Two-ingredient Creamy Cilantro Dressing (Quick and Easy Copycat of Cafe Rio)

 I know it's hard to believe, but Cafe Rio originated in Utah, not New Mexico.  While the cuisine is food from the Rio Grande region where I grew up, the original location is actually very close to where I live now in southern Utah.  

I think Cafe Rio is most famous for its Creamy Cilantro Dressing.  Funny enough, I have no memory of anything like this when I grew up in Las Cruces.  

Now it seems everyone makes it.  You can find tons of homemade copycat recipes on the internet.  You can get it at Trader Joe's and Costco.  It's like it's more American than it is Mexican.  Sort of like our pizza.  People complain that the pizza isn't very good in Italy, and Italians are like, "Yeah, what you eat isn't actually pizza."  To me, creamy cilantro dressing isn't actually southern New Mexican food, but I love it and I'm totally here for it.  

But since I'm a lazy cook, I am not willing to go through a lot of steps to make something if I don't have to.  While my copycat may not taste EXACTLY like what you get at Cafe Rio, it just takes two ingredients... well sort of.  

First of all, you will want to have some homemade Salsa Verde. This is a recipe I got from my friend who grew up in northern Mexico.  

Click here for Salsa Verde recipe. 

Fortunately, this salsa freezes well.  I will portion it out into half-pint containers for the freezer so that I only have to thaw exactly what I need.  

The second ingredient is ranch dressing.  

Before I tell you what ranch dressing I recommend, I think I need to explain that I'm a ranch dressing snob.  If the words "Hidden" or "Valley" are anywhere near the dressing, I am no where to be found.  Even in powder form, that stuff be nasty.  

Basically there are only two ranch dressings I'm willing to consume, and fortunately they taste alike.  Unfortunately, they aren't easy to find.  

The first is BYU Creamery ranch dressing. 

Click on image for source

If you don't live near BYU, you might want to try your local state college's creamery.  They usually have good ice cream, which means they should have good ranch dressing as well.  Here's a tip, if their mascot is the Aggies, they probably have a good creamery.  I'm looking at you, Utah State University. 

The other ranch dressing I really like is Wild Coyote, which also originated in St. George.  

I know you can get these at grocery stores and Walmart in Utah, but I'm not sure how wide their distribution is.  You'll notice they also sell their own creamy cilantro version.  I found it's okay, but I like mine with my own Salsa Verde better.  Plus, if I just buy their ranch dressing, I can use it for other dishes that are best with just plain ranch dressing. 

Basically just mix these two ingredients together.  If you want to enhance it, I recommend the following ingredients to experiment with:

  • Grated cotija cheese (this will thicken it) 
  • Sugar (I think Cafe Rio has lots of sugar in theirs, but I don't like it sweet) 
  • Chile powder (this will give it more heat and a pop of color) 
  • lime zest (this will give it great lime flavor, but you have to zest a fresh lime and it will taste bitter when it isn't fresh) 
  • raw jalapeno (I'm not a fan of jalapenos when they are raw, but lots of people are) 
  • Garlic powder or minced garlic