Homemade DAIRY-FREE Cilantro Lime Ranch Dressing (Cafe Rio Copycat)
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The end-all, be-all of dressings. This southwestern take on ranch, with kicks of jalapeno and cilantro make this creamy salad covering what dreams are made of. Copied from a crazy popular restaurant in the West: Cafe Rio, but without wheat, dairy or eggs, making this dressing super allergy-friendly for just about any diet.
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Pre-diagnosis, if you were to go to eat anywhere, especially on a date night–you would go to Cafe Rio (at least if you live on the West Coast). It’s just a given. It’s incredibly rare if there isn’t already a staggering line no matter what time you show up. Besides their crazy good salads and burritos, the pièces de résistance is the dressing. It is the savory version of the cherry on top.
Once you can’t have dairy, or eggs, or wheat though–forget about it. But, my dreams were still haunted by this thick, creamy, dressing. Add to the fact that I have three boys (yes, I’m including my husband in this) to feed, I’ve got to make a salad GOOD for them to want to eat it. And, dang it–dousing any salad in this dressing just makes it irresistible.
I’m telling you, if you’ve never had the pleasure of eating at Cafe Rio (or the equally as good sister restaurant, Costa Vida) you might be thinking, but Megan–is there anything better than ranch?
I know. I get it. Ranch was my all-American go-to dressing as well. But, it’s like when people thought the world was flat, they just simply didn’t know what they were missing!
Add to the fact that you make this all in the blender and it makes so much, that it leaves plenty for a leftover salad the next day, and you’ll fall in love deeply.
And, can we please give a round of a hand to my 6 year old who was my hand model? Talk about a team effort. Here I am, crouched on the floor trying to give out directions to a confused child. “No, pour more slowly.” “OK, like that, but hold the bottle higher.” “No, too high!” So, I hope you’ll appreciate the pouring shots as much as I do, it was quite an accomplishment. Honestly, it was harder than making the dressing!
Please also enjoy the fact that many Cafe Rio and Costa Vida Cilantro Lime Ranch Dressing copycats cheat and use a ranch packet–which doesn’t exist if you have food allergies (I’ve yet to find one that is dairy-free). So, enjoy that this is completely from scratch with no hard to find ingredients (because yes, I can find my vegan mayo at my local Wal-Mart, or I’ve linked to it on Amazon.)
I hope you’ll enjoy this salad dressing each and every time you have a salad. You’ll notice I did a simple grilled chicken salad that has my homemade taco seasoning on it. Then, I just dressed it with some of my favorite toppings I had in the fridge: grilled corn, avocado, and cherry tomatoes. I’m sorry to be such a tease, but if you want the full copy cat (sweet pork and cilantro lime rice and beans) you’ll have to wait until my cookbook comes out in Spring 2019, because I have the pork and rice and beans recipe in there. But, I couldn’t make you wait until then to have the salad dressing!
Now go get you a fork, get you a salad and get cracking!
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- 1 and 1/2 cups vegan mayo
- 3 Tablespoons lime juice
- ⅓ cup cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
- 1 green onion–white and green parts
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 and 1/2 tsp)
- 1/2 jalapeno, de-seeded
- 1 tomatillo, husk taken off and quartered
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
In a high quality blender place all of the ingredients: the vegan mayo, lime juice, chopped cilantro, green onion, 3 cloves garlic, jalapeno, tomatillo, salt and pepper.
Blend until everything is smooth.
Pour onto your prepared salad. Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 3 days. Leftover dressing may need to be stirred before using again.This is also great on burritos, tacos and just about anything southwest!
Adapted from multiple versions of copy cat recipes.
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Looking for other salad ideas? Check out some of my favorite allergy-friendly salads:
Asian Spinach Pasta Salad
Avocado BLT Pasta Salad
Apple Bacon Salad with Sweet Red Onion Vinaigrette