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When I think about restaurants that are yummy to the extreme, Cafe Rio is definitely one of them. Their Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad is the go to menu item in our household. But when we moved out of a city that had one near by we were finding ourselves wanting that sweet pork goodness without having to make the drive. So like always, I scoured the internet for copycat recipes and came up with the perfect little semi-homemade (Sandra Lee anyone) recipe to make the salad at home.

The three main ingredients that make this taste like Cafe Rio salad and not just any old salad are the Sweet Pork Barbacoa and the combo of Tomatillo Ranch Dressing and Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing. I focus most of my efforts on these three items. For the rest of the salad I find easy ways to save time. 

Care Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad Copycat Recipe- Clementinebean.wordpress.com

Sweet Pork Barbacoa (recipe from here)

Ingredients:
2 pounds pork (a big pork shoulder is usually good)
3 cans Coke (NOT diet, sometimes we just get the store brand cola and it works fine)
1/4 c. brown sugar
dash garlic salt
1/4 c. water
1 can diced green chilies
3/4 (10oz) can red enchilada sauce
1 c. brown sugar

Instructions:

  • 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. Marinade 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) or on low for 8 hours.
  • Remove pork from crock pot and drain any liquid left in the pot. Shred pork. Remove any fat.
  • 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 crockpot and cook on low for 2 hours. 

Care Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad Copycat Recipe- Clementinebean.wordpress.com

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing

Ingredients:
2 tomatillos
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 2 limes
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (Use a store 
bought dressing like Kraft Brand.)

Instructions:
Mix all ingredients together in the blender or food processor until smooth. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is best).

Tomatillo Ranch Dressing

Ingredients:
1 c. buttermilk ranch dressing (Can use already made from Kraft or another brand)
2 tomatillos, remove husk, chopped
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime

Instructions:
Mix all ingredients together in the blender or food processor until smooth. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is best).

How To Assemble the Salad

Care Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad Copycat Recipe- Clementinebean.wordpress.comRice– We use frozen, pre-cooked brown rice from Costco. It heats up in the microwave in 3 minutes. Talk about a time saver.

Care Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad Copycat Recipe- Clementinebean.wordpress.comBlack Beans– Just open up a can, drain, rinse, and heat them in the microwave for about 1 minute.

Care Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad Copycat Recipe- Clementinebean.wordpress.comRomaine Lettuce– They use Romaine at Cafe Rio so we use it too!

Care Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad Copycat Recipe- Clementinebean.wordpress.comPico de Gallo Salsa– Just dice up a roma tomato and some red onion and mix it with a little lime juice. You can add jalapeno or another chili pepper but we leave that out.

Care Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad Copycat Recipe- Clementinebean.wordpress.comSweet Pork Barbacoa– the holy grail of salad toppings

Care Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad Copycat Recipe- Clementinebean.wordpress.comA mix of Tomatillo Ranch and Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette dressing

Care Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad Copycat Recipe- Clementinebean.wordpress.comCare Rio Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salad Copycat Recipe- Clementinebean.wordpress.com

Warning: You will find yourself full half way through this salad, but you will not be able to stop yourself from continuing to eat every last bite.

Enjoy!

 

 

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