Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad

Happy Cinco De Mayo. I hope you have a fun fiesta planned for today. I know I do.

My family loves Cafe Rio. If we’re going out to eat Mexican, it’s the only place my husband wants to go. Cafe Rio claims to be the #1 Mexican Restaurant in the Nation for overall customer satisfaction. Which sort of made me chuckle because Cafe Rio is only in six Western States. But it is Mexican fast food at it’s finest. It is consistently good and we Utahns love our Cafe Rio.

Everything is made fresh daily. The tortillas are hand made and you watch them bake them on a circulating stone while you order.  They make your order in front of you as you’re herded along the counter with a throng of other hungry people waiting to get their Cafe Rio fix. Do you want your salad with pork, chicken or beef, black or pinto beans, cilantro lime rice, pico de gallo, Cotija cheese, cilantro, sour cream, guacamole, tortilla strips, and Creamy Tomatillo or Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette Dressing? It’s a huge salad served in aluminum tins. My husband and I always share one and still come home stuffed.

I recently made Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salads for my twin’s birthday party. It’s the perfect way to feed a crowd because everyone can fix it just the way they like it. Frieda from Lovin’ from the Oven recently posted a copycat recipe for the Pork Barbacoa, which she adapted from Favorite Family Recipes. My version below is a combination of both of their versions. Like Frieda, I cut the amount of Coke and brown sugar I used in the recipe and it was still plenty sweet. I’ve also included Favorite Family Recipes copycat versions for the rice, black beans and tomatillo dressing.

Sweet Barbacoa Pork
  • 2 lbs. boneless pork ribs
  • 1 12 oz.. can Coke (not diet – can use caffeine free)
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • dash garlic powder
  • 1/4 c. water
  1. Put the pork, 1 can of Coke and 1/4 c. brown sugar in a Ziploc bag to marinade. Marinade for a few hours or overnight.
  2. Pour meat and marinade into crock pot. Cook for 4 hours on high or 8 on low. Keep lid on to retain liquid.  Drain liquid. Shred meat with 2 forks when done.
  3. Put shredded pork and Barbacoa Enchilada Sauce in crock pot and cook on low for 2 hours.
Barbacoa Enchilada Sauce
  • 1 cup Coke
  • 1 can diced green chilies
  • 1 cup red enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  1. In a food processor or blender, blend Coke, chilies, enchilada sauce and 1/2 c. brown sugar.
Cilantro Lime Rice
Cilantro Lime Rice from Favorite Family Recipes Recipes
  • 1 c. uncooked rice (long-grain, white rice)
  • 1 tsp. butter or margarine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 can (15 oz) chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
  1. In a saucepan combine rice, butter, garlic, 1 tsp. lime, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low 15-20 minutes, until rice is tender. Remove from heat. In a small bowl combine lime juice, sugar and cilantro. Pour over hot cooked rice and mix in as you fluff the rice.
Black Beans
Black Beans from Favorite Family Recipes
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/3 c. tomato juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
  1. In a nonstick skillet, cook garlic and cumin in olive oil over medium heat until you can smell it. Add beans, tomato juice, and salt. Continually stir until heated through. Just before serving stir in the cilantro. (Next time I make the beans I’ll use less tomato juice.)
Creamy Tomatillo Dressing
Creamy Tomatillo Dressing from Favorite Family Recipes
  • 1 packet TRADITIONAL Hidden Valley Ranch mix (not BUTTERMILK)
  • 1 c. mayonnaise
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 2 tomatillos, remove husk, diced
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 jalapeno (I used some jalapeno slices from a jar)
  1. Mix all ingredients together in the blender.
  2. Note: The meat and the beans are both very saucy, which is nice if they are being served buffet style because it keeps them really moist, but be sure and use slotted spoons to serve them.