C.!!!


  9. Well that was disappointing… I made the same mistake as someone above and read the balsamic vinaigrette as balsamic vinegar. OOPS! Yuck. Had to throw it out.

  10. I seriously LOVE your cafe rio copy-cat recipes! Cafe Rio might be what I miss most about Utah. I tried this dressing recipe for the first time yesterday and couldn't believe how good it was. AMAZING!!!

  11. I’m just going to write on this post, but I used ALL of your recipes (except for the tortillas, I’ll explain later) for the cafe rio sweet pulled pork with only a few tiny improvisations (like subbing cream soda for coke because that’s what I had on hand) and adding some onion to the cooking pork (discarding it with the liquids). We made the pulled pork salad paired with some enchiladas and mexican rice my brother in law and his wife made for our mother’s day dinner for my mother in law who is in love with cafe rio. OH. MY. GOSH. This whole thing is SO good. The guacamole is psychotically amazing, the pork insane, I made the tortilla strips fried in coconut oil and they were the best, and this dressing totally brings everything together. My husband and I love it so much that I’m making it again tomorrow just for us. Thank you so much for sharing your talent to know what flavors are being used to re-create these awesome dishes!!

    • @Melinda- Wow! THANK YOU! What a nice comment!!! You are so sweet and you totally made my day. I am so glad that you liked all of the recipes that you tried! I know it can be a little time consuming but as you found out, it is SO worth it! Thanks again for the kind words! Please come back often for more recipes!

  12. I’m really excited to try all of these recipes! I need to feed 39 people for a family reunion and I’m wondering if it is a safe bet to times all recipes by 6 or should I do less for some, like the dressing?

  13. Erica, I really like your recipe. One thing I did add though was 2 tsp. of honey. If you like it sweeter (like me) it works really well.

  14. This looks great! But I’m just curious, I’m on a sugar free diet and I wonder if I can use substitute the sugar with honey, agave, or splenda? Thanks!

  15. We have tried SO many different recipes for a cilantro lime vinaigrette and I have never been able to stomach them. This dressing is AMAZING!!! Thank you so much.

    • I’m so glad you like it! We worked really hard on this one to get the taste just right. It really is a favorite!


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