Creamy Tomatillo Ranch Dressing (Cafe Rio Copycat)

4.78 from 18 votes

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This Creamy Tomatillo Ranch Dressing is so delicious! It is our copycat version of the Cafe Rio House Creamy Tomatillo Dressing.

Cilantro Ranch Dressing being poured over a salad

Creamy Tomatillo Ranch Dressing

If you’ve followed us for any time at all, you will know we are big fans of Mexican cuisine. When Cafe Rio first opened in 1997 in St. George, Utah, we were huge fans. Now they have locations all over the western United States and Maryland, but back in the day, we lived in California, Nevada, and Washington. Many of our first copycat recipes were from Cafe Rio trying to achieve the “Fresh Mex” flavors at home. We’ve had some success, if we do say so ourselves. Please let us know if you agree!

Most people say that their favorite menu item at Cafe Rio is the Sweet Pork, but I say without a MOMENT of hesitation that mine is the Creamy Tomatillo Ranch Dressing! It is spicy and tangy and SO GOOD. I seriously put it on everything — our Cafe Rio Burrito and Cafe Rio Salad for sure, plus quesadillas, sandwiches, I even dip veggies in it! I can’t keep it in the fridge for more than a few days before the bottle gets licked clean!

Our Cafe Rio recipes are what first made our site take off. We posted the recipe for Sweet Pork and people went crazy over it. Little by little we figured out more recipes and now we have a huge collection! We get great feedback and positive comments from our fans out there. Check them out and you will see why we are the #1 site for Cafe Rio recipes! Make sure to send us your feedback, too! We have had some great feedback and very positive reviews on all the recipes! Check em’ out and then add your own comments after you try them! We love hearing from our readers! ENJOY!

Cilantro Ranch Dressing in a jar

Recipe Tips

We’ve had some comments about the dressing being too runny. This is easy to prevent. Remember, it is much easier to thin a dressing than try to thicken it later without messing up the flavors. Follow these tips for perfect dressing thickness every time.

  • Use Hellman’s/Best Foods mayonnaise.
  • Use real buttermilk – not a substitute. If you don’t have buttermilk and need to substitute milk with lemon or vinegar, start with only ½ cup of the substitute in the blender and then add a little at a time until your preferred consistency is reached.
  • Limes can vary in size and juiciness. Typically a juiced lime will yield 2 tablespoons. Start with 1 tablespoon in the blender. After blending, continue to add 1 teaspoon at a time until the consistency is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

The recipe is seriously so simple — just toss all the ingredients in the blender and blend away! But, here I will answer some questions we’ve had from our readers over the years.

How do I increase/decrease the spiciness?

The spiciness is all in the jalapeño seeds. You can eliminate the seeds completely for no spiciness at all, or add as many as you want to turn on the heat.

What is a tomatillo?

A tomatillo is a small, tomato-shaped, green fruit with a leaf-looking husk for an outer layer. It is also known as the Mexican husk tomato for this reason. Tomatillos have a similar taste and texture to tomatoes, but they are less sweet and more acidic. There are tomatillos in the photo above on the bottom left.

How do you prepare a tomatillo for this dressing?

Remove the husks from the outer layer. You’ll find the tomatillo has a sticky skin on it. Rinse it under warm water and then dry with a dish cloth. Use a sharp knife to remove the stem, then dice as you would a tomato.

Can I use a buttermilk substitute?

Yes. But, a substitute is usually a thinner consistency. Make the substitute by adding 1 tablespoon of either vinegar or lemon juice to a 1 cup measuring cup. Fill the remaining cup with milk – preferably whole. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Add only ½ cup of the buttermilk substitute to the blender. Blend. Gradually add a little at a time until the dressing is the consistency you prefer.

More Cafe Rio Copycat Recipes

To view ALL of our Cafe Rio / Costa Vida copycat recipes, click HERE.

Tomatillo Ranch Dressing in a jar

Creamy Tomatillo Ranch Dressing (Cafe Rio Copycat Recipe)

4.78 from 18 votes
This Creamy Tomatillo Ranch Dressing is so incredibly good! It is delicious on homemade Cafe Rio salads and burritos.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Refrigerate 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 10 mins
Course Dip
Cuisine Mexican/Spanish
Servings 10



  • Blendtec Blender


  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch mix TRADITIONAL not BUTTERMILK
  • 1 cup mayonnaise I prefer Best Foods
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tomatillos remove husk, diced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro fresh
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lime juiced
  • 1 jalapeno we like it SPICY so we kept the seeds in it, if you like it mild, just remove the seeds


  • Add all the ingredients in to a blender.
    Ingredients in a blender
  • Blend until smooth.
    Tomatillo Ranch Dressing in a jar
  • Serve as a dressing over salad or as a dip for veggies and chips.
    Dressing being poured over a salad

Nutrition Information

Calories: 188kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 1gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 13mgSodium: 386mgPotassium: 62mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 104IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 31mgIron: 1mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her beautiful three girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

More about Erica Walker

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  1. 5 stars
    Amazing and super easy!! All these cafe rio recipes are incredible- better than cafe rio actually!

    1. Thank you! So glad that you loved it and it was so good for you. It is always a favorite in our home too!

  2. 5 stars
    We’ve been using these cafe Rio recipes of yours for years and love them! I’m thinking of doing a cafe Rio bar for a family reunion next week, but want to make the food ahead of time. Have you ever frozen this sauce before? I’m worried it will have a weird texture when thawed. Thank you!

    1. Oh! I see a couple of pages down on the comments that someone else tried to freeze it and it separated. Thanks!

  3. 5 stars
    This was SO delicious! I filled exactly as is and it was so tasty! It was thin so I think next time I will lower the amount of buttermilk. But 100% the best dressing I’ve ever made!

  4. 5 stars
    Love making my own dressing and was excited to try this. Came out great! Easy and delicious. Will definitely be making this often

  5. Jalapeños vary in size and spiciness especially if you are using them from your own garden. Mine are typically about an inch to an inch-and-a-half long and skinny whereas the ones from the store are about two inches long ByAn they are fat. Should I just use two of the smaller ones that I grow myself? Any ideas?

    1. Since I don’t know how spicy the ones from your garden are, I can’t say for sure. Maybe start with one and taste it and then add another if you are looking for more spice?

  6. 5 stars
    Love this ranch dressing it was such a great added addition to my salad. Can’t wait to make and use again!

  7. Just tried this recipe. Always trying to find a lower carb, lower cal solution to dips and salads. I tried this recipe and used 16oz of 2% cottage cheese with 1 TBS of Hellman’s mayonnaise and 1 TBS of sour cream. Blended it till the consistency was just right. I have received several compliments. Thank you for the recipe! I have tried others but they reviews from the home crowd are not repeatable.

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