Cilantro Lime Dressing (Cafe Rio Copycat)

5 from 10 votes

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This Cilantro Lime Dressing is a fresh and zesty dressing for all kinds of salads. The perfect Cafe Rio and Costa Vida copycat recipe!

Cilantro Lime Dressing in a white serving bowl

Cilantro Lime Dressing

This Cafe Rio Cilantro Lime Dressing recipe is so fresh and tasty, you’ll want to put it on every salad you eat! Our copycat version uses fresh cilantro, lime and tomatillos blended together to taste JUST like the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette at Cafe Rio and Costa Vida. I have tried time and again to get this recipe just right, and I can happily report that after years of trying to figure out this recipe, I finally did it! Plus it’s a healthy, fresh alternative to bottled salad dressings. Try it and see for yourself how spot on this copycat recipe is!

Dressing being poured over a salad

What are Tomatillos?

One of the most important ingredients in this Cilantro Lime Dressing is tomatillos. They may look like unripe tomatoes, but these small, green fruits have a slightly more acidic, less sweet flavor than tomatoes and the texture is much thicker than tomatoes. You can find them in the produce section at your regular grocery store. To prepare, remove the tough outer husk, give them a quick rinse, then toss them in the food processor or blender and blend until smooth with the rest of the ingredients listed below. Tomatillos can be eaten raw or roasted, and their fresh flavor is perfect for a light, zesty dressing. If you love tomatillos (I know I do!) try our Homemade Tomatillo Salsa Verde next time you make Mexican food.

Cilantro Lime Dressing being poured over a salad

Tips for Making Cilantro Lime Dressing

  • Using the freshest ingredients available will make all the difference in how this dressing turns out. I can usually find good tomatillos in most grocery stores but you could venture out to a farmer’s market or try growing your own!
  • Look for fresh cilantro as well. You can find fresh bunches of cilantro in the produce section of your grocery store, but I love growing it in my garden. It’s easy to grow and it can be used in a million different recipes.
  • When you blend this dressing, make sure you mix it REALLY well to get rid of any chunks. This dressing is best served super smooth.
  • This recipe makes a huge batch of cilantro lime dressing. You can store it in a bottle or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Use it for salads, a dip for veggies, or as a marinade for chicken, fish, or beef. It’s so delicious!
Dressing ingredients in a blender before being mixed

More Delicious Copycat Recipes

We love a good copycat recipe, and we absolutely adore anything from Cafe Rio and Costa Vida! As much as we love going out to eat, there’s something so comforting about creating a homemade meal in your very own kitchen so are a bunch of our most scrumptious recipes straight from our favorite restaurant.

How to Make Cilantro Lime Dressing (Cafe Rio Copycat)

Cilantro Lime Dressing in a white serving bowl

Cilantro Lime Dressing (Cafe Rio Copycat)

5 from 10 votes
Cilantro Lime Dressing is a fresh and zesty dressing for all kinds of salads. The perfect Cafe Rio and Costa Vida copycat recipe!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Refrigerate 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Course Dressing
Cuisine Mexican/Spanish
Servings 12



  • In a food processor or blender, combine tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, jalapeño, lime juice, sugar, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing. 
    Dressing ingredients in a blender before being mixed
  • Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is best).
    Cilantro Lime Dressing in a white serving bowl


*Make sure you use balsamic vinaigrette SALAD DRESSING, not balsamic vinegar.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 102kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 1gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 24mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 40IUVitamin C: 3.9mgCalcium: 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
    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing recipe! Will surely have this again! It’s really easy to make and it tasted so delicious! Highly recommended!

  2. 5 stars
    i was looking for a recipe for cilantro lime dressing for our church wide meal that wasn’t mayonnaise base when i found this. This is so good. It looks and taste like the dressing from Costa Vida. After the meal, all the helpers in the kitchen wanted to take some home. Since i made a triple batch, i had plenty leftover. Very yummy and good! It was a hit. this recipe is a keeper.

  3. 5 stars
    I love how light and refreshing this is! Plus, this is so allergy friendly for my son who is allergic to dairy and eggs!

  4. How do you get this the green color? Balsamic vinaigrette is dark brown mine tastes good but so gross looking.

    1. Oh interesting! I’m wondering if the dressing we use is lighter. Usually the tomatillo and cilantro are enough to turn it green.

    2. Yes, mine turned out more the color of the vinaigrette with just a touch of green. I’ve checked the recipe and am confidant I hollowed it to a T. Tastes great though.

    1. Feel free to post the actual recipe here 🙂 We would love to make adjustments to make it exact!

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

  6. 5 stars
    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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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!

  8. 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!

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