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Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa

My obsession knows no bounds.

Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa | #recipeYou know how I can’t shut up about the new Cafe Rio that opened in Seattle? Well, apparently going there multiple times per week isn’t enough for me, and I’ve now taken it upon myself to make a whole bunch of copycat recipes at home! But! That means I can share the gloriousness that is Cafe Rio with those of you that don’t have access to one of the restaurants!

Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa | #recipe Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa | #recipeSo, what recipe am I sharing with you, today? Arguably their most popular one—the Sweet Pork Barbacoa. Does this taste exactly like the pork at the actual restaurant? No…but it’s pretty darn close!

This pork is so so delicious! It’s sweet, a tiny bit spicy, and stupid easy to make. This is pretty much one of those set it and forget it recipes. You marinade the meat for just a bit, then plop it into the crock pot with a couple ingredients. After a few hours, you shred it, then put it back in with a couple more ingredients, and serve! Enjoy it in tacos (like me with melted cheese on the tortilla and a little cilantro!), put it in enchiladas, make burritos, heck, put it on a bun and call it a pulled pork sandwich! It’s kinda hard to wrong here.

Oh, and did I mention that the secret ingredient in this is cola? I used a natural sugarcane soda, but Coke, Dr. Pepper, and root beer would all work. Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time I’ve cooked meat in cola. My Cola-Barbecue Chicken is one of my favorite recipes!

Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa | #recipe Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa | #recipeWhile you are mulling over how you are going to eat this awesome pork, I’m flying to Florida. Yep, I’m probably 30,000 feet in the air, right now, freaking out about the sinus surgery I’ll be having in 2 days. Is it weird that I’m more freaked out about the IV being placed in my arm than the surgery itself? I just REALLY hate needles. Blugh.

I am super excited to be cooking while in Florida, though (after I’ve recovered), and I can’t wait to share with you a couple of my favorite family recipes!

By the way, this recipe is totally perfect for today! Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa | #recipe

Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa

Yield: 6-8 servings

Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa


    step 1:
  • 3 pounds pork butt (shoulder)
  • 1 cup cola
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • step 2:
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 and 1/4 cup cola
  • step 3:
  • 1 cup cola
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
  • 15 fluid ounces medium red enchilada sauce


    step 1:
  1. Place the pork in a large ziploc bag. Add in the brown sugar and cola and mix around.
  2. Place in the fridge for at least an hour, and up to overnight.
  3. step 2:
  4. Add the pork to your slow cooker, and discard the marinade.
  5. To the slow cooker, add in the garlic, onion, chili powder, water and cola. Put the lid on and cook on high for 4 hours (or low for 8).
  6. Remove the pork and shred it with two forks. Discard the juices in the slow cooker.
  7. step 3:
  8. Add the cola, sugar, chili powder, chilies, and enchilada sauce to your blender and blend until smooth.
  9. Pour into the slow cooker, and ad back in the shredded meat. Cook for an additional hour on low.


recipe adapted from here

Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa | #recipe


7 Responses to “Cafe Rio-Style Sweet Pork Barbacoa”

  1. Foodness Gracious — May 5, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Wow…this is a huge fav of mine, looks so good!

    • Rachael replied: — May 6th, 2014 @ 4:05 am

      Mine, too 😉

      Thank you!

  2. Pingback: Cafe Rio-Style Pulled Chicken Salad (with Creamy Tomatillo Ranch!) | Spache the Spatula

  3. Lesley — May 4, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Just made this today. VERY flavorful, a little more on the sweet side than I was looking for but delicious all the same. Thank you.

    • Rachael replied: — May 5th, 2015 @ 11:44 am

      SO glad you liked it Lesley! Yes, Cafe Rio pork is very sweet! I like to temper the sweetness with hot sauce and lots of acidic salsa or dressing 😀

  4. Alan — November 10, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    I love this recipe! Thanks for posting it.  I wanted to add though that I think it tastes closer to the actual cafe rio flavor when I use Dr. Pepper instead of cola.  I’ve been told that’s actually what restaurant uses as well.  It’s definitely worth a try.

    • Rachael replied: — November 11th, 2015 @ 12:04 am

      You know, I’ve actually heard that, too Alan! I haven’t tried it myself yet though! Thanks for the tip!!

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