This copycat Cafe Rio Sweet Pork is a tender and flavorful pork cooked in the slow cooker for an extra easy meal. This sweet pork is perfect for tacos, burritos, nachos, salads, and more.
This sweet pork is a great versatile dish because it can be used in so many ways. Once you make it at the beginning of the week you can enjoy it in different ways all week long (or freeze some for later).
Cafe Rio sweet pork is great for using in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, salads, wraps, and more. Cafe Rio and Costa Vida are two Mexican style restaurants in Utah that serve sweet pork. Their recipes may be slightly different, but this pork recipe is similar to both – I think lovers of either will love this recipe.
It’s a slightly spicy, and kind of sweet pork (not sweet like a dessert, but a savory dish that is sweetened with brown sugar and coca cola). The pork is tender, and juicy, and one of my favorite foods.
It’s one of the easiest meals to make at all, and thankfully all done in the slow cooker, which is one of my favorite ways to cook dinner. Sweet Pork barbacoa is delicious served with some cilantro lime rice, black beans, refried beans, tortilla chips, or whatever you like. I recommend serving it with tomatillo ranch too.
Ingredients Needed to make Sweet Pork:
This is a quick overview of the ingredients you’ll need for this Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe. The specific measurements and full recipe instructions are in the printable recipe card below.
- Pork shoulder roast – as much as we don’t want to lose part of our roast with too much fat, the fat is what makes this cook up so well, don’t get a lean pork roast, like a loin.
- Coca Cola – soaking the roast in the soda overnight makes it super tender and juicy.
- Brown Sugar – this gives the pork the perfect sweet flavor.
- Garlic Powder, and Chile Powder – Add some nice savory flavor to the pork.
- Salt and Pepper – a little saltiness and flavor.
- Green Chilies – these add just a little spiciness and flavor to the pork, without too much heat.
- Red Enchilada Sauce – This helps give the pork a delicious flavored sauce
How to make copycat Cafe Rio Sweet Pork?
- Add your pork to a large zip-top bag, bowl with a lid, or other container with one cup of coke, and 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Let it marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, up to overnight.
- Add the pork and the marinade to a slow cooker, and sprinkle the pork all over with garlic powder, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cover with the slow cooker lid and cook until the pork is tender enough to shred with a couple forks.
- While the pork is cooking, add the last portion of the coke, brown sugar, green chiles, and enchilada sauce to a blender and blend them until smooth.
- Remove the pork roast from the slow cooker and discard the liquid. Shred the pork into bite sized pieces with two forks on a cutting board, and return it to the slow cooker with the sweet enchilada sauce you made.
- Cover the slow cooker with the lid again and cook for another 1 to 2 hours. Taste the pork, and add any salt to taste.
- Serve the prepared pork in your choice of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, sweet pork salad, etc.
Can I make Sweet Pork in the Instant Pot?
You can make this in the instant pot, instead of the crock pot. Marinade the pork as directed. Cut the pork into chunks, add it to the instant pot, draining off the extra liquid. (The pork will release plenty of liquid on it’s own from marinating, and you don’t want it too wet).
Cook it for 50 to 60 minutes at high pressure, then let it do a natural release for 45 minutes. Drain the liquid and shred pork with two forks.
Then add the sauce as directed to the shredded pork. Set the instant pot to sauté and cook until the sauce boils and everything is heated through.
Tips for making Cafe Rio Sweet Pork:
- I recommend using a pork shoulder roast for the best moist, tender meat. I wouldn’t recommend using pork loin as the results seem to be dry even if it’s cooked for less time.
- Don’t use diet soda. If you don’t have Coca Cola, on hand, you can substitute Dr. Pepper or Root Beer. But don’t use diet/ sugar free sodas for any of them, as it typically leaves a bitter taste when cooked.
- Don’t skip marinating the pork (unless you REALLY have to) even if you have 1 hour, it will help the meat absorb the flavors extra well.
- Set up a build your own taco bar where everyone can add their favorite toppings and fixins for their own taco, nachos, burritos, or salad.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can I adjust the sweetness level of sweet pulled pork?
You can definitely adjust the sweetness if you prefer this pork to be more savory, and less sweet. Lower the amount of brown sugar used in the sauce. Do not use diet soda to try and make it taste less sweet.
