This Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe is the perfect way to bring the restaurant home! Cooked in a slow cooker with amazing spices and a delicious sauce, you won’t be able to tell a difference from the famous Cafe Rio pulled pork recipe. 

When I moved from Utah to Texas, I realized my favorite Mexican American restaurant was nowhere in sight! As a Cafe Rio fan, I knew I needed to have Cafe Rio recipes in my recipe box. Now you can make a full-blown Cafe Rio meal at home with this delicious cafe rio pork recipe plus my Cilantro Lime Dressing, Cafe Rio Black Beans, and Cilantro Lime Rice.

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe in a black slow cooker.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Copycat Cafe Rio sweet pork recipe. Now you don’t have to go out to eat to get this delicious Cafe Rio pork! You can make a large batch in your crock pot right at home. 
  • Tender sweet pork barbacoa. Using brown sugar will provide sweet flavors for the delicious sweet pork recipe, while cooking the meat with Coca Cola will help break down and tenderize the meat. 
  • Make it a meal! A family favorite is to combine this recipe with my Cilantro Lime Dressing, Cafe Rio Black Beans, and Cilantro Lime Rice to make a full Cafe Rio style meal right at home. 

Ingredient Notes

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe ingredients on a white background: pork shoulder butt, green salsa, enchilada sauce, Coca Cola, brown sugar, and spices.
  • Seasonings: The pork seasoning rub is made of cumin, paprika, onion powder, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. 
  • Pork Shoulder Roast: Also known as pork butt. Cut the pork roast in equal chunks for an even cook.
  • Coca Cola: The carbonation of the soda helps to break down the meat making it ultra tender. I would stick with regular and not diet for the best flavor and results. 
  • Green Salsa: This is a mild salsa that will add some nice depth of flavor. Feel free to use medium or hot if you’d prefer. 
  • Red Enchilada Sauce: The red enchilada sauce helps provide the building block for the Cafe Rio pork mixture. 
  • Brown Sugar: This adds a nice sweetness to the dish. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Make the seasoning rub. To a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon each of cumin, paprika, onion powder, chili powder, and garlic powder. Then add 2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Mix until combined. Remove 2 tablespoons of the seasoning rub and set that aside for later. 
  2. Prepare the pork. Cut the pork shoulder roast into large chunks. Rub with the seasoning on all sides of the meat. Do not use the 2 T of seasoning you reserved. That’s for later.
  3. Slow cook the pork. Add 1 cup Coca Cola to the slow cooker followed by 1 cup green salsa. Stir to combine. Add the seasoned pork and cover and cook on low heat for 6-7 hours or high heat for 4-5 hours. 
  4. Shred the pork. Transfer the pork to a casserole dish and shred. Discard any fat. Discard all but 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid from the slow cooker. 
Four images, top left is spices in a glass bowl, top right is pork shoulder pieces rubbed with spices, bottom right is pork shoulder meat in a slow cooker, bottom right is shredded pork.
  1. Make the Cafe Rio pork sauce. Add the shredded pork back into the slow cooker. Add the 2 T seasoning rub you reserved from earlier. Add 2 cups red enchilada sauce, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 7 oz can diced green chilies and 1 cup green salsa. Stir to combine. Cover and cook until heated through (about 20-30 minutes on high). 
  2. Serve! We love making this restaurant-style Cafe Rio pork a full delicious meal by serving it with our go-to copycat Cafe Rio recipes like my homemade cilantro lime dressing, Cafe Rio style black beans, and homemade lime cilantro rice. Enjoy! 
Cafe Rio Sweet Pork in a black slow cooker.

Recipe Tips

The cooking may take more or less time, depending on the size of your meat chunks.

Shred the meat in a baking dish or on a cookie sheet. I find it so much easier than shredding meat on a cutting board. The baking pan catches the juices and keeps everything from spilling over.

If you’d rather not have the chunky diced green chiles, you can blend them prior to adding to the slow cooker. 

If you don’t have a 7 oz can of diced green chiles you can use a small 4 oz can. You won’t notice a difference!

