I just knew it was going to be a winner!
After all the wonderful reports, I was certain that we’d just flip when we tried it.
But that’s not exactly what happened…
My daughter-in-law, Lindsay was coming for lunch one day a few weeks ago. I decided to prepare a Mexican inspired salad with fresh greens, tomatoes, black beans, corn, rotisserie chicken and a topping of crushed tortilla chips. I was especially excited about the dressing, as it was one that I’d heard a zillion positive comments and rave reviews about, one that I’d been dying to try.
“Have you ever heard of Cafe Rio?” I asked Lindsay. “No, where is it?” she asked. I explained that I’d heard about it for years, and had assumed it was a restaurant somewhere in the western United Sates; but that just recently I’d discovered it’s actually a popular chain of restaurants, located mostly west of the Mississippi.
“Everyone says their salad dressing is so… good. I’ve read about it on several blogs and it’s all over Pinterest. I found a copycat recipe that I thought I’d try – you’re gonna be my guinea pig today!” Lindsay enjoys trying new things and loves international cuisine, so she was game for testing the new dressing.
It was easy to put together; just throw buttermilk, mayo, lime juice, cilantro, tomatillos, garlic, jalapeño and a packet of ranch dressing mix into a blender container and whir it all together. It was done in just a few minutes, and we sat down for a south-of-the-border lunch.
Did the famous dressing live up to the hype? I can’t speak for the original Cafe Rio dressing, but this particular copycat dressing was a bit disappointing. Not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but Lindsay and I both agreed, not crazy-out-of-this-world-delicious either.
But guess what? I couldn’t let the idea go, and decided to play around with some of the same ingredients. I tinkered with the idea for the next few days, adding and subtracting ingredients and, in the end, came up with a recipe we love. As in L O V E!
I won’t call it a Cafe Rio copycat recipe, since I’ve never had the original and it’s quite different from the copycat recipes I’ve seen; but I will call it crazy-out-of-this-world-delicious. I tested it out on Lindsay and our son Nick, and they agreed.
It’s now our new favorite dressing, and we’ve been enjoying it on everything from salads to salmon, chicken, nachos, veggies, chips, pitas, sandwiches…
Just like the Cafe Rio copycat, it’s super simple to make and it comes together in minutes in the blender. I lightened it up a bit with Greek yogurt and there’s an unusual ingredient that you wouldn’t expect in a southwestern-inspired recipe. It’s bright, fresh and, I have to say, quite addicting!
I mentioned we enjoyed it on salmon. I’ll be sharing that recipe on Tuesday, so be sure to check back. It’s a fabulous Mexican Sugar-Seared Salmon Salad with Spicy Cilantro Buttermilk Dressing.
With a less than 30 minute prep time, this wonderful salad is perfect for weeknight dinners.
It will also wow your guests for a casual, easy, dinner party entree with a beautiful presentation.
I’m calling my dressing Spicy Buttermilk Cilantro Dressing. But just a little “heads up”, although the recipe does call for a generous amount of cilantro you might be surprised if you’re not a cilantro fan. When you combine all the ingredients together, it’s not the cilantro taste that comes through, just lots of fresh, vibrant flavor. Try it, and if you end up thinking it’s not crazy-out-of-this-world-delicious, I know a little kitchen in North Carolina that will gladly accept your discards…
P.S. My dressing calls for a package of buttermilk dressing mix. I didn’t like all the preservatives and weird sounding ingredients on the label of the store packets, and the little guys are kind of pricey, so I came up with a Homemade Buttermilk Dressing Mix myself. It tastes much better and is way cheaper!
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Spicy Cilantro Buttermilk Dressing
This Spicy Cilantro Buttermilk Dressing is the most insanely delicious dressing you’ll ever meet. Use it on salads, pizza, sandwiches, as a dip for chips or veggies, on nachos, quesadillas, salmon…
- Category: salad dressing
- Cuisine: Southwestern
- ½ cup mayonnaise, use good quality (I like Hellman’s)
- ½ cup Greek yogurt, I use Fage Total 0%
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- ½ cup finely chopped cilantro, packed tight
- 1 medium jalapeños* Leave the seeds in if you like it more spicy, but see note*.
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger**
- 2 tablespoons minced white onion
- 3 tablespoons Homemade Buttermilk Dressing Mix, or 1 package buttermilk ranch dressing mix
- milk, to thin, if needed
- Combine all ingredients in a blender container. Pulse on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving to allow flavors to meld. Dressing will also thicken a bit. If it’s too thick, thin with milk as desired.
* Jalapeño peppers can vary in heat levels so be careful. It’s better to start with just part of a jalapeño, add everything else and blend the dressing together, then taste it. You can always add more, but you won’t be able to remove the heat. We like things spicy, but not super hot, so generally I add one medium jalapeño with some of the seeds – however I have had to add more if I’ve had milder jalapeños.
** Ginger? Yes! Although ginger is generally used more in Asian cuisine, it gives a delightful pizzazz to this dressing in combination with the other ingredients. Don’t skip it!