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!

  16. 5 stars
    Thank you for these great recipes!
    Are the diced green chili cans the 4oz cans or the 7oz cans?
    Thanks!

  17. 5 stars
    I love this recipe, and I need to make it a few days in advance. Do I cook it and shred it and put it in the fridge or do I add the other ingredients before I put it in the fridge?

    1. I would add the other ingredients before putting it in the fridge. The flavors will soak into the meat.

  18. Thinking of making this for a big crowd and I’m wondering if I use 6 lbs of pork instead of the 2 listed would I also need to triple the other ingredients as well? I feel silly even asking but it’s just that would be an awful lot of brown sugar so I want to be sure. Thanks in advance!

    1. Yes, you would need to triple the other ingredients for there to be enough sauce for the meat. If you don’t, it will dry out.

  19. 5 stars
    Anytime we entertain, we make this! You can make a ton & everyone loves it. Our favorite is in salad!

  20. 5 stars
    I crave this pork all the time! We love Cafe Rio, but this recipe brings into our home, which is even better!

  21. 5 stars
    We make this sweet pork at least once a month if not more. It is a meal that my entire family enjoys. So much flavor and so tender! We put it on salad or make a burrito with it. SO GOOD!

  22. Hi! So excited to try this!! I got a slow cooker but its 4 qt – is it still possible? do I need to adjust recipe? Thanks!

        1. We haven’t tried it that way before, but my guess is that it would work! Let us know how it goes if you do try it!

    1. Has anyone tried this with diet coke even though it says not to in the recipe. Looking to try it for a more diabetic version using diet coke +lakanto sugar

      1. I use Stevia rootbeer or cola and it works just fine. I think the aspartame causes issues with this recipe. I also just use Lakanto, swerve, or Boca Sweet. Its amazing every time!

  23. So here’s my problem and frustration I looked at the total cook time that it suggests and it says 8 hours and 15 minutes total so I figured out when I needed to start it and I read further and found out that it’s actually 10 hours so now what because I am having five in about 8 hours from now.

    1. You should be able to get it done! You can cook the pork on high for 3-4 hours and then cook for two additional hours on low after you shred it. Hope this helps!

  24. 5 stars
    Thanks for the great recipe! Just FYI, old El Paso red sauce showed up on my GF app as containing traces of gluten. Hatch’s organic red enchilada sauce is labeled GF. Should be an easy swap. Maybe you’re been made aware, but since the recipe isn’t updated I thought I’d point it out

  25. Hello! For the diced green chiles, I am wondering, do you drain them first or just add them with all the juices? Thank you!

  26. 5 stars
    So I moved to Texas a little over a year ago and to my dispear ther 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. Everytime I eat it it’s like a warm homey feeling comes over me.

    1. I think the sweetener in diet sodas–usually aspartame–isn’t heat-stable, meaning if you cook with it, the sweetener breaks down and isn’t sweet anymore. There are some diet sodas that have stevia or sucralose that might be heat-stable, since you can cook with both of those sweeteners, as well as monkfruit, erythritol, and some others. I used 3/4 c. sucralose (such as Splenda) and 1/4 c. dark brown sugar and 2 cans of regular (not diet) left-over root beer today (I usually only have diet soda too.) We’ll see how it turns out.

      1. How did it turn out with the Splenda? I’m making it this weekend and considering making one or two crockpots with the original recipe and one with less calories (Splenda + some brown sugar as you’ve noted with either Coke Zero or Dr. Pepper Zero).

  27. 5 stars
    I love it! I’ve made it twice now and it is so close to the Cafe Rio Sweet Pork. I put it in the crock pot about midnight, then shred it in the morning and let it cook in the sauce, then I don’t have to rush if we have company!

  28. 5 stars
    Do you cook the pork for 8 hours on low PLUS an EXTRA 2 hours for the sauce or do you put the sauce in at the 6 hour mark with 2 hours left to cook?

    1. You cook the pork for 8 hours on low, and then an extra 2 hours with the sauce. So 10 hours total. It is a long time, but totally worth the wait! The pork comes out so so tender and the flavor is amazing!

    2. I made the ribs part in the instapot for 30 minutes on high pressure shredded it and then slow cooked for the 2 hours also in the instapot.