After the meat is shredded and the sauce has been added to the slow cooker, I’ll taste the meat + sauce and sometimes I’ll add an additional 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar for a slightly sweeter pork. 

You can serve this Cafe Rio sweet pork recipe as a sweet pork salad, as burritos, enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, etc. 

Toppings include sour cream, Pico de Gallo, fresh limes, guacamole, slow cooker refried beans, etc. Add some romaine lettuce and tortilla chips to make it look like the real deal! 

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

If you’d like, you can marinate the pork in the coke and green salsa overnight. You’ll want to remove it from the marinade though so you can rub the meat with the seasoning rub. 

You’ll need to make this Cafe Rio sweet pork recipe ahead of time at least because it cooks for p to 6-7 hours in the slow cooker. 

Store any leftover Cafe Rio pork in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. 

Let cool completely then transfer to a freezer-safe bag or container and freeze for up to 2 months if you want to freeze it. 

Recipe FAQs

What is Cafe Rio?

Cafe Rio is a popular Mexican American restaurant based in Salt Lake City, Utah, but located in Idaho, Arizona, Washington, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, California, Montana, and Maryland. The restaurant’s Cafe Rio pork salad and Cafe Rio pork burritos are popular dishes.  

How to make Cafe Rio sweet pork?

You will season the pork with the seasoning rub, place in the slow cooker with green salsa and some Coca Cola and then slow cook. Finish things off by making the yummy sauce! See my recipe for details.  

Do I need to use coke?

You do want the soda in there because the carbonation will help to tenderize the meat by breaking things down. If you don’t want to use coke, you can use root beer. You can also try using Dr Pepper if you prefer that over coke. My recommendation is Coke.

Close up of Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe in a crock pot.

More Pork Recipes

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Close up of Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe in a crock pot.
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5 from 9 votes

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe

Homemade Cafe Rio sweet pork is made in the slow cooker so that all of the seasonings and ingredients can meld together for full optimum flavor! This recipe is easy AND tastes just like Cafe Rio's sweet pork!
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 14 servings



  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika - can used smoked or regular paprika, or a mixture of both.
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  • 3-4 lb boneless pork shoulder roast
  • 1 cup coca cola soda
  • 1 cup green salsa


  • 2 cups red enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar - packed
  • 7 oz can diced green chiles - can puree the green chiles so they're smooth if you'd like
  • 1 cup green salsa




  • In a small bowl stir all of the seasoning spices together. Measure out 2 T of the seasoning and set aside for later use (we’ll use it after the pork is done cooking). 


  • Cut the pork into large chunks (about 6 inches) and rub the seasoning over all sides of the meat. (DO NOT use the 2 T of seasoning you reserved for later).
  • To the bottom of a slow cooker, add the cola and green salsa. Stir to combine. Add the seasoned meat to the slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. (May take less time or longer depending on how big or small your meat chunks were). 
  • When the pork is finished cooking, transfer the meat to a large cutting board or casserole dish and shred the meat. Discard any fat.
  • Discard all but ½ cup of the cooking liquid in the slow cooker.


  • Add the shredded pork back into the slow cooker along with the 2 T of reserved seasoning, red enchilada sauce, brown sugar, green chiles and green salsa. Stir together. Cover and cook until heated through, about 20-30 minutes on high. Serve warm!


Blend the green chilies if you don’t want chunks. You can use a small 4 oz can instead as well.
Taste the meat before serving. Sometimes I’ll add another 1-2 T brown sugar for something a tad sweeter. 
Recipe source: adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe


Calories: 164kcal (8%)Carbohydrates: 16g (5%)Protein: 13g (26%)Fat: 5g (8%)Saturated Fat: 2g (10%)Cholesterol: 40mg (13%)Sodium: 977mg (41%)Potassium: 336mg (10%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 14g (16%)Vitamin A: 869IU (17%)Vitamin C: 7mg (8%)Calcium: 29mg (3%)Iron: 2mg (11%)
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
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