This homemade Cafe Rio salad recipe features juicy shredded chicken, cilantro lime rice, and beans covered in fresh lettuce, pico de gallo, cotija cheese, and a delicious tomatillo dressing. It’s incredibly flavorful and delicious!
The first time I had Cafe Rio was in high school.
I had never heard of it, but someone at work got a salad and shared some with me.
From that moment on I was hooked!
So hooked in fact, that I’ve never gotten anything else at Cafe Rio besides the shredded chicken salad.
I just love it too much! Thankfully my husband is a little more adventurous so I’ve tried the other menu items, but the chicken salad is by far my favorite.
If you’re craving that delicious, fresh Mexican flavor at home, or you’ve never had Cafe Rio and want to see what all the hype is about, here’s an easy way to recreate the salad.
SPRAY a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and place over low heat. Add 1 large tortilla to the pan and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Mexican blend shredded cheese. Allow cheese to melt and repeat with remaining tortillas.
CREATE your salads by layering a tortilla with cilantro lime rice, warmed black or pinto beans, shredded chicken, and shredded romaine lettuce.
FINISH the salad with a scoop of pico de gallo, scoop of guacamole, a handful of tortilla strips and cilantro stems, and sprinkle of cotija cheese, a lime wedge, and plenty of creamy tomatillo dressing.
Recipe Tips and Substitutions
You can make your Cafe Rio salad however you want, but if you want a truly authentic version at home, it should have all of these components:
- Large flour tortilla with melted cheese
- Cilantro lime rice
- Black or pinto beans
- Shredded chicken
- Thinly shredded romaine lettuce
- Pico de gallo
- Tortilla strips
- Cotija cheese (or one of these substitutes)
- Cilantro stems
- Lime wedges
- Tomatillo dressing
When it comes to the flour tortillas, you’ll get the most authentic taste by making your own or using the uncooked version that you prepare at home. We use the La Flor De Valle brand.
You can use whatever store-bought creamy cilantro dressing you like or you can make your own. To save time, we like to keep a bottle of the Cafe Rio dressing in our fridge at all times. It’s has the most authentic flavor!
More Like This
Looking for more fresh salads and bowls? You’ll love these!
- Chicken Power Bowl
- BLT Salad with Avocado
- Tuna Rotini Pasta Salad
- Tri Color Pasta Salad with Italian Dressing
I hope your family loves this shredded chicken Cafe Rio salad recipe! If you make it, be sure to take a picture and tag me on Instagram with @ashcroftfamilytable and use the hashtag #ashcroftfamilytable!
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Shredded Chicken Cafe Rio Salad
Shredded Chicken Salad
- 8 large flour tortillas, we like the uncooked version you fry at home
- 2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
- 6 cups cilantro lime rice
- 30.5 ounces black or pinto beans, 2 cans
- 4 cups shredded Cafe Rio chicken
- 1-2 heads romaine lettuce, thinly shredded
- 2 cups pico de gallo
- 2 cups guacamole
- 3.5 ounces tortilla strip salad toppers, 1 bag
- ½ cup cotija cheese
- ½ bunch cilantro
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
Creamy Tomatillo Cilantro Dressing
- 0.4 ounce dry buttermilk ranch dressing, 1 packet
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tomatillos, with paper peel removed
- ½ bunch cilantro
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 Tablespoons lime juice
- 1 jalapeno, seeds removed
- Add all of the ingredients for the cilantro dressing to a blender and pulse until well combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Spray a large frying pan with non-stick cooking spray and place over low heat. Add 1 large tortilla to the pan and sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Allow cheese to melt and repeat with remaining tortillas.
- Create your salads by layering a tortilla with cilantro lime rice, warmed black or pinto beans, shredded chicken, and shredded romaine lettuce.
- Finish the salad with a scoop of pico de gallo, scoop of guacamole, a handful of tortilla strips and cilantro stems, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, a lime wedge, and plenty of creamy tomatillo dressing.