Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe

4.91 from 123 votes
213 Comments

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This Cafe Rio Sweet Pork recipe tastes JUST like the original. It has been a fan-favorite on our site since 2007. When you make it you will see why!

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

Fun Fact: The first Cafe Rio opened in St. George, Utah in 1997 and I was there the first week it opened. It was an INSTANT hit because of the delicious food and had lines out the door every day for years. The first day I went, remember asking them what the best thing on the menu was and they said “the sweet pork, by far”. So I got the sweet pork burrito with black beans and the green enchilada sauce (yes, I still remember my first order like it was yesterday) and I was hooked. I had never tasted anything like it in my life and I didn’t venture away from that exact order for at least 10 years. When I moved away from Utah and didn’t have a Cafe Rio nearby I knew I needed to create a copycat so I could survive. So I did.

I got the recipe by simply going to Cafe Rio and asking them what was in the sweet pork. The workers told me all the ingredients and I went home and figured out the amounts to get it just right. It didn’t take long before I had it down and shared it here on Favorite Family Recipes. I originally shared this recipe back in 2007, and it has been the most popular Cafe Rio copycat recipe on the internet since, and for good reason. It tastes just like the original! The pork is tender and juicy, with the perfect amount of sweetness. You are going to love it!

How to Make Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

  1. First, marinate the pork in a marinade made from Coke and brown sugar. It will need to marinate for at least 4 hours, but it’s best overnight.
  2. Next, drain off the marinade and add the put pork, some more Coke, water, and garlic salt in a slow cooker on high for about 3-4 hours or on low for 8 hours. The meat should shred easily but not be dry.
  3. Remove the pork and shred it using 2 forks. Discard the remaining liquids.
  4. In a food processor or blender, blend ½ a can of Coke, chilies, enchilada sauce, and 1 cup brown sugar. If the mixture looks too thick, add more Coke little by little. Taste the sauce to check the sweetness, adding more brown sugar if necessary. Put shredded pork and sauce in a slow cooker and cook on low for 2 hours. If you are in a hurry you can put it all in a deep walled skillet and cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens.

The Secret to Tender Pork? Low and Slow

My favorite way to make this pork is cooking it in the Crock Pot. I can just throw it all in the pot and forget about it. The pork cooks all day in the slow cooker which makes the meat tender and easy to shred. It also makes the house smell SO good! I always make a big batch of this sweet pork so I can use it in multiple recipes throughout the week, I also find myself snacking on it straight out of the fridge. It’s that good!

Try it In the Instant Pot

Short on time? Throw all the ingredients in the Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for 60 minutes. Natural release for 20 minutes. If using pork ribs or pork chops, the time can be reduced to 40 minutes. For larger pork roasts you may need to add more time. The pork should shred easily after cooking. If the pork is still tough, place back in the Instant Pot for another 10-20 minutes depending how much more time you think it needs. After shredding, put the Instant Pot on the “sauté” setting and cook until the sauce thickens to your preference.

What Kind of Pork Is Best?

For this sweet pork recipe, it’s best to use boneless pork ribs, pork shoulder, pork roast, or pork butt. These cuts are well-marbled and tender, which makes them great for slow cooking and getting perfectly shreddable pork.

A tortilla filled with cheese, rice, beans, and pork


Ways to Use Sweet Pork

Sweet pork is my favorite meat at Cafe Rio. I love it! When prepared correctly, it practically melts in your mouth. With this recipe, you can now have the amazing taste of Cafe Rio Pork at home – all you need is a few simple ingredients and a crock pot. Once it’s shredded and ready to go, use it as a topping or filling in any of the following ways:

A sweet pork burrito in a metal tin

More Copycat Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipes

Use this cafe rio pork recipe to re-create any of these cravable Cafe Rio menu items:

Reader Reviews

We have received many rave reviews on this sweet pork recipe. This pork is the real deal! We are thrilled that so many of you have enjoyed this recipe as much as we have.

“So I moved to Texas a little over a year ago and to my despair there isn’t a Cafe Rio for 500 miles. I love the pork Barbacoa burrito and have not been able to recreate it or find some thing close to it here in Texas until this recipe thank you for posting this. Every time I eat it, it’s like a warm homey feeling comes over me.” – Kamie

“I had my doubts because the ingredients seem so random, but we love this recipe and have done it with and without marinade several times. A++ both ways.” – Jessica

“THIS WAS ABSOLUTELY SPOT. ON. tastes amazing leftover too!!!!!” – Jared

“We love, love, love this recipe! We have made it for several years now and it surely is a treat! I love your blog and haven’t ever been disappointed! I make LOTS when I make it and freeze it…tastes just as good when thawed! Also the dressings freeze well too! Thanks for your time and talent!”– Misti

Read More: 33+ Easy Dinner Ideas

More Cafe Rio Recipes

A few more Cafe Rio / Costa Vida Recipes

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe

4.91 from 123 votes
Unlock the secret to replicating the mouthwatering magic of Cafe Rio's Sweet Pork with this easy tried-and-true copycat recipe!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Marinating Time 4 hours
Total Time 14 hours 15 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Mexican/Spanish
Servings 10

Video

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds pork (boneless ribs or pork roast will work great)
  • 3 (12-ounce) cans Coca-Cola (not diet)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • dash garlic salt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 can diced green chilies
  • 1 (10-ounce) red enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Instructions