How to serve with Copycat Cafe Rio Sweet Pork?
This delicious sweet pork is amazing eaten straight as is by the forkful, but it’s delicious served as a topping or filling in so many delicious dishes:
- Sweet Pork Salad – try adding some shredded romaine lettuce, cilantro lime rice, black beans, sweet pork, cotija cheese, and pico de gallo topped with cilantro lime dressing.
- Burritos – stuff the sweet pork, black beans, and your favorite toppings in a giant tortilla to make a burrito.
- Nachos – this is my kids favorite food on “taco nights” they love crunchy tortilla chips, shredded cheese and meat heated up, and topped with some sour cream and guacamole on top.
What to serve with sweet pork?
Add some easy and delicious side dishes to your Café Rio sweet pork to make a well-rounded meal, here are some favorites:
- Cilantro Lime Rice: A classic easy side dish that is delicious in burritos, enchiladas, or a salad, or just on the side of your sweet pork.
- Black Beans: a bowl of seasoned black beans are a great protein rich, and hearty side dish. Also delicious stuffed into your sweet pork burritos, or salad.
- Refried Beans: A classic Mexican style side dish that is a perfect creamy, savory contrast to the sweet pork.
- Mexican Street Corn: A deliciously tangy and sweet side dish that is great as grilled corn, slathered with dressing, or served as Mexican street corn dip.
- Chips and Salsa: A classic starter, also serve your chips with guacamole, or nacho cheese sauce.
- Grilled Vegetables: Choose a mix of your favorite veggies, some favorites of mine are bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, or mushrooms. Try adding some of the grilled veggies to your tortilla with some meat to create a fajita style dish.
- Green Salad: A fresh mixed green salad with a tangy vinaigrette, or a creamy ranch dressing helps balance out the richness of the pork.
- Fresh Fruit: A delicious fresh fruit like watermelon, or pineapple are a great easy side dish, or try a tropical fruit salad with mango, pineapple, strawberries, and more.
How to store leftovers?
The sweet pork will stay good stored in an airtight container in the fridge for about 5 days. I love making a big batch and enjoying it all week long for lunch. Microwave individual portions of pork until warm, or place all the leftover pork in a slow cooker on low for up to 1 hour, until heated through, or in a sauce pan over medium low heat, stirring often until warm throughout.
This shredded sweet pork also freezes really well. Transfer it once cooled, or any leftovers into a freezer safe bag or container, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then reheat in the microwave, slow cooker, or a pot on the stove until the meat is hot throughout.
This homemade Cafe Rio Sweet Pork is as good as the real thing. It’s a delicious dish that is sweet, savory, and loaded with flavor in a tender meat that is perfect for a dinner everyone will love. Use the tender meat in a salad, burrito, enchiladas, a rice bowl, or however you want it.
More Slow Cooker Recipes:
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Cafe Rio Pork Copycat
For the Marinade
- 3-4 lbs boneless pork roast
- 8 oz Coca Cola
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
For Cooking the Pork Roast:
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 /2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
For the Sauce:
- 10 oz red enchilada sauce
- 8 oz Coca Cola
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 4 oz diced green chilies
- Slow cooker
- Large Mixing Bowl
For the Marinade:
- Add 1 cup of Coca Cola and 1/4 cup of brown sugar to a large bowl or ziptop bag (big enough for your pork) and mix them together.
- Add the pork to the container and seal tightly to marinate for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
For Cooking the Pork Roast:
- Add the pork, and the marinade liquid to the crockpot bowl.
- Pour the water over the pork. Sprinkle the salt, garlic powder, chili powder, and pepper all over the pork roast.
- Cook the pork in the slow cooker on high for 3 to 4 hours, or on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until the pork is tender enough to shred with a fork.
- Remove the pork from the slow cooker and discard the liquid.
- Shred the pork with 2 forks, discarding any big fat pieces, and return it to the slow cooker.
For the Sauce:
- Add the enchilada sauce, last 8oz of Coca Cola, brown sugar, and green chilies to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the sauce over the shredded pork in the slow cooker and stir together.
- Cook on low for an additional 1 to 2 hours. You can cook on high for the last 30 minutes, with the lid off to help the sauce thicken.
- Serve pork, spooned out with a fork or a slotted spoon to remove extra liquid on your favorite tacos, burritos, nachos, salads, etc.