  29. 5 stars
    Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you actually understand
    what you’re talking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also visit my website =).
    We will have a hyperlink trade agreement between us

      1. Can I make this entire recipe a week ahead of time and then just reheat it. Or should I just do the initial 8 hour cook and wait to finish the 2 hour (after shred cook ) until right before I serve it?

        1. I think it’s best to make it all at once and then heat up the amount you need as you go throughout the week. It keeps very well in an airtight container in the fridge.

    1. 5 stars
      I have for one hour on the stew setting or med-high pressure. It turns out amazing! Perfect especially bc the pressure helps infuse the flavor if you didn’t marinade prior.
      Great option for cafe rio at home!

  30. 5 stars
    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.

  31. 5 stars
    Tastes just like the original! I will only use the recipes from this site now for anything Cafe Rio!!! AMAZING!!!

  32. 4 stars
    I’ve never tried the Cafe Rio original, but was really excited to try this recipe. The name is not kidding. It is REALLY sweet. I guess I was expecting a little more spice (not sure why) and this was almost too sweet … I felt I could serve this at a child’s birthday party and all the kids would love it. I had to do something to add a little more depth so I added some ketchup … regular, and then a few shots of spicy (my mom swears by ketchup in her sweet pork and that felt safer than adding hot sauce which would’ve been unchartered territory). That helped a little but I was still a little worried serving it as a dinner but I paired it with the pico de gallo mentioned in the links somewhere and a little sour cream to cut back on the sweetness, and a lot of fresh cilantro and that balanced it out very nicely. My boyfriend had his in a flour tortilla bowl with rice, cheddar, pico, sour cream and pork, and he liked it a lot too. Grilled asparagus went well on the side. What went from being an “oh crap! I killed all that great pork with way to much sweetness” to a surprisingly good meal. Again, never tried the original version, so I can’t speak to that, but, we really ended up enjoying this. Thanks!

  33. 5 stars
    First of all, I’ve made many of your recipes in the past & loved the ones I’ve made. I have never been one for sweets. I have had bar-b-que in the past, but very seldom, because most of it tasted overly sweet. Once in a great while, I would find some bar-b-que that was balanced just right between the sweet & the heat & would have a small serving. Due to my lack of interest in sweets, I’ve never been concerned regarding diabetes & because diabetes has never been in my family. Imagine my great shock, when 8 months to 1 yr. ago, I was diagnosed with Diabetes 2. When looking at the picture in my mind I had already rated its deliciousness @ 5 stars! I actually thought about trying this delicious looking & sounding recipe, that is until I added up the grams of sugar in every ingredient in this recipe. While only using 1 can of coke in the marinade the others are in the sauce. I checked out every ingredient in this dish & a total of 673 grams of sugar are infused into just 2 pounds of meat & sauce for this entire recipe. This is the first bar-b-que recipe that I’ve yearned to make myself in more than 5 full years & yet I can’t! However, I’m also positive you have other scrumptious dishes within your recipes that I will still make & enjoy. Please do not refuse to publish this comment, all of us need to realize the dangers of consuming excess sugar. IF I watch carefully what I eat & manage to continue to get my weight down, I only have 80 lbs. to go, I can possibly rid myself of Diabetes 2. The reason I wrote this is the fact that I felt secure I would never have diabetes & yet I have it. Even Diabetes 2 can cause loss of vision & other serious health problems if not found, treated & corrected. Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes I’ve made & enjoyed over the past year or so.
    Margo Haynes

    1. Hi Margo- we appreciate your concern and we are sorry to hear about the health problems you and your family are experiencing. For this recipe, you can absolutely cut down the amount of sugar. Plus, a lot of the sugar is discarded with the marinade. This is a copycat recipe have made it to taste just like the Cafe Rio sweet pork. It is quite sweet. If you would prefer a pork recipe with much less sugar, we have a delicious Kalua pork recipe that doesn’t have added sugar. Hope this helps!

    2. Type 2 diabetes isnt caused by sugar consumption. Check out ‘mastering diabetes’. Anyway, I have diabetes too and shared these concerns. Thanks for the comment.