  • Put the pork in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag to marinate. Add about a can and a half of Coke and ¼ cup of brown sugar. Marinate for 4 hours or overnight.
    Boneless pork ribs marinating in a bag
  • Drain the marinade and put pork, ½ can of Coke, water, and garlic salt in a slow cooker on high for about 3-4 hours or on low for 8 hours. (You want the meat to shred easily, but not be too dry.)
    Boneless pork ribs cooking in a crock pot
  • Remove pork from the slow cooker and discard any liquid left in the pot. Shred pork.
    Shredded pork on a cutting board
  • In a food processor or blender, blend ½ a can of Coke, chilies, enchilada sauce, and 1 cup brown sugar. If the mixture looks too thick, add more Coke little by little. Put shredded pork and sauce in a slow cooker and cook on low for 2 hours.
    Shredded Cafe Rio Sweet Pork in a crock pot

Notes

  • Instant Pot Instructions: Throw all the ingredients in the Instant Pot and pressure cook on high for 60 minutes. Natural release for 20 minutes. If using pork ribs or pork chops, the time can be reduced to 40 minutes. For larger pork roasts you may need to add more time. The pork should shred easily after cooking. If the pork is still tough, place it back in the Instant Pot for another 10-20 minutes depending on how much more time you think it needs. After shredding, put the Instant Pot on the “sauté” setting and cook until the sauce thickens to your preference.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until heated through.
  • Leftovers can also be frozen in freezer Ziplock bags for up to 5 months. 

Nutrition Information

Calories: 395kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 16gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 354mgPotassium: 310mgFiber: 1gSugar: 38gVitamin A: 210IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 42mgIron: 1mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her three beautiful girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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4.91 from 123 votes (75 ratings without comment)

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Comments

  1. Overall a good recipe, unfortunately, it was too sweet for me. I had a huge pork shoulder and another smaller picnic that I separated into two bags of 2 lb ea. For marinating. Then combined and doubled the rest of the ingredients in a large crockpot for the rest of the recipe. I will cut the sugar in half next time. But will make again with modification.

  2. Question! Just put it in the crock pot and I want to make sure you want me to throw away (drain off) all that marinade?? The 1/2 coke and 1/4 water doesn’t seem like enough liquid..

  3. 5 stars
    I’ve come back to (and made) this recipe three times now, and it’s so spot on. If you want it to creep even closer to Cafe Rio/Costa Vida, add 1-3 tablespoons of taco seasoning (to taste).

  4. 5 stars
    This truly is THE copycat recipe. Wow. I live on the east coast, so I don’t have access to Cafe Rio as often as I’d like. This recipe helps transport me there, and it’s incredible. My whole family loves it, and we’re forever obsessed. LOVE! Thanks for this!

  5. For the instant pot recipe when you say put all ingredients in, which ones are you talking about? It yields a large sauce at the end and the portions are different from the slow cooker method.

  6. Hi I’m about to make this recipe with a 6 pork butt shoulder and have pressed 3x at the top of your recipe . Is it still only 3 cans of Coke total ?

    1. Some ingredients aren’t exact enough to be counted correctly in the 3x option – follow the amount of ounces, not the number of cans

  7. 5 stars
    The sweet pork is so sweet and delicious and I love it so much and I love it so much and I love it so much I just love it so much

      1. The link on the recipe leads to a 4-ounce can of green chilis, which is more common. So which is it, 4-oz or 8-oz? Thanks!

        1. My apologies, the last comment was a mistake. It is a 4-ounce can. I have edited the comment to reflect that.

  8. 5 stars
    Awesome recipe. The only change I made was that I used a bone in pork shoulder and a 2 liter bottle of coke. Nice and fatty which makes the pork SO tender. I cooked the pork in the same Coke that I marinated in over night. AMAZING.

  9. 4 stars
    I have to say that the flavor is spot on and great, but the pork was super dry and I shred it at the 7.5 hour mark. Does it make a difference if you use pork ribs vs pork chops? The meat was tough and hardened on top when I checked it after 7.5 hours on low.

    1. It could have been that you had an extra lean cut of pork without much fat. It usually shreds very easily. Next time you can add a little oil over the top of the pork or try to get a fattier piece of meat. Hope this helps!

  10. 5 stars
    This was phenomenal!! I followed the recipe exact and it turned out so good. What was even better is that boneless pork ribs were only $1.99 a pound. You can’t buy any meat for that cheap anymore! Let alone for a delicious meal! My husband is going to asking for this a lot in the future. It takes planning and prepping to start the night before, but it was pretty hands off compared to other recipes.

  11. Cook time should state 10 hrs and not 8. I planned and prepped, started the process and allotted for 8 hrs, as top of recipe states but did not realize until it was too late there was additional 2 hours. I missed this because I was doing all the other recipes as well. Alot of prep work but was delicious.

    1. Thanks for catching that! I have updated the total time to include the extra cook time and the marinating time.

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you. I love the copycat cafe rio recipes. I have another request if possible. Are you able to add to your Cafe Rio group of recipes a shopping list of some sort we can print, listing all the ingredients but we would have to fill in the quantity ourselves? I pretty much make all the recipes for this meal for family parties and everyone loves it!! :o)

  12. This recipe looks delicious! Is the additional 2 hours of cooking (step 4) necessary after the meat has already cooked 8 hours?

    1. It’s up to you. The extra two hours gives the shredded meat a chance to soak up more of the marinade. Thanks for asking!

  13. Is there anyway to use store bought pulled pork to speed up the recipe? I have about four hours. Otherwise will try again when I have more time. Thanks. Sounds delicious. Ann

  14. Do you mean a 12 oz can or a 16.9 oz bottle? I just want to make sure I’m using correct measurements. Thanks!

  15. 5 stars
    I tried this tonight to make sweet pork nachos and it was delicious! Added some lettuce, corn salsa, pico, and cotija cheese and it was so, so good!

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