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Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe

Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

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Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe is the best — sweet shredded pork made in the slow cooker, inspired by the popular Cafe Rio restaurant!

Try this pork in a salad or taco topped with my Cafe Rio Creamy Tomatillo Ranch Dressing, in Sweet Pork Enchiladas or Sweet Pork Enchilada Stack recipe!

sweet pork salad in bowl with dressing drizzled on top

Why This Recipe Works

It’s a wringer for Cafe Rio — If you haven’t eaten at Cafe Rio, you haven’t lived. That is my honest opinion (and it’s also my personal opinion that Costa Vida is not a suitable substitute, even in a pinch). The creator of true sweet pork is Cafe Rio, the end. And this sweet pork recipe? It’s dead-on. That is why this delicious recipe works, right there friends! 

So delicious — It’s sweet but not too sweet. Tender, meaty, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth…need I go on?

Easy — Simple ingredients are all that’s needed for this Cafe Rio copycat dish. Plus, the instructions are super easy too. Marinade, slow cook, shred, pour a sauce over, devour.

Coca-Cola — What? Coke? Are you serious? Yes! I am very serious. This sweet pork would not work, at all, without the addition of Coca-Cola in all steps! It’s the secret, the trick, the magic. Trust me.


ingredients for preparing cafe rio sweet pork
  • Pork — I use the rib meat or a pork loin for this copycat recipe. It’s easiest to fit in the slow cooker and also shreds well. 
  • Coke — Yep, Coca-Cola classic is the secret ingredient here. Not diet, not zero, not store brand. Trust me! You want the OG Coke for this recipe, accept no substitutions. 
  • Brown sugar — Adding a little more sweet, use the brown sugar. It also adds a bit of a glaze/crunch/caramelization to the outside pieces of the pork. 
  • Water — Add a quarter cup of water to the slow cooker to help keep the pork tender and moist. 
  • Garlic salt, onion salt, chili powder — These three spices work their magic to flavor the pork. Any brand you like will work well in this dish.
  • Diced green chiles — Purchase diced green chilis in a can at the grocery store. Open and pour in. Easy-peasy.
  • Mild red enchilada sauce — Again, I just use a can of enchilada sauce but you could also opt to make your own if you like!

Here’s How You Make It

This Cafe Rio sweet pork copycat recipe requires three steps. Each step creates a sauce (for the marinade, into the slow cooker, and to pour on at the end). Each step is important and necessary to make this sweet pork the best you’ve ever had.

first four steps of preparing cafe rio sweet pork recipe

Step 1

  • First, place the pork loin in an airtight bag. Add the Coke and brown sugar and seal the bag, placing in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight if desired.

Step 2

  • When you’re ready to cook, take the pork out and put it in the crock of your slow cooker. Throw out the remaining marinade. 
  • Add to the slow cooker more Coke, the water, and spices. 
  • Add the lid and cook on high for 3 hours.
  • Drain the slow cooker of all juices and shred the pork with two forks. 

Step 3

  • In a blender, mix together more Coke, brown sugar, and chili powder, plus the green chilis and the enchilada sauce. 
  • Pour this sauce into the slow cooker on top of the shredded pork. 
  • Cover and cook for another 30 minutes. 
  • You’re done! Serve over rice, noodles, veggies, or just eat by the forkfull!
final four steps of preparing cafe rio sweet pork recipe

Expert Tips & Tricks

  • Serve this sweet pork recipe over rice or noodles, in enchiladas or tacos, on a sandwich or in a wrap, in a salad, or on top of anything else you can imagine!
  • This Cafe Rio sweet pork will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can freeze for up to 6 months. 
  • For a low-carb option, you can serve this copycat sweet pork recipe over zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice. 
  • If the pork isn’t shredding easily, it may not be cooked enough. Add it back to the slow cooker with another ¼ cup of water and check again in 30 minute intervals to see if it’s ready to shred.
shredded sweet pork in slow cooker
What Is Sweet Pork Made Of?

There are a few sweet pork recipes out there but I’ve found the best one to be this near-perfect imitation of Cafe Rio’s sweet pork. The key ingredients are (besides pork, of course) Coca-Cola, brown sugar, chilis, enchilada sauce, and spices. Accept no substitutions!

Is Sweet Pork a Red Meat?

Okay so if you’re as old as me or older, you may remember the TV campaign that said pork should be considered “the other white meat.” However, according to scientists, nutritionists, and others in the know, this is false. To be considered a “red” meat, the meat must contain a certain amount of myoglobins in the muscle. Myoglobins make raw meat look red. While fish and chicken have much lower levels of myoglobins, pork and beef are high in them.

So, just because you cook pork and it turns white doesn’t make it a white meat. The more you know!

What Can I Use Instead of a Blender?

No blender at home to make the sauce in Step 3? You can also use an immersion tool. Just add all your ingredients to a taller bowl and blend with the stick blender. 

You can also add all the ingredients to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.

sweet pork salad in bowl with dressing drizzled on top

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Did you make this recipe? FANTASTIC. Please rate the recipe below and be sure to tag me on social when you share a photo of your CDLC creation – I love seeing what you’re up to in the kitchen!

shredded sweet pork in slow cooker

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