Our Version of Cafe Rio’s Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

Our version of Cafe Rio’s Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette dressing is so fresh and tasty! You will want to put it on every salad you eat! You just can’t go wrong with the combination of cilantro and lime. It tastes JUST like the one at Cafe Rio, and it’s little healthier than the traditional Cafe Rio ranch dressing.


Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette


Yesterday was a big day for me. After YEARS of trying to figure out the Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette 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.


Try to get really fresh ingredients when you make this dressing – it will make a big difference in taste. I can usually find good tomatillos in most grocery stores, but if you’re feeling adventurous this summer maybe try to find some from a farmer’s market! Same goes for the cilantro and limes. If you love tomatillos (I know I do!) try our Homemade Tomatillo Salsa Verde next time you make Mexican food! Also, when you blend this make sure that you blend it REALLY well – you don’t want any chunks. This dressing is best served smooooooooth 😉


For our complete Cafe Rio/Costa Vida salad recipe click HERE!


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

Save Recipe


  • 2 tamatillos
  • 1/2 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)


  • 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. Melody says:

    I've heard so much about this dressing and I LOVE cilantro. I better just whip up a batch!

  2. Gourmified says:

    Oh YUM! This is my favorite dressing at Cafe Rio! Can't wait to try it!!!! Thank you Thank you!

  3. Candace says:

    Awesome! I'll be trying this one out soon.


  4. Allison says:

    Screech! YAY! I can't wait.

  5. the mama monster says:

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

  6. Amy says:

    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!

  7. [email protected] says:

    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.

  8. Camille says:

    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.

  9. Carly says:

    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…..

    • Jolene Tanner says:

      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.”

  10. Erica says:

    @ 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!

  11. Carly says:

    HA! Of course I would read it incorrectly. I'm lame. Thanks for the fix!

  12. Erin says:

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

  13. dee says:


  14. andreacarruth says:

    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.

  15. Erica says:

    Yes, DO NOT use balsamic vinegar!! I put an extra reminder on the recipe just in case. Sorry!

  16. Brooks and Heather Lively says:

    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!!!

  17. mandy says:

    I just tried it my husband and I both love it!! We can't wait to eat it again. Thanks!

  18. Melinda says:

    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!!

    • Erica says:

      @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!

  19. Jenny S says:

    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?

    • Erica says:

      Yeah you might be able to get away with doing less dressing– maybe 4x the amount?

  20. Kai says:

    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.

  21. Steph says:

    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!

    • Erica says:

      You could probably use something like Truvia… that is the closest to sugar that I have found.

  22. Colby says:

    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.

    • Echo says:

      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!

  23. Emma says:

    Had this for dinner last night and it’s dead on! We made a salad with the dressing, but I also marinated some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in some of the dressing overnight and then browned it in a pan. The result was incredible. It’s just like Cafe Rio, but without sitting in traffic! I have a feeling this will be a new staple for our family.

    • Echo says:

      Thanks Emma! I’m so glad you like it. It has definitely become a staple in our family!

  24. Katie says:

    Thank you so much!! We made the beans, rice, and dressing for a large party and everyone loved it!! The dressing is delicious!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *