Healthy/Natural Homemade Cafe Rio Sweet ‘Chicken’ and Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Since moving to a new state, we’ve been lucky enough to live quite close to one of my husbands favorite eating places. Actually lucky for him, not so lucky for me…

If you’ve ever been to Cafe Rio, you know that they make these fresh, soft, carb-licious tortillas. Their sweet pork is like a dessert, and that freaking dressing…

Holy heck. I could drink, bathe, and wash my hair with that dressing.

Too much?

I say it’s not lucky for me because as a person who tries hard to eat healthy and natural foods often, the second we get to Cafe Rio all I want to do is order 5 tortillas and a grande dressing and go to down. It’s dangerous.

So when I looked up the copycat recipes on line, I found that my husbands favorite sweet pork was made with well…A lot of sugar. DUH. Lots of soda, and lots of brown sugar. My husbands dream. A healthy wife’s worst night mare. As for the dressing, I figured it was mayo based and I was right!

Did I mention it’s really delicious?

Now…I’m not saying it’s wrong to eat the real thing, or make it at home the way it was intended to be made. I’ve definitely drank that green sauce more than I would like to mention…

This was more like a challenge I wanted to give myself, to see if I could do it. To see if a recipe really needed soda and mayo, and how I could possibly replace them.

Let me put it this way:

My husband thanked me for PICKING up his favorite meal for dinner.

That’s hot.

Homemade Cafe Rio Sweet Chicken

* Cafe Rio is famous for their Sweet Pork, not Sweet Chicken. But since I’m not a pork eater, I figured swapping it with chicken could and would totally work!


2 lb. cooked chicken*-shredded

Homemade Enhilada Sauce

1/4 c. sparkling water

1 c. maple, coconut, or date sugar-you could probably get away with 1/2 c.

12 oz. green chilies

salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste

*The best way I have learned to cook my chicken is to liberally salt and pepper the chicken, then generally coat it with coconut oil. Cook at 350 for about 30 minutes, or until done. You could also easily sub beans for chicken, and  create a baked beans type of dish, which would work well with the dish too!


1.  Prepare and cook your chicken. While it’s cooking, make the homemade enchilada sauce.

2. The enchilada sauce will make about 3 c. of liquid. In a crockpot, add 1 1/2 c. of prepared enchilada sauce. Then save the extra sauce to top on burritos or to make enchiladas with the leftovers.

3. Along with the 1 1/2 c. of enchilada sauce, add the sparkling water, green chilies, and sugar. Add the cooked shredded chicken and warm the chicken with the sauce for about 30-60 minutes. (I used the warm setting, but you could also use low/med heat. Just make sure not to overcook it.) Season with spices to desired taste.

Homemade Cafe Rio Creamy Cilantro Dressing

*Originally this recipe calls for 1 cup of mayo and a prepared ranch packed.


1/2 c. non dairy milk mixed with 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar-OR-1/2 c. greek yogurt (Yogurt might add a more sour taste though)

1/2 c. plain hummus (I used Sabre brand)

1/2 bunch cilantro

2 tomatillos

1 jalepeno, seeds removed (optional)

juice and zest of 1 lime

2 TB. dried parsly

1 tsp. dried dill

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion flakes

1 tsp. dried chives

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. pepper


1. Blend all together, then let sit in the fridge until ready to serve!

Now, the way to layer a Cafe Rio salads is like so:

-Large Whole Wheat Tortilla

-Black Beans

-Cilantro Rice (Brown)


-Pico Salsa


-Sweet Chicken

-Chopped Cilantro

Oh..And that dang good dressing

OR, if you are a into the wet burritos, make yourself a burrito with all the fixings, top with the extra enchilada sauce and some cheese and melt in the double broiler for a few minutes. Top with the Cilantro dressing, and dig in!

And if your wondering how to get your child to eat their very first salad ever….

It’s all about the dressing my friends….It’s liquid gold.



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  1. MMM this looks sooo good 🙂 why do you use sparkling water? does it add something extra to the dish? could i just use regular water? or are you using sparkling water to replace the soda in the recipe?


  2. Literally drooling over this salad and I don’t even eat meat!!

  3. This looks fabulous! I think homemade versions of Cafe Rio are a million times more delicious than the original stuff! Especially knowing its healthy. Beautiful pictures of everything, it all looks delicious!

  4. I don’t eat chicken, I don’t eat pork, but definitely I would go for that salad with the dressing on top! And I would use tuna or salmon! mmmm!

  5. I am drooling!!! You always have the best recipes and pictures 🙂 I loved your recommendations for fitness videos too – I never even knew there were so many great ones on Youtube! I just found this one, and I love it -nice and short since little ones always seem to command to be the center of the universe 😉 (It’s a 10 min VS model workout that combines some cardio with toning moves)

  6. This looks so good! everyone always talks about cafe rio but where i live we dont have them. Im going to try to make this we shall see how it turns out…

  7. Made this over the weekend and it was awesome! I’ve never had the Cafe Rio version, so I’m sure how sweet it’s actually supposed to be, but I ended up omitting the sugar all together and just drizzling in a tablespoon or two of agave nectar. Made the dressing with greek yogurt, might try almond milk next time because it was a little sour, otherwise we loved it! Your blog is so cute!

  8. I made this and it tasted great! My hubby is a health nut so it was fun that we could all enjoy something together. I think this is my new favorite dressing… mmmmmm!! O and I was out of green chilis and it was still good… for whomever might also find themselves in this predicament!

  9. This looks so delicious! I saw your guest post on peas and crayons and thought I would come check you out. Great Blog! I will be following you.

  10. This looks utterly delicious!Wow!

  11. Cynthia Garrido says:

    did you boil the tomatillos first-?

  12. Jennifer says:

    Finally an actual healthy alternative! I look online and people say healthy homemade versions and they call for things like ranch packets, brown sugar and coke! THANK YOU! I can’t wait to try this!


  1. […] A little back story about me, I’m married to one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever met, and I’ve got two darling little princess’ for daughters. We’ve got a lot of personality in our family, and more often than not I’m convinced I’m the luckiest girl in the world. My main belief is that our bodies are temples and we should treat them that way. I love stuffing my face, as well as my families, with tons of veggies! But don’t get me wrong, we definitely splurge on sweet treats & eats! Today I thought I would share with you some of my family’s favorite recipes in hoping someday they might become yours! The first one is a request from the hubs, it’s his all time favorite meal! Sweet Chicken w/Creamy Tomatillo Dressing. […]

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