Sunday, January 05, 2014

Chopped Chicken Salad with Cafe Rio Flavors (Low-Carb, Gluten-Free, Phase One)

A delicious Chopped Chicken Salad with all the flavors that make Cafe Rio Salad so good!

Chopped Chicken Salad with Cafe Rio Flavors found on

If there's anything I've learned about sticking to a healthy eating plan, it's that you better include a lot of your favorite flavors or the plan is doomed from the start.  I love the blend of flavors in Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing, and I make it all the time, not just when I'm doing Phase One.  I used this dressing on Leftover Chicken Chopped Chicken Salad with Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Dressing, but I thought it would be fun to come up with a salad that recreates more of the flavors in the famous Cafe Rio Salad.  This new Chopped Chicken Salad with Cafe Rio Flavors has diced chicken that gets marinated in Cafe Rio Dressing, romaine lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, black beans, and cilantro.  If you don't live where there's a Cafe Rio, or you just want to make it at home, I promise this will re-create that Cafe Rio happy mouth feeling that people in Utah love to enjoy.

(This is a new recipe for our month of Daily Phase One Recipes; Check after the recipe for Phase One Flashbacks from this day in 2012 and 2013.)

You can use leftover rotisserie chicken, but if you don't have any just poach two boneless-skinless chicken breasts in barely simmering water for about 15 minutes.

When it's cool, chop up the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Toss the diced chicken with about 2 tablespoons of Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing and let it marinate while you prep the other ingredients. 

Dump the beans into a colander placed in the sink and rinse well with cold water and let drain.

Chop up two heads romaine lettuce and give it a good spin in the salad spinner (or wash and dry with paper towels.)

Cut up the avocados and toss with 1 T lime juice.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half to make about 1 cup of cherry tomato halves.

Chop 1/2 bunch of cilantro and crisp it in the salad spinner and spin dry.

Combine the lettuce, tomatoes, black beans, and cilantro and toss with enough dressing to moisten.

Then stir in the chicken and dressing it was marinating in.  Divide into bowls and top each one with a couple of generous spoonfuls of avocado; enjoy!

Chopped Chicken Salad with Cafe Rio Flavors
(Makes 4 servings; recipe created by Kalyn to indulge her love of Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing.)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached and diced
(Or use 2-3 cups leftover rotisserie chicken.)
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained well
2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
2 avocados, diced
1 T fresh squeezed lime juice
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 bunch chilantro (or more), chopped and washed
8 tablespoons (more or less to taste) Cafe Rio Style Creamy Tomatillo Salad Dressing

If you don't have leftover rotisserie chicken, bring a small saucepan of water to a low boil while you trim visible fat from the chicken breasts and cut them in half (for quicker cooking).  When the water is barely boiling, add trimmed chicken breast pieces and cook on lowest possible heat about 15 minutes, or until the chicken is firm and cooked through.  Drain and let chicken cool.

Put the beans into a colander placed in the sink and rinse well with cold water (until no more foam appears.)  Let beans drain while you prep other ingredients.  (If they still seem wet when you need to use them, pat dry with paper towels.)

Dice cooled chicken into bite-sized pieces.  Put in a small bowl and toss with about 2 tablespoons Cafe Rio Dressing. 

Cut ends of romaine heads and remove any spoiled outer leaves.  Chop lettuce into bite sized pieces, wash with cold water in a salad spinner, and spin dry (or wash and dry with paper towels if you don't have a salad spinner.)  Cut up avocados, place in a bowl, and toss with the lime juice.  Cut cherry tomatoes in half.  Chop cilantro, wash in salad spinner, and spin dry or dry with paper towels.

Put the lettuce, black beans, tomatoes, and cilantro in a large salad bowl and toss with enough dressing to moisten all the ingredients.  Add the marinated chicken and toss to combine.  Divide into four bowls and top each with a generous amount of diced avocado.  Serve right away.

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South Beach/Low-Carb Suggestions:
This flavorful and low-glycemic salad would be approved for any phase of the South Beach Diet.  Don't overdo it on the dressing or the avocado if you're eating this for South Beach.  You can make this salad lower in carbs by omitting the black beans.

Phase One Flashbacks:
January 5, 2012:  Kalyn's Favorite Antipasto Chopped Salad
January 5, 2013:  Wake-up-Your-Mouth Thai Cucumber Salad

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Tasty Salad Ideas with Chicken:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)

Shredded Chicken Salad with Green Olives, Celery, and Green Onion ~ Kalyn's Kitchen

Sriracha Avocado Chicken Salad ~ The Lemon Bowl

Sandee's Sensational Asian Salad with Chicken and Cabbage ~ Kalyn's Kitchen

Mediterranean Chicken Salad ~ Simply Recipes

Kalyn and Mimi's Chicken Salad with Mustard and Cashews ~ Kalyn's Kitchen

(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!


  1. Sadly I don't live in a Cafe Rio part of the country (maybe we can remedy that!), because I love all of the flavors and textures going on in this salad. Even though I'm not crazy about cilantro, I can see that it's really key to making this salad sing.

  2. Lydia when you finally make it to see the new house, I promise a trip to Cafe Rio! In fact there is one close by so we can go more than once.

  3. I just went to Whole Foods to get the chicken for this recipe. I will make it tomorrow night. It looks delicious...and the dressing.
    As a treat, I will go to Cafe Rio this week...its been several years since I have eaten there.
    Thanks for reminding me.

  4. Wanda, hope you enjoy. I am a huge fan of Cafe Rio; eat there at least once a month if not more!

  5. Kalyn, I made the salad w/Rio dressing last night,and for me it was disappointing sorry to say. I don't have a food processor,so I chopped as fine as I could..maybe that had something to do w/it. This was my first try of tomatillos,and don't think I like them so maybe that was a part of my not enjoying. I write this because I always like to hear from those of us that have tried the recipe…certainly your recipes are wonderful for the most part,and my personal belief is it's important to keep trying new things. I thank you for being here for all of us.

  6. I do think it would be very difficult to make that dressing successfully without a food processor, because the tomatillo is ground up very finely in the dressing. Sorry you didn't enjoy it. Tomatillos are a southwestern staple, but everyone likes different things, I realize that.

  7. Thank you for this recipe I can't wait to try it!
    Cafe Rio salads are SO GOOD, but so heavy on calories, carbs and fat they have to be a special treat. I'll definitely be giving this a try!


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