Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Complete Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salad / Cafe Rio Copycat Salad

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Cafe Rio Complete Sweet Pork Salad Recipe

Okay as promised here is the mammoth all-encompassing, start to finish Cafe Rio Sweet Pork copycat recipe. I have made this dozens of times and experimented with what I like best and don’t like best about other recipes. If you have not had a Cafe Rio sweet pork salad, then add this to your menu for next week. Seriously your family/spouse/roommates will thank you. It is so fresh and delicious but so filling and satisfying.

As I shared in my Cilantro Lime Cafe Rio Ranch post the other day, I also have made a couple shortcuts to make it easier. I love the site that I adapted most of these recipes from (Fav Family Recipes) but I don’t think there are enough tips for shortcuts. If I made it as directed on the site I’d be cooking for 4 hours straight right before dinner. Here are my tips here for helping it run smoothly when making, especially if making for company:

  1. Make the dressing ahead of time. This can be the morning of or even the night before. Just make it and put it in a sealed container in the fridge. No hassle right before meal time!
  2. Buy pre-shredded cheese. I usually don’t buy this, but with such a time-intensive recipe, this saves me time and cleanup when we’re making it for guests.
  3. Cook the pork in the water/garlic salt all the way through in the morning, then shred it, clean out the crock pot, and put back into the crock pot with enchilada/coke sauce and simmer all afternoon. This not only makes the meat so so delicious but saves you from having to deal with almost any cleanup right before dinner. This will just be ready whenever you are ready to eat.
  4. Prep all the sides you can the morning of the meal, or several hours before. I wash and chop all the romaine and then put it in a huge serving bowl in the fridge, so it’s chilled and ready to go. I also put the tortilla strips, mango salsa, quartered limes, cilantro sprigs, & cojita cheese in serving bowls, and set out all the ingredients for the rice and black beans next to the stove. Then bean and rice, and the guac & tortillas are the only things I have to prep right before dinner.
  5. Buy a tortilla warmer. These things are amazing. After a friend brought the tortillas for a dinner at our house one night, we were so impressed. She’d made them at her house and we ate them 45 minutes later and they were still steaming hot! She bought one for us after and we use it all the time. Then we can prep our tortillas an hour before company comes and they are still hot when we need to eat. If you don’t have one, just get everything else done and you can be making the tortillas as guests arrive.

Complete Cafe Rio Pork Salad, Ingredients (adapted from Fav Family Recipes), Serves 8-10:

  • 8-10 large cooked tortillas (we like the Tortilla Land ones you buy uncooked and make at home)
  • Shredded cheese, Mexican blend, optional
  • Cafe Rio Sweet Pork (see below)
  • Cafe Rio Cliantro Lime Rice (see below)
  • Cafe Rio Black Beans (see below)
  • 2-3 heads lettuce, cleaned & chopped (not iceberg, use leafy green or Romaine)
  • Mango salsa or pico de gallo (*the original recipe calls for homemade pico de gallo (diced tomatoes, diced onion, cilantro), but we love love love these salads with mango salsa from Costco. It tastes better than the original to us, and is easier because this is pre-made. But do whatever you think you’ll like best!)
  • Easy guacamole (1-2 mashed avocadoes, sprinkled with chili powder and garlic salt)
  • Tortilla Strips (we purchase these in the produce area near the salad toppers/croutons/nuts)
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled (or you can use any shredded cheese)
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Limes, quartered for garnish & juice on top
  • Cafe Rio Cilantro Ranch (click here)
  • Aluminum deep dish pans (*Optional, but make it easier to eat and look great – get these round cake pans in the baking aisle or near the tupperware & baking dishes)

Directions for assembling the salad, once all ingredients are made:

  1. Place 1-2 cooked tortillas in the bottom of an aluminum tin. At Cafe Rio they put cheese on the tortilla and melt in a hot oven, which you can do, but we don’t do this step because the tortillas taste great on their own.
  2. Once you have your tortillas ready, with or without cheese, add a large spoonful of rice, then beans, then pork, then lettuce. On top add mango salsa, cojita cheese, then sprinkle the tortilla strips and any cilantro you’d like on top. We love adding guacamole too.
  3. Top with cilantro lime ranch and a squeeze of lime. Be ready to be in food heaven. And then be happy you have days worth of leftovers to keep this meal on repeat ;)

Ingredients, Cafe Rio Sweet Pork:

  • 2 pound pork tenderloin/roast (I love the ones at costco that come in a 2-pack. These have been the best/most juicy I’ve tried.)
  • 2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 cans Coke (NOT diet)
  • 1 can diced green chilies
  • 1 10oz can red enchilada sauce
  • 1 c. brown sugar


  • Place pork in crock pot. Add 1 c. water and 2 tsp. garlic salt. Cook on high for about 3-4 hours (or until it shreds easily, but don't let it get TOO dry) or on low for 8 hours. Remove pork from crock pot and drain any liquid left in the pot. Shred pork. (Note the original recipe calls to cook the pork with coke and brown sugar but I’ve found cooking with the sugars doesn’t make it as moist and the sugary liquid can dry out the pork a little. If you cook it this way and then add the coke/enchilada sauce mixture after it tastes amazing!).
  • In a food processor or blender, blend 2 cans coke, chilies, enchilada sauce and remaining brown sugar (about a cup, you can add a little more or less to taste..). If it looks too thick, add more Coke little by little.
  • Put shredded pork and sauce in crockpot and cook on low for 2 hours. Serve with tongs.

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Recipe

Ingredients, Cafe Rio Cilantro Lime Rice

  • 1 c. uncooked rice (long-grain, white rice)
  • 1 tsp. butter or margarine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 can (15 oz) chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro


    • In a saucepan combine rice, butter, garlic, 1 tsp. lime, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low 15-20 minutes, until rice is tender. Remove from heat. In a small bowl combine lime juice, sugar and cilantro. Pour over hot cooked rice and mix in as you fluff the rice.

Cafe Rio Complete Sweet Pork Salad Recipe

Ingredients, Cafe Rio Black Beans

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small can green chiles (optional) 
  • 1 1/3 c. tomato juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro


    • In a nonstick skillet, cook garlic and cumin in olive oil over medium heat until you can smell it. Add beans, green chiles, tomato juice, and salt. Continually stir until heated through. Just before serving stir in the cilantro.

Cafe Rio Cilantro Lime Rice & Beans Recipe

Ingredients, Cilantro Lime Ranch (link here to post):

  • 1 bottle, ranch dressing
  • 3 tomatillos, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped + deseeded
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves

Dump ingredients into a food processor or high power blender and puree. That’s it!  Cafe Rio Cilantro Lime Ranch Recipe  Cafe Rio Complete Sweet Pork Salad Recipe   Cafe Rio Complete Sweet Pork Salad Recipe


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