Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salads

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WE LOVE Cafe Rio! If you who don't live in the Western U.S. and have never heard of Cafe Rio, it is a Fresh Mexican Grill restaurant. We have been making their Sweet Pork for a while, but this past week we decided to try and make all the ingredients for their Sweet Pork Salad. So, this post is like 6 recipes in one! :) I still love eating out (because I don't have to do any cooking or cleaning), but Jared and my sister Kristen thought this was better than Cafe Rio's version! I will let you be the judge . . .

Sweet Pork
This is what makes the entire meal! If you don't feel like making a salad, this is a great meat for burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, etc! And it is super easy to make! My good friend Rachel gave me this recipe years ago and we have made it many, many times. (We already posted the recipe here, but it is worth sharing again!)

3 lb. pork roast (shoulder, butt, or loin roast all work great- I have used them all)
16 oz. chunky salsa
1 can Dr. Pepper or Coke (not Diet)
2 c. brown sugar
Put pork in slow cooker and fill halfway with water.  Cook 4 hours on high.  Drain water, cut pork in thirds, mix together sauce and pour on top.  Cook 4 more hours on low.  Drain liquid and shred pork.  Save a little liquid and mix it in with the pork so it is really moist.
Cilantro-Lime Rice
I am not crazy about this rice, but Jared loved it!
1 c. uncooked 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.

Pico de Gallo
This is my favorite recipe for pico! We love just eating it with chips!
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded or chopped (more or less, depending on how hot you like it)
2-3 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves freshly minced garlic
Juice of one lime
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 avacado, cubed (optional)
Combine tomato, onions, jalapeno, garlic, and cilantro (and avacado if you are using it). Season with salt and pepper. Stir until evenly distributed. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Black Beans
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/3 c. tomato juice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantroIn a nonstick skillet, cook garlic and cumin in olive oil over medium heat until you can smell it. Add beans, tomato juice, and salt. Continually stir until heated through. Just before serving stir in the cilantro.

Cilantro Ranch Dressing
1 packet TRADITIONAL Hidden Valley Ranch mix (not BUTTERMILK)
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, add 1 tsp vinegar to your cup of regular milk)
2 tomatillos, husk removed and diced
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
1 clove garlicJuice of 1 lime
1 jalapeno (more or less depending on how hot you like it)
Mix all ingredients together in the blender.

Easy Guacamole
Elyse already shared this recipe, but here it is again:

  • 2 avocados
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel and mash avocados in a medium serving bowl. Stir in onion, garlic, tomato, lime juice, salt and pepper. Season with remaining lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Chill for half an hour to blend flavors. 

Now you are ready to build your salad! Cafe Rio serves their salads in an aluminum deep-dish tin and you seriously need something deep with edges like that to hold these salads- they grow really big, really fast!

1. Take a flour tortilla and place on bottom (either of the bowl or plate you are using). (**Jared and I don't usually put a tortilla at the bottom . . . we figure it is just extra calories. Ha ha! But Cafe Rio always uses them, so that is why I threw it in here)
2. Place rice and beans on next, then your meat.
3. Next is the pork.
4. Then the lettuce (we use romaine lettuce and I am pretty sure that is what Cafe Rio uses too).
5. Add pico and guacamole on next. Add sour cream if you want it . . .
6. Top with shredded cheese (we love Colby Jack cheese, but any kind will work).
7. Pour on the delicious dressing!

Cafe Rio usually also tops it off Parmesan cheese, tortilla strips, and a decorative sprig of cilantro, but it tastes just as good without those. They are totally optional! :)

Anyway, enjoy!

**Recipes are from my friend Rachel, my sister Elyse, AllRecipes, and Favorite Family Recipes (which by the way- they have another Sweet Pork recipe that we have also tried and it tastes almost identical to ours! Both are delicious!).

Linking to these parties . . .

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  1. Kathy says:

    This sounds great!!! Perfect for the summer, thanks! What a nice site you have here, I’m so glad I found you on voiceboks! I’m a happy new follower! Great to meet you all!!

  2. Thank you for the recipes! I love a good pulled pork and the sweet recipe you have sounds delicious.

    Found you at Delicate Construction! Hope you can pop by my little blog sometime soon! (Giveaway for a free month of advertising going on right now).

  3. JJC says:

    omg! I crave a cafe rio salad pretty much weekly-I must try this.

    PS: how are you all so skinny with all the delicious treats you make?!

  4. Erin says:

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I just have a question about the black beans. When I added 1 1/3 C tomato juice, the mixture was more juice than beans. Could I have done something wrong?

  5. Adam says:

    If I may make a suggestion to help simplify some things… I’ve been doing a similar sweet pork with no soda, and it’s absolutely amazing, I feel like the soda would be too sweet, but that may just be personal preference. As for the rice, I simply cook the rice with a bit of lime juice, then stir the cilantro in at the end, If you want to do a burrito, I wrap the pork and rice up with a few black beans straight from the can, pour green enchilada sauce from a can on top, and top the whole thing with cheese. I’m sure you could make these adjustments to help streamline, especially with so many things on this list. Thanks for the good work!

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