      1. So. For the amount of coke, it calls for 36,72, or 108 ozs of coke but all 3 recipes say (3 cans). A 2 ltr coke is 67.6 oz of coke. There’s no way you would use almost 2- 2ltrs of coke for 6# of meat. What is the correct amount for each recipe???

        1. This Sweet Pork recipe only uses 36 ounces of coke. I am not sure where you are getting the other measurements from.

  34. 3 stars
    Yeah this tasted nothing like the cafe rio pork at all. I followed it exactly, and was pretty disappointed. I’ve tried some other cafe rio recipes from this (the rice and beans) and those have been really good, so I’m pretty bummed this turned out really bland. Oh well, the other recipes have been awesome though.

  35. 4 stars
    Mine is about an hour away from completion by the look of it.
    Ended up marinating it for two days because I didn’t have the time to get it into the crock pot between my doggo’s, fat cats and Remembrance Day/Veteran’s Day ceremonies yesterday for us Canucks.

    After the entire time on low the sauce seems to have gotten thinner. I don’t know if this is a difference in ambient atmosphere pressure and the fat leftover from the pork all being drained or perhaps the green chilis and enchilada sauce are more watery-
    Either way the sauce is more liquid than sauce to the point I have cracked the lid and turn up my slow cookers temperature to high to reduce it a little.

    Flavours are on par! My picky boyfriend will love this, the only reason I have rated it only 4/5 stars is simple because after following the instructions to the letter I am left with a watery sauce.

    1. Cook it for the same amount of time as it calls for in the recipe – low for 8 hours, then shred and add the sauce and cook on low for an additional 2 hours. Thank you for asking!

  36. I know this is an older recipe and I’m wanting to try it! I bought pre-cooked shredded pork. I’m wondering if you’ve tried that before and does it work just as well?

    1. Pre-cooked pork won’t have quite the same flavor as it hasn’t been cooked in the right flavorings. You can try marinating it in coke and brown sugar and then heating before serving. I’m not sure. I don’t think I have even seen pre-cooked shredded pork before (without BBQ sauce). Is that what you found?

  37. 5 stars
    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!

    1. Thank you so much for this kind comment! You seriously made my day 🙂 So happy to hear you are a long-time fan. Please keep coming back for more! We will do our best to keep the good recipes comin’ 😀

  38. 5 stars
    Hi, I just made this and it was so wonderful. There is no enchilada sauce here so I made my own, also no cans of green child’s so I sautéed some peppers that looked like Anaheim peppers and it worked nicely. This is my new go to recipe for pulled pork. Thank you!

  39. I would like to serve Sweet Pork Salad for a gathering of about 60 people. I’ve noticed your recipes don’t have serving quanities. How many people do these recipes serve? I’m commenting on the Sweet Pork recipe, but portions need to apply to all the salad ingredients: pork, rice, and black beans. (You may have answered this question already; I didn’t take the time to read through all the comments.) Also, I’d like to be able to prepare as much ahead as possible. I’m planning to make the meat ahead, freeze it and then put it in my roasting oven the morning of my event. How well will the rice do if I make it the day before, and then warm it up in big aluminum trays in the oven? I’m open for any other suggestions on how to efficiently serve this to a large crowd of people.
    thanks.

    1. All of the Cafe Rio recipes should serve about 4-6.. the pork can usually serve a little more though if you want to stretch it out (maybe 8 servings). We have never made the rice ahead of time so I am not sure how it will turn out. You will probably be fine, my only worry is that it will be a little dry. Just be sure to keep it sealed well if you do make it before. Let us know how it turns out!

  40. I would like to serve Sweet Pork Salad for a gathering of about 60 people. I’ve noticed your recipes don’t have serving quanities. How many people do these recipes serve? I’m commenting on the Sweet Pork recipe, but portions need to apply to all the salad ingredients: pork, rice, and black beans. (You may have answered this question already; I didn’t take the time to read through all the comments.)
    thanks.

    1. Yes, Pepsi will work just fine. It’s the carbonation that tenderizes the meat and the sugar that sweetens it. Thanks for asking!

