Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa Salad

Say what you want about the West, but we've got Cafe Rio out here. The other 44 states don't know what they're missing! I went on their website to see all their locations, and I saw a quote on the top that said, "I sold my soul for a pork salad." It made me laugh because it is that good. This is a copycat recipe for that pork salad. I have been to lot of restaurants, but never before have I seen a table of big buff dudes all eating a salad except at Cafe Rio. This pork barbacoa salad is out of this world. My sister-in-law gave me this recipe about a year ago, and she got it from her husband's cousin who got it from a friend who found it on a blog. I apologize if it is word for word from someone's blog because I don't know who to give credit to. All I can say is that I want to give them a big, big hug. This is extremely close to the actual salad at Cafe Rio. It is a ton of work, but my goodness... it is way worth all of the trouble. If you're having a dinner party, each person could make one part. It would be so easy! I didn't get to take too many pictures because we had an extra 8 people in the house for dinner, so I was entertaining. I always forget pictures when I have guests! I got a few but not many. Next time I make it, I'll snap a few more pictures. Let me know if you make it and how you like it.

By the way, this picture does not do it justice. Besides, I had to use the little that was left over to snap a picture since I devoured mine before I remembered to take a picture.

Pork Barbacoa Salad:

Sweet Pork

2 pounds pork

1 1/2 cans Coke (NOT diet)
1/4 c brown sugar

I went to the store at about 10:30 at night to buy the pork. It was an insane week, and I was getting over a cold. I probably sat and stared at the pork roasts for a good ten minutes. I had a roast in my hand, but I knew it was too small to feed all of our company. I picked up a pork shoulder and decided against it because it tends to be too fatty. I'm kind of a fat Nazi with meat- I can't handle fat. I started eyeballing the pork loin. it was a value pack, so I got about 5 pounds for about ten dollars. I decided to go with that. It turned out beautifully. I also doubled the whole recipe to feed all the extra folks.

Anywho- Trim any excess fat off the pork (gross, I know, but it's better than cooked fat.) Put it in a large Ziplock bag and add the Coke and brown sugar. Put it in the fridge overnight. This step is important. Something magical happens in that little Ziplock bag. I think the carbonation from the Coke and the sugary goodness create a pact to transform the pork into something gloriously delicious.

Simmer sauce:
1/2 can coke
1 c water
1/2 c brown sugar
1 t garlic salt

In the morning, drain the marinade and put the pork into a crockpot. Add a half can of Coke, 1 c of water, 1/2 c brown sugar, and 1 t garlic salt. Cook it on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Take it out and shred it. I could not believe how the pork loin fell apart.
This happened with one poke of a fork. It was so easy to shred.
This was after about 10-12 pokes with the fork. It just crumbled. Beautiful!

Put the pork back in the crock pot.

Sauce ingredients:
1/4 c. water
1/2 can sliced green chilies
3/4 can RED enchilada sauce
1 c. brown sugar

Put all the sauce ingredients into a blender and mix until well blended.

Pour over the pork.

Cook on low for another hour or two. Taste about an hour into this to see if you want to add more brown sugar or enchilada sauce. The pork at Cafe Rio is very sweet, so I tend to add extra brown sugar. That's it for the pork!

Again, I apologize for not having picture for the rest. The rest of this recipe is really what makes it so delicious.

Cilantro lime rice:
1 c rice
1 c water
2 t sugar
juice of 1 lime
3 T cilantro

Cook the rice in the water, sugar, and lime juice. Once it's finished,add the cilantro just before serving.

Black Bean Stuff:
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/3 c tomato juice
1 1/2 t salt
2 T fresh chopped cilantro

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cumin. Cook until fragrant. Add the black beans, tomato juice (no, you can't substitute tomato sauce or tomato soup!), and salt. Cook until some of the liquid has evaporated. I cooked mine for about 10 minutes. Right before serving, add the cilantro.

Here comes the best part... Hold onto your hats!

Cilantro Ranch

1 packet TRADITIONAL Hidden Valley Ranch mix (not BUTTERMILK)
1 c mayonnaise
1 c buttermilk
2 tomatillos, remove husk, diced
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 jalapeno, seeded *If you like heat, keep the seeds in.
This is my lame attempt at trying to remember to take pictures when I'm trying to make 8 different things at once. :)

Toss it all into a blender and mix. I did use powdered buttermilk, but I didn't use the full 1 c of water it suggested to make 1 c of buttermilk. I used about 1/2 c water. I thought the dressing turned out better that way. It was thicker. Mmmmm.... Refrigerate the dressing for at least an hour before serving. It will thicken as it sits in there.

Now- the assembly-

1. tortilla with cheese
Place a tortilla in a large skillet and sprinkle some cheese on top. Keep the heat pretty low to not burn the tortilla. You can even throw it in the microwave if you'd like. I made my homemade tortillas for this.

2. romaine lettuce

3. Cilantro Rice

4. Black bean mixture

5. Sweet pork

6. Cilantro dressing

7. Other toppings can include homemade guacamole (see post in Mexican), tortilla strips, pico de gallo, cotija cheese

8. Ready, set, devour!
One of the husbands that came over said, "You know Callie, I was going to give you an A for this dinner, but I'm just disappointed that the tortilla chips weren't homemade. You just need to step it up and bring your A game!" Of course, he was kidding. Everyone loved it. This is a lot of work, but I'm telling you, if you have to feed a large group of people, this is the way to go. Assign different steps, and it's easy as pie! I am so, so, so happy that my sweet sister-in-law passed this recipe onto me. Shout out! Love ya, Brie! :) Now, you don't need to spend 8.95 per salad for all ten people in your party to eat Pork Barbacoa salads at Cafe Rio. Go all out and do it yourself. You won't be disappointed!


  1. Tried it, loved it. Definitely a keeper. A bit of work involved but was definitely worth it.

  2. Kerri! I'm so glad you liked it. I've been craving it lately, so I might have to make it again soon. It is a lot of work, but man, is it good!

  3. This looks heavenly....we are doing it!! Really!! I'll let you know how it goes.