Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe - Oh Sweet Basil (2024)

If you’ve ever been to Utah you’ve probably had Cafe Rio, specifically Cafe Rio Sweet Pork. We’ve perfected the Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe! It’s a tender pulled pork recipe with a co*ke or dr pepper sauce that Utah loves!

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Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe - Oh Sweet Basil (1)

I know I’ve posted about a few copycat recipes from Cafe Rio like the cilantro lime rice, Creamy tomatillo Cilantro Ranch and slow cookerCafe Rio chicken, but this recipe is so dead on I had no choice but to post. I’m letting you in on all the secrets!

This recipe is clearly a little different because it uses co*ke, but trust me it’s the way it’s prepared that is key. Doing a slow roast on the pork with a spice mixture, those root veggies and preparing the sauce separate makes for an identical result.

When we go to Cafe Rio, I pretty much always get the salad to split (this is quite rare as the hubs DOES NOT split anything. EVER.), but occasionally I’ll get the quesadilla because it’s gooey. That’s the only reason, it’s just gooey. In fact you can make the quesadilla at home too with our Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Quesadilla recipe…you’re welcome! Go goo goo for gooey with that one!

read more:If you love this copycat sweet pork recipe, you’re bound to love our BBQ Pulled Pork Recipe too!

What Kind of Pork Should I Use for Cafe Rio Sweet Pork?

If you want a true copycat of Cafe Rio sweet pork, you have to use a bone in pork shoulder/butt with a nice fat pad on top. Cuts of pork are not created equal! A pork loin or roast is going to be too lean and won’t turn out exactly like Cafe Rio. The pork shoulder/butt has the fat and flavor you need!

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe - Oh Sweet Basil (2)

Pot Herbs or a Bouquet Garni

Have you ever seen a chef create a bundle of herbs and place it in a pot or with a roast to cook then it gets discarded? That’s one of the secrets to this Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe. The aromatics totally make a difference, but you throw them out after it’s done cooking.

So what is Pot Herbs or a Bouquet Garni?

First off, “bouquet garni” is pronounced exactly how it looks, so don’t get hung up on that! It is a bundle of aromatic herbs and sometimes vegetables that are used to enhance the flavor of soups, stews, stocks, poaching liquids and even braised dishes. It is removed after cooking and can be made with either fresh or dried herbs, root veggies etc.

These items are bundled up in cheesecloth, tied off with string and throw into the dish with the food.

If you don’t have cheesecloth, don’t stress! Merely arrange everything in the dish with the pork and get rid of it after baking. Yes, the onions will get quite dark, but it’s ok.

What to Add to the Bouquet Garni:

  • carrots
  • celery
  • onions
  • bay leaves

This will add the perfect flavor to this pork!

Is Pork Better for You Than Beef?

If you are trying to lose weight, pork is a better choice than beef, because pork is lower in calories. But both have a good side, for example the protein and iron is awesome in beef.

A 4 oz. serving of beef provides 11 g of fat, with 4.5 g of saturated fat, while a 4 oz. serving of pork contains 4.5 g of fat, with 1.5 g of saturated fat.

Pork and beef have about the same amount of protein, with beef being slightly higher, so really, it just depends on what you’re looking for.

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe - Oh Sweet Basil (3)

Can You Make Sweet Pulled Pork in a Slow Cooker?

Using a slow cooker is an easy way to make pulled pork. This Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat recipe does much better in the oven as it really brings out the flavor, but a slow cooker will work just fine. Sometimes making a slow cooker sweet pork just fits into your schedule better, I totally get that! Set it and forget it…that’s why we love that slow cooker!

Prepare everything the same, but set the pork and bouquet garni (see section below) in a slow cooker for 8-10 hours. Shred as normal, preparing the sauce separate and toss to combine.

Make It Authentic!

Want to make it authentic? Just cook up some fresh flour tortillas with a little sprinkle of cheese and throw in those recipes for the cilantro lime rice and tomatillo sauce. You can put this sweet pork into a salad, in a burrito, in enchiladas, on top of nachos, in a rice bowl, or in a quesadilla like we already discussed above. It’s is good any way, shape or form!

I really am not exaggerating when I say that we have tried pretty much every single Cafe Rio Pork recipe that’s out there and while many are quite delicious, they just aren’t close enough to the real version. We have spent YEARS, much like we did for the perfect Melt in Your Mouth Buttermilk Pancakes and The Very Best Banana Bread, searching out exactly how this pork is made. While we don’t have the actual recipe, we literally cannot taste a difference.

We should set up a taste test for the neighbors and see if people can tell which is which. I’m liking this idea!