  41. 5 stars
    I have made this recipe for a few years, and love it. Even though I’m not a Coke drinker (we just don’t drink a lot of soda), I keep 12-packs of caffeine-free Coke in my pantry for “Cafe Rio night.” But I’ve gotten lazy; let’s call it busy, it’ll make me feel better. I’ve gone to buying the precooked pulled pork at Costco, and putting it in the microwave with a little of all the ingredients. All the flavor without all the time… Everyone loves it. I throw rice in the rice maker with broth, lime, sugar & cilantro, open a can of black beans that are preseasoned with lime/peppers, and Bam. If I haven’t had time to make cilantro lime ranch ahead, everyone grabs the hidden valley and STILL loves it. We all choose if we want it in a tortilla or as a salad. Best mix of ingredients for a cafe rio taste!!!

  42. This recipe is really close to what an anonymous source at a certain restaurant told me, except he says they use an obscene amount of butter, and it’s Dr. Pepper instead of Coke. I did it his way and it tasted exactly the same as the restaurant. But this recipe is so close, I’d rather skip the butter and do it this way.

  43. Want to make this for a baby shower luncheon but there is a lot to do. Can I make the pork and freeze it ahead of time? Has anyone tried this and did the flavor/consistency of the pork suffer

    1. I always make a bunch of the pork when it goes on sale and freeze it. It is a family favorite and a staple at our house. Love the sweet pork. You won’t be disappointed when you thaw it out and reheat it.

      1. We haven’t tried it in the pressure cooker, so I can’t definitively say how it would affect the recipe. But let us know how it turns out if you try it!

  44. i have never eaten at Cafe Rio , so I can’t tell if the recipe was “spot on” or not, but I did enjoy it. I can’t wait to try it again. Next time I think I will cut down on the sugar a bit and use spicy enchilada sauce. It was very good and very easy to make. I used about 2.5 of pork butt . It came out so tender….

  45. we are so excited to try this recipe, we used to have a costa vida here in Maine and my husband and I ate there every other day, we loved the sweet pork and the cilantro lime vinaigrette. The only thing we can never find here is cotija cheese. Thanks for posting the recipe!

  46. This is light years away from being Cafe Rio’s sweet pork.
    1. Not dark enough — needs something to make it darker. Perhaps dark Karo syrup instead of brown sugar? Or add molasses..
    2. Needs more time to simmer. It isn’t broken down enough.

    1. Try these ideas out and let me know how it turns out! I haven’t had any complaints about it being broken down enough.. I don’t know what to tell you.

      1. You might have used the wrong cut of pork–if it doesn’t have enough fat on it, then it can turn out tougher and won’t shred well. I’ve had this happen before. I just used a pork roast I got from someone and it didn’t break down very well. However, I cooked it on low for a few more hours and it finally started to break down. I always cook my roasts (beef or pork) longer than stated in recipes so that the fibers break down…..it literally falls apart and is super tender! Good luck!

  47. I used Costco pork roast, coke zero, and splenda (I am diabetic). It worked perfectly! Thank you for this recipe!

  48. I was at costa Vida the other day and saw a lady come out from the kitchen and fill a bin with coke from the soda machine. I asked if that is what they cooked the pork in and she said “yes”. SOOOO excited to try your recipe. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  49. Just went to the store today to buy the cans of Coke and they looked a bit smaller than last I’ve seen them. Sure enough it’s in a 7.5 oz instead of all the other cans of pop that are in a 12 oz can. So that being said, do I use 36 oz or 22.5 oz?

    1. I always find it funny that Mormons love to make a Cafe Rio knock off with Coke in it (I am Mormon also, but have NEVER used Coke in the recipe.). Coke is definitely not necessary – or any other soda. Enchilada sauce also not needed. No need to marinate, that is just a waste of ingredients. Put all your ingredients into the slow cooker. Have only made a version of Cafe Rio Pork without Coke for 7 years (that is when we left Utah) and EVERYONE tells me that it is better than the original. It is highly requested. We stopped craving the original years ago. Be confident in your cooking and you will be surprised what you come up with.

      1. Actually, yes, the Coke is necessary. This recipe is for people who want to have the Cafe Rio Barbacoa Pork, not your altered recipe. It’s nice that everyone loves your recipe. WE love the original, with the COKE, and the SUGAR, and ENCHILADA SAUCE, and we are CONFIDENT everyone else will too.

