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Cafe Rio’s Sweet Barbacoa Pork

Cafe Rio’s Sweet Barbacoa Pork is one of our favorite Mexican meals! We love it in burritos, tacos, and on salads!

Cafe Rio’s Sweet Barbacoa Pork

(originally posted 2008)

Living on the east coast I go through major Cafe Rio withdrawls. Cafe Rio is a famous Mexican restaurant in Utah. They’re known for their consistently good food.

Back in our Provo days my husband and I would sometimes do a double header: Cafe Rio then Tracy’s Peanut Butter Cup at Leatherbys.

The double header always sent me into a food induced coma afterwards and I would fall asleep at my computer at school (I was a Computer Science major). Please Cafe Rio people, come franchise out here.

You would make some major money – if not from me alone!!

Cafe Rio’s Sweet Barbacoa Pork - fb image 217

Cafe Rio’s Sweet Barbacoa Pork - fb image 217

I have tried a bunch of copycat recipes to get my “fix” but this combo of Cafe Rio dishes is my favorite. You can make a lot of it ahead of time so it’s great for get togethers. In fact, we usually make this ahead of time and bring it to Lake Powell for one of our dinners. It’s always one of our favorite meals.

Now I believe the whisperings say that the real Cafe Rio Pork is made with Coke. Guess what. I’ve tried both and this version is still my favorite.

Cafe Rio’s Sweet Barbacoa Pork - fb image 221



Cafe Rio’s Sweet Barbacoa Pork - fb image 225


4.34 from 6 votes

Yield: 12 servings

This Cafe Rio’s Sweet Barbacoa Pork is one of our favorite Mexican meals! We love Cafe Rio’s Sweet Barbacoa Pork in burritos, tacos, and on salads!

  • 7-8
    boneless pork butt or shoulder
    (make a 3-4 lb pork roast if you are just doing your family)
  • 4
    root beer
  • 5
    cans tomato sauce
  • 4
    molasses or honey
    (molasses gives a darker color)
  • 3
    minced garlic
  • ½
  • 2 – 3
    brown sugar
  • pepper to taste
  • 4

  1. Salt and pepper the pork and cook in crock pot 8 hours or overnight on low in a little water or extra root beer. In the morning remove the roast from the crockpot and pull apart with fork, removing fat. Drain all the water in the crockpot. Don’t overshred the pork or it will turn mushy. This part can be done well in advance.

  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the crockpot and add the shredded pork. Stir to combine. Cook another 3-4 hours in crockpot on low. Serve with a slotted spoon.

  3. Traditionally this meat is served over a salad or in a burrito.

  4. To make a Cafe Rio salad layer: tortilla (I warm mine in aluminum pans like cafe rio in the oven with cheese), cheese, Cilantro Lime Rice , Black or Pinto Beans, Pork, chopped Romaine or green leaf lettuce, sprinkle tortilla strips on top, and grated Parmesan cheese

  5. Serve with sides of: Pico de Gallo , Guacamole , fresh cilantro, fresh lime slices, drizzle with Creamy Tomatillo Dressing .

  6. Instant Pot instructions: Salt and pepper the pork. Add 2 cups of root beer or other liquid. Cook on high pressure for 50-60 minutes. Let pressure release naturally. Shred and remove fat. Continue to step 2 using the slow cooker option or sautee option until pork is warm and flavors have combined.

Recipe Note: The above sauce makes enough sauce for up to a 10 lb roast! So if you have a 3-4 lb pork roast, half the sauce.

This freezes well!

Source: a mix between Martha McMullin’s and Sheri Denney’s recipes.

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