Best Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat

Through the years we’ve had many friends who have moved on to new adventures in places other than Utah (though Cafe Rio is spreading like crazy across the country…now in CA, AZ, CO, FL, ID, MD, MT, NV, VA, WA, and WY!) They crave Cafe Rio! It is on their must-eat list when they come back to visit every single time. I get it! It’s THAT good! Crave no longer my friends! You can now make Cafe Rio Sweet Pork at home! Try it and let us know if your Cafe Rio cravings are satisfied!

All our favorite Mexican Recipes here!

Try our Restaurant Style Salsa on top too! SO GOOD!

Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe

4.75 from 24 votes

Servings: 6

Prep Time: 20 minutes mins

Cook Time: 12 hours hrs

Total Time: 12 hours hrs 20 minutes mins


If you've ever been to Utah you've probably had Cafe Rio, specifically Cafe Rio Sweet Pork. Oh it's so good! We've perfected the Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe!


  • 1 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder, Heaping
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt, Heaping
  • 2 teaspoons Black Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 3 teaspoons Dried Oregano
  • 3 Pounds Pork Shoulder/Butt , Bone in with a nice fat pad on top
  • 2 Carrots, Large cut in half
  • 2 Stalks Celery, Halved
  • 1 Onion, Large Halved
  • 2 Bay Leaves


  • 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Water
  • 10 ounce Enchilada Sauce
  • 2 1/3 Cups Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Cup co*ke, Or Dr Pepper is great too

Quick Version

  • 10 ounce Red Enchilada Sauce, or a sauce packet
  • 1 1/2 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 2 Cans Rootbeer, Dr Pepper, or co*ke
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder


  • Heat the oven to 225°

  • In a small bowl, mix together the garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, and oregano.

    1 Tablespoons Garlic Powder, 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder, 1 Tablespoon Cumin, 1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika, 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt, 2 teaspoons Black Pepper, 2 teaspoons Onion Powder, 3 teaspoons Dried Oregano

  • Rub the seasoning mixture all over the pork and place in a 9x13" pan, fat pad facing up.

    3 Pounds Pork Shoulder/Butt

  • Arrange the carrots, celery, onions, and bay leaves around the pork, or place in a square of cheesecloth (the traditional way), pull up the corners and tie it shut with a string. Wedge the bundle next to an end of the pork.

    2 Carrots, 2 Stalks Celery, 1 Onion, 2 Bay Leaves

  • Set the uncovered pork butt in the oven and bake for 12 hours.

  • Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 1-2 hours.

  • Pour the juices into a fat separator.

  • Shred the meat well, discarding large pieces of the fat pad.

  • Pour 1/3 cup of the juices back onto the pork and toss to combine well.

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water.

    1 teaspoon Cornstarch, 1 teaspoon Water

  • Meanwhile, in a pot, add the enchilada sauce, brown sugar, garlic powder and co*ke. Whisk to combine.

    10 ounce Enchilada Sauce, 2 1/3 Cups Light Brown Sugar, 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder, 1 Cup co*ke

  • Bring to a boil and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Turn to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

  • Pour the sauce all over the pork and toss to coat.

  • Place the meat in a warming oven with tin foil over it until ready to use or for at least 20 minutes to let the meat soak up the sauce a bit.

For the Slow Cooker

  • Prepare everything the same, but set the pork and bouquet garni in a slow cooker for 8-10 hours.

  • Shred as normal, preparing the sauce separate and toss to combine.

For the Quick Version

  • Sprinkle the pork with the garlic powder and roast in a slow cooker on low for 8 hours.

    1 teaspoon Garlic Powder

  • Shred the meat.

  • Mix the Sauce packet, brown sugar and pop and bring to a simmer over medium high heat until thickened a little. Toss with the shredded meat and cook an additional 30 minutes.

    10 ounce Red Enchilada Sauce, 1 1/2 Cups Brown Sugar, 2 Cans Rootbeer


Rumor has it that Dr Pepper or co*ke are the preferred pops for Cafe Rio, choose whichever you prefer

Store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.


Serving: 1gCalories: 863kcalCarbohydrates: 167gProtein: 30gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 1786mgPotassium: 893mgFiber: 3gSugar: 158gVitamin A: 4755IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 180mgIron: 4mg

Author: Sweet Basil

Course: Over 100 Family Reunion Food Ideas

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Looking for more copycat recipes?

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  • Copycat Chilis Molten Lava Cakes
  • Copycat Zupas Tomato Basil Orzo Soup


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Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Copycat Recipe - Oh Sweet Basil (2024)
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