  50. 5 stars
    Fantastic recipe! Have been playing around with various versions for a few years now and definitely like yours the best! I used a shoulder roast and it turned out fantastically. For a bit of a deeper spicy-ness I used chipotle peppers instead of green peppers and loved it. Thanks!

  51. 5 stars
    Mmm! Made this, and LOVED it! If I double it, will it need to cook longer on low? Or just around 8-10 hours on low?

  52. 5 stars
    Mmm! Made this, and LOVED it! If I double it, will it need to cook longer on low? Or just around 8-10 hours on low?

  53. @Mike and Heidi–
    If you double if you just might need a bigger crock pot.. the time should stay the same! Glad you liked it! This recipe is DEFINITELY one of my favorites!

  54. 5 stars
    I love Cafe Rios Sweet Pork!! Thanks for posting this recipe! I am totally trying this out… perhaps for SuperBowl!

  55. When you say pork rib meat… what is the actual cut of meat called that you buy? Pork shoulder? Pork Butt? I'm assuming you don't buy spare or baby back ribs and shred that meat… do you?

  56. @kimmyh – I have only used Coke because I know that is what Cafe Rio uses. I have heard of others using Dr. Pepper though and it turning out fine. I don't think it will make that huge of a difference.

  57. Do you have to use Coke or can you use Dr Pepper? It is pretty sweet; maybe less brown sugar, if so, at least for the marinade. I wanted to start today and cannot get to the store for Coke.

  58. Thanks for sharing this. We love it. We combine the first and second steps together, I cook it in the marinade, brown sugar and garlic. and then I just mix the enchilada sauce and chilis into that sauce. Why toss perfectly good sugar and Coke? It may not taste the exact same but my hubs still raves about it and it's easier. I use caffine free Coke too.

    I've used green enchilada sauce too I just added some tomato paste to get the flavor and color, still tasted great!

  59. 5 stars
    This recipe is fabulous! Thanks for sharing. I even tried it with chicken to see how it would turn out, and it was delicious!!

  60. 5 stars
    I just found your blog and I love it already. I am making the cafe rio pork right now and I am also going to make the dressing and rice!

  61. 5 stars
    I just found your blog and I love it already. I am making the cafe rio pork right now. I am so excited. I'm going to make the dressing and rice now too!

  62. I've had this recipe bookmarked for a while, but haven't ever gotten around to making it, until today. I looked for caffeine free coke, but the store was out. I tried root beer instead, and yeah, it didn't work so well. It tasted fine, but the meat definitely had a root beer taste! So just a warning for anyone else out there, don't use root beer!

  63. Ya know, I have only had the pinto beans once. I wonder if you added cilantro and green chilies to the beans that maybe they would taste similar? And if you are making them from scratch, use chicken broth?

  64. So I moved away about 8 months ago to sc and there is a missionary in my ward. Every Sunday we talk about how good Cafe Rio "was". I told him we could escape and drive 11 hours up to DC and come right back after eating at the new Cafe Rio in MD. However, I don't think that will work. So, I found this on line and was wondering if you ever figured out the Pinto Bean recipie? I like black beans but they don't like me and so I had converted to the Pintos the last couple of years. Let me know and thanks for the post!!

  65. Hi Erica, love your recipes… I haven't ever seen sliced green chilies so is it actually a can of diced green chilies that you use? I did find a can of whole green chilies that I can slice if need be. Just want it to be perfect. Thanks!

  66. @ Nate– I have never tried it with green. I don't know how it would affect it. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

  67. You probably want to double the recipe. Last time we made it, it fed 6 comfortably. I am sure by doubling it, you will be able to feed 12 easily.

  68. I was wondering how many salads you usually get out of this recipe. I'm making dinner for 12 and am wondering if I need to double it or how much I need to make! Thank You!

  69. Hillary-
    I usually do make the ranch and rice the day before. I make the beans the same day just because I don't like them mushy.

  70. I was wondering if I could make the pork, beans, and dressing a few days before I need them and they will store okay and still taste good?

  71. light sugar (if you like a richer flavor use dark though)
    and RED enchilada sauce.
    Hope you like it!!

    Erica

  72. I just found this recipe and am excited to try it! I do have a few questions, though, if you don't mind.

    Do you use light or dark brown sugar?
    Do you use red or green enchilada sauce?

