Cafe Rio {Copycat} Sweet Pulled Pork

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The hardest part about moving to North Carolina is they don’t have any Cafe Rio’s. We tried to prepare ourselves for this by going every week before we came, but I still am having major withdrawals. I have tried at least 5 different Cafe Rio Recipes and I finally found the one. It is a little bit of a process, but I had fun doing it and it was totally worth it! This recipe tastes EXACTLY like I am eating at Cafe Rio! And then with the Cilantro Ranch over my salad. I have died.

Everyone always requests my homemade cornbread with this. And if you are looking for a little easier recipe try my other sweet pulled pork.  A little tangier than sweet but they are both amazing!

Rating: 5 stars Difficulty of Recipe: 5 stars (worth it all)
Things that I changed:  Nothing
Things I would do differently next time:  The recipe calls for 2 pounds of pork. With the sauce you could put 3-4.
Will I make it again?  Yes
Recipe from: Favorite Family Recipes

Cafe Rio (Copy Cat) Sweet Pulled Port on salad.

Ingredients for Sweet Pulled Pork Salad:

  • 6 large Tortillas (click HERE)
  • Shredded cheese, Mexican blend
  • Cafe Rio Rice (Click HERE)
  • Cafe Rio Black Beans (Click HERE)
  • Cafe Rio Sweet Pork
  • Lettuce (NOT iceberg, use leafy green or Romaine)
  • Diced tomato, onion, and cilantro (pico de gallo)
  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla Strips (Click HERE)
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled (or you can use Parmesan)
  • Cafe Rio Cilantro Ranch (click HERE)
  • OR Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
  • Ingredients for Sweet Pulled Pork:


    • 2 pounds pork (we use boneless pork rib meat)
    • 3 cans Coke (NOT diet)
    • ¼ c. brown sugar
    • dash garlic salt
    • ¼ c. water
    • 1 can diced green chilies
    • ¾ (10oz) can red enchilada sauce (I use Old El Paso brand, medium spiciness but any will work)
    • 1 c. brown sugar




Put the pork in a heavy duty Ziploc bag to marinade. Add about a can and a half of coke and about ¼ c. of brown sugar. Marinade for a few hours or overnight.
Drain marinade and put pork, ½ can of coke, water, and garlic salt in crock pot on high for about 3-4 hours (or until it shreds easily, but don’t let it get TOO dry). Remove pork from crock pot and drain any liquid left in the pot. Shred pork.
In a food processor or blender, blend ½ can Coke, chilies, enchilada sauce and remaining brown sugar (about a cup, you can add a little more or less to taste..). If it looks too thick, add more Coke little by little. Put shredded pork and sauce in crock pot and cook on low for 2 hours. That’s it!

Sweet Pulled Pork on a tortilla in a tin.

Alyssa Rivers

I am Alyssa and the blogger behind The Recipe Critic. I started my blog in June of 2012 as a place to share my passion for cooking. I love trying new things and testing them out with my family.

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  1. this looks like it takes a long time! but it looks delicioso. Do you have to have a food processor or blender? if so, i might not be able to make it till we get back to idaho :/

  2. Great post. I found this through Turning the Clock Back’s What’s Cooking Wednesday. I have linked in a post about some home-made steak burgers I did. Have a lovely week.

  3. My family loves pork!! This looks delicious. Thank you so much for linking up to Tasty Thursdays last week. Hope to see you again this week!!
    Nichi – The Mandatory Mooch

  4. Oh, but does this sound good! We don’t have Cafe Rio’s in the midwest, but this sounds similar to “Chipotle”, and I LOVE their food. This is going on my menu lineup soon!

  5. So so good! One small change to the recipe. Instead of marinade overnight, I brined a pork loin roast. I then used the rest of the recipe.

    Dare I say almost better than the original!

  6. I made this tonight and I made a few changes. I went and bought the hard taco bowls and used those instead and that way i could just crumble the sides in on the top, but i think it would have been better to use the tortilla. Instead of making my own Pico, i just bought some mild fresh Pico at the store and i added some more chopped fresh tomatoes to it. This turned out AMAZING!!!!!! It really is just as good as Cafe Rio’s. It tastes spot on.

  7. I just made this, it tuned out pretty good but i think i will use a different cut of pork next time. It was not as sweet as cafe rio’s. but it was really good.

  8. Thank you! We mis Cafe Rio sooooo much living in Memphis, but this is a perfect substitute for the pork! Now if only I could get their tortillas just right. . . Do you think they fry their taco tortillas in butter or something? Thanks again!

  9. I’ve never even heard of Café Rio, but I thought this looked good so I tried it. My only substitution (because it tastes better) was Coke from Mexico that uses cane sugar and comes in a bottle.

    This is a great recipe, and the leftovers froze beautifully in serving size containers.


  10. This looks wonderful, but wayyy to complicated for me. You give a link to an easier ‘sweet pulled pork’ recipe, which I would like to try, however the link is a dead end. Could you please point me in the right direction?
    I have pinned loads of your recipes and intend to try each and every one of them, they’re amazing!!

    1. Sorry I will try to get this fixed! When I switched platforms then links got messed up. This is time consuming but you should at least try the sweet pulled pork. 🙂

  11. Quick question, what size can of green chiles? 4oz or 8oz?

    Also, looking at the rice recipe, the liquid ingredients are a cup to much for the amount of rice, and there are directions to put the lime juice in both the cooking liquid and again with the sugar and cilantro when fluffing rice.

    Thanks for the recipes!
    Your Utah transplant neighbor in South Carolina.

  12. We also moved to North Carolina and are missing cafe rio terribly! I am trying your recipes today in an attempt to save on air fair back to Utah just for lunch 🙂

    Thank you for posting! PS, I love NC!


    1. I am making this today and am so excited! I tried following the “click here” links for the beans and rice and it keeps looping me back to the pork. I was able to find them through pinterest but just thought I would let you know!

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