How many calories are in a salad from Cafe Rio?

Cafe Rio is a popular fast-casual Mexican grill restaurant chain that serves burritos, tacos, salads, and other Tex-Mex style dishes. Their menu offers a variety of salad options, ranging from simpler side salads to more substantial entree salads topped with meat, beans, cheese, and other ingredients. For health-conscious diners watching their calorie intake, knowing the calorie content of Cafe Rio’s salads can help inform menu choices. In this article, we will provide an overview of the different salad options at Cafe Rio and examine the calorie counts for each.

Overview of Cafe Rio Salad Options

Cafe Rio offers the following main salad entrees on their menu:

  • Ensalada Fresca – Mixed greens, black beans, corn, jicama, red bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, and citrus vinaigrette.
  • Baja Chicken Salad – Mixed greens, black beans, corn, jicama, red bell peppers, grilled adobo chicken, avocado, tortilla strips, and Santa Fe dressing.
  • Santa Fe Salad – Mixed greens, black beans, grilled adobo chicken, red bell peppers, sweet corn, avocado, tortilla strips, and Santa Fe dressing.
  • Taco Salad – Mixed greens, grilled adobo chicken or ground beef, black beans, corn, diced Roma tomatoes, cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and tortilla strips. Served in a crispy tortilla bowl.

In addition, they offer several smaller side salad options:

  • House Salad – Mixed greens, carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and choice of dressing.
  • Caesar Salad – Romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese, croutons, and Caesar dressing.
  • Fruit Salad – Seasonal fresh fruit.

Dressings available for salads include Santa Fe dressing, lime vinaigrette, ranch, Caesar, and citrus vinaigrette.

Calorie Counts for Cafe Rio Salads

To determine the calorie content of Cafe Rio salads, we examined the nutritional information provided on their website. Here is an overview of the calorie counts for each salad option:

Entree Salads

Salad Calories
Ensalada Fresca 440
Baja Chicken Salad with dressing 710
Santa Fe Salad with dressing 740
Taco Salad with ground beef 790
Taco Salad with chicken 670

As you can see, calorie counts for the entree salads range from 440 calories for the veggie Ensalada Fresca to 790 calories for the Taco Salad with ground beef. The addition of ingredients like tortilla strips, cheese, meat, beans, and dressing increases the calorie content of the salads.

Side Salads

Salad Calories
House Salad 80
Caesar Salad 420
Fruit Salad 80

The lighter side salads like the House Salad and Fruit Salad are around 80 calories. The Caesar Salad tops 400 calories due to the inclusion of dressing, cheese, and croutons.

So in summary, calorie counts for Cafe Rio salads range from 80 calories for simple side salads up to 790 calories for an entree Taco Salad loaded with higher calorie ingredients. Being mindful of dressing choices and picking vegetable focused options like the Ensalada Fresca can help reduce the calorie content of your salad.

Tips for Ordering a Lower Calorie Salad at Cafe Rio

Here are some tips for ordering a salad at Cafe Rio with fewer calories:

  • Choose a vegetable focused salad like the Ensalada Fresca which only has 440 calories.
  • For the Taco Salad or other salads with meat, opt for grilled chicken instead of higher fat ground beef to cut calories.
  • Order dressing on the side and use sparingly to control how much gets added.
  • Skip high calorie toppings like tortilla strips, cheese, and sour cream.
  • Ask for the salad without avocado or guacamole to remove a high fat ingredient.
  • Select a lighter dressing like the citrus vinaigrette or lime vinaigrette instead of creamier Caesar or Santa Fe dressing.
  • Order one of the lower calorie side salads like the House Salad with light dressing.
  • Enhance the salad with lower calorie additions like salsa, pico de gallo, or fresh lime.

Following these tips can lead to a satisfying Cafe Rio salad in the 400 to 700 calorie range, rather than going up towards 800 calories or more.

Nutritional Benefits of Cafe Rio Salads

While salads from Cafe Rio can range in calorie content, they provide a number of beneficial nutrients:

  • Fiber – Beans, vegetables, greens, and grains like corn and jicama supply fiber for healthy digestion.
  • Vitamin C – Peppers, tomatoes, and citrus vinaigrette provide this immune boosting vitamin.
  • Vitamin A – Leafy greens and red bell peppers contain this vision supporting nutrient.
  • Potassium – Avocados and beans offer potassium to regulate fluid balance.
  • Protein – Ingredients like grilled chicken and black beans add satisfying protein.
  • Iron – Spinach and other greens provide iron to support circulation.

So along with careful calorie consideration, the vegetables, beans, greens, and lean proteins in a Cafe Rio salad provide valuable vitamins, minerals, fiber, and more. A salad can be a nutritious part of your meal.

Comparing Cafe Rio Salad Calories to Other Restaurant Salads

How do the calorie counts of Cafe Rio salads compare to salads from other major restaurant chains? Here is a look at typical calorie ranges for salads from several popular restaurants:

Restaurant Calorie Range for Salads
McDonald’s 220 – 730 calories
Wendy’s 260 – 660 calories
Subway 60 – 760 calories
Panera Bread 260 – 760 calories
Chipotle 400 – 1000 calories

The calorie ranges for salads at Cafe Rio generally align with salad offerings at other fast casual chains like Panera Bread or Chipotle. Lighter side salads come in around 200-300 calories, while entree salads range from 400-800+ calories depending on toppings and dressings. Across most chains, ordering a veggie focused salad with light dressing is the best bet for lowering calories. Cafe Rio’s 440 calorie Ensalada Fresca salad would be a comparable lower calorie option to salads at other restaurants.


When dining at Cafe Rio, calorie counts for salads range widely based on ingredients and toppings selected. Simple side salads like the House Salad clock in around 80 calories, while heftier entrees like the 790 calorie Taco Salad with beef can top nearly 800 calories. Choosing vegetable focused options like the Ensalada Fresca and opting for lighter dressings and toppings can lower the calorie content. Cafe Rio salads can provide fiber, vitamins, and other valuable nutrients along with calories. With mindful ordering, it’s possible to enjoy Cafe Rio’s salad options while still hitting a reasonable calorie target for your meal.

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