    Thanks for posting your hard work for us to enjoy! 🙂

  73. Hey Holler Hinckleys:
    I think in the burrito, they put the lime rice and beans and they top it with your choice of sauce when they do it enchilada style. You either want to make your own tortilla shells or try to find the biggest ones you can at your local store. Good luck! Let me know how they turn out!

  74. I'm so excited to make this Sweet Pork! I am actually wanting to make the Sweet Pork Burrito… Any suggestions??? It has been a long time since I've had Cafe Rio, so I'm not sure what all goes in or on them. I hope you can help… Thanks!

  75. It doesn't need to cover the pork completely. It should be fine, you don't want it too thin. If you are still worried about it– add more brown sugar and coke.
    Let me know how it turns out!

  76. I am in the middle of cooking the pork right now. . .as I type. I'm worried that there isn't enough liquid in the pot. Should it cover the pork completely? I got 6lbs of meat for our family party tonight.

    Thanks!

  77. Would there be enough room in a large crockpot to double this recipe? My husband's family is coming in to town and we need to feed his family of 8 plus us!

  78. we have used nothing but the costco pork and it has shredded and worked great every time… you should give it a try..

  79. 5 stars
    So I just finished making the pork and well, it's pretty close. It's been 1 year today since my last Cafe Rio and we thought we would remember it by trying this recipe. Thanks for posting it, yummy.

  80. I'm about ready to try this recipe tonight – I've never been able to get the exact Cafe Rio taste so I hope this is it. I do want to mention that after extensive research and discussions with butchers – the boston or pork butt is the best cut to use. Note – it's name has to do with the shape rather than the location – it's not really the "butt". I've never used the rib meat – hopefully it's as tender. According to the butcher it's not but who knows. The only thing I DO know is NEVER use a pork roast – especially the Costco pork roast. The reason is that a pork roast has NO fat and is the most lean cut and will never become tender and shred. The costco pork roast is really high quality so it has even less fat. I made this mistake recently when a grocery store advertised a boston butt for a great price and I was making a hawaiian Kaluha pork for a luau. The cut looked a bit different than I was used to but I cooked it anyway. When it had cooked for 8 hours it was rubbery and non shreddable so I called the store only to discover it had been mismarked and I had actually used a pork roast. What a nightmare!

    1. I’ve never used pork butt before but I have some in my freezer right now. Should I trim any of the fat? Or just use the whole cut in the crock pot? It sounds like a delicious alternative to the traditional rib meat and I would like to give it a try!

      1. I have always used a Costco boneless pork loin and it shreds very well! You have to cook it in the crock pot for a while first and then shred,. It’s easy to do after it’s cooked!

    2. I believe the “BUTT” is the Ham!! lol But who am I to say….cuz I sure am not a butcher. I believe a butcher told me many yrs ago that the butt was the ham. Y’all have a great rest of the week and since I live in a motel…this is the perfect recipe for me being as I don’t have an oven….but DO have a slow cooker. Cannot wait….we don’t have that restaurant in IL where I live…but I do soooo love pork.

  81. What size can of chopped green chilies and enchilada sauce did you use? I just bought all the ingredients for the entire recipe today, and don't want to destroy it 🙂

  82. 5 stars
    I made the pork, salad dressing, and beans today for our Memorial Day picnic. It was fantastic and everyone loved it! Thank you for the recipe.I have 1 question, is it really necessary to drain the marinade before you put it in the crockpot and start over with a new coke?

    1. I know that this is a couple years later… But for anyone else wondering this same question…. Throw away the marinade! Holy bacteria city!! Never ever try to heat or boil down a marinade that has had raw meat in it! To save yourself from getting a horrible food born illness, just throw away the marinade and start over with a new sauce to thicken!

      1. Oh good grief. If you bring the marinade up to temperature (160F) for at least 5 min it will kill any bacteria. How do you think the bacteria is killed in the meat itself?

        1. Debbie… that has to be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. You are putting new coke on RAW Meat when you put it in the crock pot… the hole point of crock pot cooking is to slow cook your food to allow your food to soak up the most possible flavor. Therefore your New “sanitary” coke is going to sit on uncooked meat and thereby becoming as you state Bacteria city… Nancy is absolutely correct as long as you bring your meat to 160F it will kill any bacteria both in your marinade and your meat. So Amy to answer your question no you do not have to start over with new coke as long as you allowed your meat to marinade in the refrigerator.

