Cafe Rio Sweet Pork like you’ve never had it before – AKA the real, juicy, saucy, sweet and spicy deal!
Cafe Rio Sweet Pork is one of the most tantalizing delicious Mexican meats on the planet – and now you can make it in the comfort of your own home and in the ease of your own slow cooker! This tender, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork with the perfect balance of sweet heat is SO wonderfully versatile and the perfect make-ahead meat for busy nights for tacos, salads, burritos, tostadas enchiladas, etc. It’s also fabulous for crowds – so fabulous I’ve included tips on how to make Cafe Rio Sweet Pork with a jumbo size Costo pork in the Notes! (Recipe updated 5/1/2018)
Cafe Rio Sweet Pulled Pork Recipe
Cafe Rio calls their Sweet Pork Barbacoa, “Our signature dish. Our crowning achievement. Our recipe royale!” If you have eaten at Cafe Rio, you’ve tasted exactly what they are talking about and why the small restaurant chain has a loyal following willing to drive hours to taste the juicy, flavorful, saucy, sweet and spicy sweet pork.
I wanted to do their sweet pork recipe justice so in preparation for this recipe, I looked up dozens of Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipes online and was surprised that all of them either added hardly any spice (like 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder) or no spices all together. Cafe Rios “signature blend of spices,” however, is crucial to the authentic taste of this recipe, so I’ve perfected the blend and now we have the perfect Cafe Rio Sweet Pork, in my humble opinion. But don’t be afraid, this pork is not spicy, just exploding with flavorful. I actually added hot sauce to mine but it was perfect for my parents.
Tips to Make Cafe Rio Sweet Pork
I love making Mexican meats in my crock pot from my Mexican Chicken, to my Beef Barbacoa to my Carnitas, and this Cafe Rio Sweet Pork is no exception. It simmers low and slow all day, filling your home with its tantalizing aroma so come dinner time, you have endless possibilities to serve its juicy deliciousness. Here are a few tips and tricks to make your Chipotle Sweet Pulled Pork a runaway success:
- Sear Meat: When searing, the pork will naturally release from the pan once it is properly seared. If it is sticking to the bottom of the pan, it is most likely needs more time. It will take 2-5 minutes per side and longer if using a nonstick pan.
- Do I have to sear the meat? As Gordon Ramsey says, “color = flavor.” Searing the meat creates the Maillard reaction resulting in rich, deep, complex flavor which cannot be achieved in any other way. It also helps the inside of the meat from drying out. You can skip this step, and your pork will still be good – just not as good.
- Spice Rub: After we sear the meat, we rub it with our spice rub. Instead of rubbing oil all over the meat, simply ladle some of the leftover juices/oil in the pan from searing. If you skip searing your pork, you will need to rub it with some olive oil first so the spices stick.
- Cook until tender but not fall apart tender. When your pork is tender enough shred into chunks but not fall apart tender, shred it into larger sections in the crock pot and continue to cook on LOW for 30 minutes until it is practically fall apart fork tender. This allows the flavorful slow cooker contents to seep into every pork crevice without it becoming overcooked.
- Drain pork. Once pork is tender, and ready to shred, I place my strainer on top of a large bowl to catch the slow cooker contents so the fat doesn’t go directly in my sink, then refrigerate the bowl and skim the fat later and ditch the rest in the sink sans fat.
- Add enchilada sauce and brown sugar to taste. Once drained of excess liquid, we add our pork back to slow cooker along with enchilada sauce, brown sugar, green chiles and remaining spices. Taste buds vary widely when it comes to how sweet people like their pork. This Cafe Rio is supposed to be sweet – but just how sweet is up to you. I recommend starting with 1/2 cup brown sugar and adding more to taste. You can also add additional chipotle chili powder or hot sauce if you would like it spicier. You can also add more or less enchilada sauce depending on how “saucy” you want your pork.
HOW TO MAKE PULLED PORK AHEAD OF TIME
You can make this pork mostly the day before if that’s easier and then you don’t have to worry about cooking times and it turns out just as good – or better. I use this method often and is my preferred method for meats that take particularly long like my Beef Brisket.
If making ahead, make the Sweet Pork Recipe through step 5 in which you shred the pork into large sections. After you do this, let your slow cooker sit at room temperature for a bit so the crockpot ceramic insert can cool down and then cover and place ceramic insert into fridge (PORK AND ALL THE LIQUID). The next day, skim off the hardened fat from the top and heat on LOW for about 1- 1 ½ hours to heat through, then continue with the rest of the recipe as written.
What to Make with Cafe Rio Sweet Pulled Pork
There are soooo many options when it comes to this Slow Cooker Chipotle Sweet Pulled Pork. I’m going to start with items directly off of the Cafe Rio Menu because they made the menu for a reason:
Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salad: Layer a large burrito size tortilla with cheese and melt. Top with black or pinto beans, cilantro lime rice, sweet pork, and romaine lettuce. Top with Pico de Gallo, fresh guacamole, salsa tortilla strips, cilantro, cotija cheese and Tomatillo Avocado Ranch or leave out the Avocado and make it Tomatillo Ranch.
Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Burrito: Layer a burrito size tortilla with cilantro lime rice, black or pinto beans, cheese, sweet pulled pork, then baked in an oven. Serve with your favs of pico de gallo, romaine lettuce, guacamole, sour cream. etc.
Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Enchiladas: Fill corn tortillas with layers of cheese and sweet pork and topped with red or green enchilada sauce and cheese and bake.
Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Tacos: Pile a flour tortilla with sweet pork, Mexican cheese, lettuce and serve with your favs of pico de gallo, romaine lettuce, guacamole, sour cream. etc.
Cafe Rio Sweet Pork quesadillas: Layer a burrito size tortilla with Mexican cheese and sweet pork and grill until golden, cheesy perfection. Serve with your favs of pico de gallo, romaine lettuce, guacamole, sour cream. etc.
Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Tostada: Layer a A corn tortilla with sweet pork, cilantro lime rice, black or pinto beans, romaine lettuce, pico de gallo, tortilla strips, cilantro, sour cream, and cotija cheese. Drizzle with Tomatillo (Avocado) Ranch.
Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Nachos: Pile thick restaurant style tortilla chips with Mexican cheeses or chile con queso, sweet pork, black or pinto beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, and fresh guacamole.
No matter how you choose to serve your Cafe Rio Sweet Pork they all will taste AMAZING because they include this pork!
Looking for more Pork Recipes?
- Slow Cooker Asian Caramel Pulled Pork
- Best BBQ Pulled Pork
- Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sloppy Joes
- Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
- Sheet Pan Chili Dijon Pork Tenderloin with Green Beans and Potatoes
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