Jun 13 10
by cara
at 12:29 PM
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Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salad

Have you ever been to Cafe Rio?  I haven’t.  Apparently it is a chain of restaurants in Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado and Idaho.  All places I’ve either never been or haven’t been to since I was really young.  Lately I’ve been seeing lots of bloggers talking about how amazing Cafe Rio’s Sweet Pork Salad is, and I’ve seen more than a few copycat recipes.  I decided to see what all the fuss was about by trying out one of the copycat recipes.  I took some shortcuts, left out a few ingredients (including the dressing, which I definitely plan to try next time), and it still turned out amazing!  As you can see below, there are quite a few components to this salad (and though it looks like a big mess, it is so yummy!).  Each of the main components (the rice, the beans, and the pork) are all delicious on their own, but together they make for an amazing meal!  I haven’t had the real thing from Cafe Rio, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I’m certainly going to make a stop at Cafe Rio next time I’m near one!

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salad

recipe from Favorite Family Recipes


  • Large Tortillas
  • Shredded cheese, Mexican blend
  • Cilantro Lime Rice (recipe below)
  • Cafe Rio Black Beans (recipe below)
  • Cafe Rio Sweet Pork (recipe below)
  • Lettuce (NOT iceberg, use leafy green or Romaine)
  • Diced tomato, onion, and cilantro (pico de gallo)
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla Strips (or crumbled tortilla chips)
  • Cotija cheese, crumbled (or you can use Parmesan)
  • Cafe Rio Cilantro Ranch OR Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Assemble in aluminum deep-dish pans or simply use a plate. Lay a tortilla in the bottom of the pan, sprinkle Mexican blend cheese on it, and put in the oven at 375 for about 5 min or until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven, add beans, rice, pork, then lettuce and a little scoop of diced tomato and onions (pico de gallo). Add guacamole and sour cream. Add crushed tortilla chips, a shake of Cotija or Parmesan cheese, and top with a few cilantro leaves. Serve with the cilantro ranch or vinaigrette dressing and there you have it! (makes about 6 salads)

Cilantro Lime Rice

I LOVE this rice!  It’s a great alternative to Mexican Rice.


  • 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.

Cafe Rio 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 (I used a few tablespoons of tomato sauce instead)
  • 1 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, tomato juice, and salt. Continually stir until heated through. Just before serving stir in the cilantro.

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

I was a little skeptical about using Coke in this recipe.  I don’t normally buy it, but I decided just to try it out.  It turned out great!  This pork is definitely on the sweet side (my husband would like it a little less sweet next time) but I loved it.  We made 1/2 a recipe, and still had more than enough.  I may experiment in the future with other ways to sweeten the pork.  I’m thinking that you could make a big batch of the pork (and maybe the beans and rice too) to have in your freezer for quicker salad assembly in the future.


2 pounds pork (I used pork tenderloin)
3 cans Coke (NOT diet)
1/4 c. brown sugar
dash garlic salt
1/4 c. water
1 can sliced green chilies
3/4 can RED enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso brand, medium spiciness)
1 c. brown sugar

Put the pork in a heavy duty Ziploc bag to marinade. Add about a can and a half of coke and about 1/4 c. of brown sugar. Marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Drain marinade and put pork, 1/2 can of coke, water, and garlic salt in crock pot on high for about 3-4 hours (or until it shreds easily, but don’t let it get TOO dry). Remove pork from crock pot and drain any liquid left in the pot. Shred pork.

In a food processor or blender, blend 1/2 can 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 crock pot and cook on low for 2 hours. That’s it!

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  1. This salad sounds (and looks) amazing, Cara! I think we are going to try it this week!!

  2. trish permalink

    I love Cafe Rio salads.. but it is their cilanto spicy ranch dressing that makes the salad! You have to try it.. I can drink it 🙂
    I am going to try these out thanks!

  3. Lori permalink

    Thanks for sharing this! I am going to try it out for Mothers Day tomorrow!!! 🙂 Can’t wait!

  4. Carolyn permalink

    PERFECT!  I eat at Rio often, you nailed it!  I love to use the rice, beans and pork to make Mexican Pizza’s. Place rice, beans, pork and cheese between two small fried flour tortillas, top with cheese and place under broiler until melted and you have the Mexican Pizza’s from Bajio’s Mexican Grill. (another Utah favorite.)  Thanks for sharing!

  5. Ross Boss permalink

    Cara – I just made all of these recipes todaytonight and they are fabulous!  Thank you so much for sharing!!

  6. Anonymous permalink

    I’m so
    love this blog, already bookmarked it! Thanks.

  7. Julievaras permalink

    I’m from Utah and I LOVE Cafe Rio… I’m living in Texas currently and I have had THE biggest craving for a pork salad with their amazing cilanto spicy ranch dressing.  *dies* I’m definitely going to have to make this tonight.

  8. Joy Johnson permalink

    Yay! THank you soooo much for sharing these recipes, we had a big dinner with our family and friends tonight and everyone licked their plates clean! I was not sure how the meat would be and now I want it everynight! Oh my goodness! I also found a recipe for Cilantro Ranch Dressing that really sets the salad over the top!

    Cilantro Ranch Dressing:
    1 pckge Hidden valley ranch dressing (dry mix)
    1 cup buttermilk
    ½ cbunch of cilantro, chopped
    1 small jalapeno (seeds removed) optional
    1 cup mayo
    1 tsp lime juice
    2 tomatillos (remove papery skin)
    1 garlic clove
    Blend all ingredients in the blender. Set aside in fridge until ready to serve.

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