          1. Nothing like a bit of ‘helpful’ advice. Perhaps next time you guys can be kind. Just a thought. Anonymous posting can turn us into animals.

          2. Awwww, hey! Be nice. I was always taught to toss out the marinade, too. Food-bourne illness is not really something to scoff at. “Many people don’t know it, but some foodborne illnesses can actually lead to long-term health conditions, and 3,000 Americans a year die from foodborne illness.” (foodsafety.gov) When in doubt, toss it out. But hey! If it doesn’t bother you, or the people eating your food that you don’t toss your marinade…then who am I to say? Besides, according to that website, the temperature is the main thing to be concerned with, so I suppose that if you marinade in the fridge (please, yes) then cook it all up right away…thennnnnn…ehhhh? I can’t see it becoming a huge issue as long as leftovers are refrigerated right away. But as for me and my house…I’m a tosser-outer. Raw meat fuh-reaks me heck out! Anyways, I’m gonna try this recipe right now, ‘cept I don’t have time for the marinade part. Wish me luck!

        2. LMAO….You are so very right! If heated high enough any bacteria will be killed and totally eliminated. Took food safety classes and used to cook in a restaurant.

          1. I’m not one for posting, but I saw the debate about marinades. I have a degree in microbiology, so I thought I’d share a little. The issue with bacteria is not the bacteria themselves, but what they leave behind when they metabolize.

            Bacteria consume sugars, fats and proteins and leave behind poisons, which is why it is called “food poisoning” and not “food infection.”

            These poisonous by-products are not affected by high temperatures and can make you sick even after long periods of high heat. Broths and foods such as potato salad are ideal for rapid bacterial growth. That’s the science behind it… do what you may with the info 🙂

  83. 5 stars
    Wow, my wife tried this out last night and it was amazing. It was exactly right. I nearly shed tears of joy. Thanks!

  84. I used a boneless Pork roast from costco….Thanks for the advice. I think I will make it again tomorrow night.

  85. Hmmm, I have no idea what to tell you. I actually did my pork on low for about 10 hours the last time I made it. Then when I drained it and added the other ingredients, I let it simmer on low another 3 hours. Maybe that will make a difference. I like to shred it up a lot when I add those other ingredients so the flavor is really absorbed by the pork. Maybe that will help! Sorry it didn’t turn out! Oh… another thing, I use the boneless pork RIB meat (I will add that to the posting so it is more clear on what kind of pork to use). Is that what you used?

  86. Erica, I’m not sure what I did wrong but…it just didn’t taste quite right. I tried it a couple of weeks ago. Dont get me wrong it was still good and we still did the whole salad but, something wasn’t write. Maybe it was to dry…but there was liquid surrounding it the whole time. And it certainly didn’t look like yours. Maybe I needed to shred it better….or maybe I cooked it to long and it didn’t shred so easily.
    Any ideas? I would love to make it again.

    1. Not to take away from Erica’s yummy recipe, but I found a very easy way to make the pork that is sure to taste like the real thing and use less ingredients. I made it for my sister and brother-in-law… They loved it!!! … And they’ve never been to Cafe Rio. 🙂 I’m actually in the middle of searching for it again to make for some guests. I don’t remember the exact proportions as I haven’t found the recipe yet. I do know however, the pulled pork sauce is just Pace Pecante Sauce and brown sugar. And it’s super sweet and tangy just like the real thing! I’m sure just adding those two ingredients in the google search bar will help me find out more about this amazing dish and its simple steps. 🙂 hope that helps a bit!

      1. I’d like to add, however, that is the cheater version and I respect Erica’s version of the real thing 😉 I’m sure it’s amazing!!

          1. Your recipes sound delicious. I just wanted to note that “marinate” is the verb, what you do to soak the meat in a preparation, and “marinade” is the preparation you put it in. I see the terms often confused.

