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Cafe Rio Pork Salad

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Cafe Rio Pork Salad – the best salad you’ll ever eat – sweet pork, cilantro lime rice, seasoned black beans and delicious tomatillo dressing.


Ahhhh the Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salad. This is it. I love this salad! Not only one of the best salads you’ll ever eat, but one of the best meals you’ll ever have. Cafe Rio used to be a Utah-only institution. Packed lines at all of their locations, a fun and colorful atmosphere, and a line that not only moves quickly but lets you see all the fresh ingredients being prepped. All the fresh toppings, homemade tortillas being pressed and cooked right in front of you, and a huge grill cooking up all the meats. This Cafe Rio Pork Salad is definitely the star of the fresh-Mex chain.

This Cafe Rio Pork Salad mixes the lightness of a salad with the substance of a burrito – with the best fresh herbs and flavors you could get, all mixed together- sweet pork, fresh pico, cilantro, guac, fresh cheese, seasoned black beans, cilantro lime rice, soft tortilla, and the best creamy tomatillo ranch dressing – get my full recipe for it here with the secret ingredient.

And let’s talk about the star of this meal: THE PORK. It’s sweet. It’s rich. It’s full of flavor. Best part? You make it in your slow cooker. This Cafe Rio Pork Salad is one you will want to make again and again. You can also make up the ingredients, set them out, and let people choose if they want to make tacos or salads. We love making this when guests come over.

Let’s also mention the second star of this recipe – the creamy tomatillo ranch dressing. It’s got the creaminess of a ranch style dressing with the freshness of a vinaigrette. There are tons of fresh ingredients blended right in. Slather it on your Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salad.

Cafe Rio Pork Salad

The best fresh-Mex salad you’ll ever have. It has a lot of steps but don’t get discouraged – it’s worth it!


Sweet Pork

  • 2 lb. pork tenderloin/roast (no bone)
  • 2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 3-4 c. water
  • 2 c. Coke (not diet) (2 cans)
  • 1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
  • 1 10 oz. can red enchilada sauce
  • c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. chili powder

Cilantro Lime Rice

  • 2 cups uncooked white rice (long-grain)
  • 2 cubes chicken bullion
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped fresh cilantro

Seasoned Black Beans

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 cans black beans, drained
  • 2 4 oz. cans diced green chiles
  • 1 1/2 c. tomato juice
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped fresh cilantro

Creamy Tomatillo Ranch Dressing (see full recipe here)

    For Serving

    • 2-3 heads green leaf or romaine lettuce, washed and chopped (not iceberg)
    • soft tortillas, warmed (I used a half corn / half flour tortilla we get locally, but use any you love, or you can make your own)
    • fresh pico de gallo (I buy mine premade)
    • extra fresh cilantro
    • limes, quartered
    • guacamole
    • tortilla strips
    • cotija cheese (or other fresh crumbly cheese)
    • round aluminum baking pans (not necessary but fun)


    Creamy Tomatillo Ranch Dressing

    • Make and chill several hours to 1 day before serving. See recipe here.

    Sweet Pork

    • Place pork in crock pot. Add water and garlic salt. Cook on high for about 3-4 hours (or low for 6-7), until it’s cooked through and shreds easily.
    •  Remove pork from crock pot into a large bowl. Drain any liquid left in the pot. Shred pork into 1-2 inch pieces with forks. Return to (empty) crock pot.
    • In a food processor or blender blend coke, green chilies, enchilada sauce, brown sugar, and chili powder. Blend until smooth. Pour over pork in crock pot.
    • Cook on low for 2 hours. Serve with tongs!

    Cilantro Lime Rice

    • In a saucepan combine rice, water, butter, and chicken bullion. Bring to a boil. 
    • Once boiling, turn to low, cover, and cook on low 15-20 minutes, until rice is tender. Remove from heat. Fluff with fork. 
    • In a small bowl combine lime juice and diced cilantro. Pour over hot cooked rice and mix in as you fluff the rice.

    Seasoned Black Beans

    • 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.

    Salad Assembly

    • To assemble, begin by lining the aluminum tin with one large warm tortilla or a couple smaller ones.
    • Add a heaping spoonful or two of rice, then black beans, then pork.
    • On top of the pork, add the lettuce, then the pico, cheese, guac, some tortilla chips, a squeeze of lime juice, and a little more fresh cilantro.
    • Just before eating, drizzle with creamy cilantro lime dressing. Can also be made into taco form. Enjoy!

    Have you had this Cafe Rio Pork Salad before? Do you love it like we do? Check out all my other salads here. Let me know if you make this one or any others… And tag me @plumstreetcollective on Instagram. Thanks for reading!

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    1. 5 stars
      My whole family loved this! The beans were amazing – I cooked them longer to reduce liquid. It’s the only way I want to eat black beans now!! It is a lot of steps – but use left over rice and made the dressing ahead of time and that made it very reasonable! Thanks for another winner Shannon!!

      1. I’m so glad you loved it!! It is a lot of steps but really smart how you broke them up – that makes it manageable – and the leftovers are worth it 😉

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