    2. The pork should be simmered with coke, a veggie bag( yellow onions, serrano peppers, dried peppers, and carrots all wrapped in cheesecloth), spices and some sugar. When the pork is tender is should be shredded. The pork should be placed in a bag, then topped with sugar, then with (cold) red enchilada sauce(dried chile peppers boiled, cooled, blended and strained in the morning, add spices, caramelized onions, cornstarch to thicken, and then strained again), and hot pork broth last. The bag is stapled shut, and then placed in an ice bath overnight. It must be 40 degrees or lower. It is cooked with some butter in a saucepan until it reaches 165 degrees.

      It is impossible to get any recipe to taste just like at Cafe Rio at home. Our handmade lemonades can be replicated, but that is about it. Every item has secret spices and the employees don’t even know what is in the. Exact measurements are followed that cannot be changed. This is our procedure without any exact measurements.

      -Cafe Rio Manager

      1. Wow! THANK YOU for sharing! 😀 That is a pretty intense process! So about that lemonade recipe… 😉

        1. Strawberry lemonade:
          blended strawberries, fresh lemon juice, Stevia, & water
          Mint limeade:
          boiled mint-strained, minute maid lemonade concentrate, fresh lemon juice, fresh lime juice, sugar & water
          Southwest limeade:
          (pretty standard recipe from mexico)
          Boiled Jamaica flowers (hibiscus), fresh lime juice, sugar, & water

          1. What about the tortillas? I can’t seem to get tortillas right, and I’ve never been to a place that has tortillas as good as Cafe Rio’s, they are incredible!

        1. I agree, the one from the restaurant sounds too complicated…..Thanks, but I’ll just use this recipe. I just started it my instant pot half hour ago. Can’t wait!!!

      2. The pork should be simmered with coke, a veggie bag( yellow onions, serrano peppers, dried peppers, and carrots all wrapped in cheesecloth), spices and some sugar. When the pork is tender is should be shredded. The pork should be placed in a bag, then topped with sugar, then with (cold) red enchilada sauce(dried chili peppers boiled, cooled, blended and strained in the morning, add spices, caramelized onions, cornstarch to thicken, and then strained again), and hot pork broth last. A bag is stapled shut, and then placed in an ice bath overnight. It must be 40 degrees or lower. It is cooked with some butter in a saucepan until it reaches 165 degrees.
        It is impossible to get any recipe to taste just like at Cafe Rio at home. Our handmade lemonades can be replicated, but that is about it. Every item has secret spices and the employees don’t even know what is in the. Exact measurements are followed that cannot be changed. This is our procedure without any exact measurements.
        -Cafe Rio Manager

        Please let me translate.

        Simmer a pork but in Coke and a cheese cloth bag containing: (sliced yellow onions, 4 chopped serrano peppers, 4 dried Guajillo peppers, 4 dried new Mexico peppers, and 4 chopped carrots), and a spice blend of garlic powder, dried oregano, cumin powder, salt and pepper. Cook until pork is fall apart tender.
        Then make red enchilada sauce or use Las Palmas enchilada sauce in a 24 oz. can. Add to the sauce caramelized onions, more spice blend, and thicken with corn starch. Strain.
        Shred pork and place in a big zip lock.
        Add to the bag of shredded pork, the finished enchilada sauce and seal bag. Put bag in a big bowl of ice water and set in fridge overnight.
        Remove pork mixture from bag to a Dutch oven and warm to 165 degrees.
        Serve over cilantro lime rice and beans.

    3. If it does not shred easily, keep cooking it. When it has cooked enough, it will fall apart if you stick a fork in it. Shredding should be easy

    4. something that can always help add flavor and juiciness to meats that you plan on slow cooking is searing them/browning them before you put them in the crock pot.
      it does take a bit more effort but you wont regret it!

    1. I cooked a bunch of pork (slow cooker with basic seasoning) but ended up making way too much so froze a bunch and now looking for ways to use it. do you think there is a way to try this out and make cafe rio salads? what do you think would work skipping marinate but cooking frozen pork with the rest of the ingredients in a slow cooker until warm?

      1. Yes you can do any of that. You can totally reheat in a slow cooker and add the Cafe Rio ingredients. After you shred it up, give it a taste. If you need to add more brown sugar or enchilada sauce to bring out the flavors you can 🙂 Hope this helps!