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Slow Cooker Sweet & Spicy Pork – A Cafe Rio Copycat

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Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Pork – Just like my favorite Mexican place. Use it for tacos, burritos, taco salad, or some insane nachos.

Slow Cooker Sweet & Spicy Pork (Cafe Rio Copycat) - Awesome in burrito bowls, taco salad, or tacos!

Today, I have another “re-shoot” recipe from waaaaay back. This is one of the first recipes I ever blogged (I started blogging in March 2008, and this was originally posted April 8, 2008). Woah baby. It’s another one that makes me a little itchy to look at. It’s WAY past time to re-visit it!

Cafe Rio Sweet and Spicy Pork // One Lovely Life

(ye olde picture… yikes-o-rama)

This is one of those meals I make any time I’m feeding a crowd. It’s delicious, flavorful, and filling. Plus, you can serve it family style and let everyone build their own burritos (or rice bowls).

While you can use any pork roast, I use pork loin since it’s leaner and there’s very little fat you’ll have to sort out when you shred it. As for the El Pato sauce, everyone always wants to know what it looks like. Well, thar she blows. I’ve found it at my local Kroger, at Sprouts, and even at Wal-mart or Target, so I think you should be able to find it somewhere.

Most stores carry it near the tomato sauce (occasionally it’s in the tex-mex section of the international foods). If you can’t find this brand, look for 2 small cans of Mexican-style tomato sauce (every decently-stocked grocery store I’ve ever shopped in at least carries Mexican-style tomato sauce, usually in a generic brand, which will work just fine).

Leftovers freeze beautifully, so feel free to make it ahead of time or to freeze half for leftovers another night. Leftover pork can be used for burritos, quesadillas, rice bowls, taco salad, or some pretty ultimate nachos.

p.s. Also, if you’re in the market for a slow cooker, I can’t recommend ours highly enough. It’s easy to program and has clips on the lid to prevent spills. Why that’s not a standard feature on all slow cookers is beyond me. It’s the best! 

Cafe Rio Copycat Sweet & Spicy Pork - Made in the slow cooker! Slow Cooker Sweet & Spicy Pork from www.onelovelylife.com

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Sweet and Spicy Pork (Cafe Rio Copycat)


I highly recommend serving this sweet & spicy pork with a batch of green chile lime rice.



For pork:

  • 1 (2.5-3lb) pork loin roast
  • 1 can yellow El Pato sauce
  • 1 can green El Pato sauce
  • 1 can tomato sauce (I use no salt added)
  • 1/23/4c brown sugar (or more, if you want it less spicy)

Ideas for serving:

  • tortillas*
  • rice (I prefer green chile lime rice)
  • black beans
  • enchilada sauce*
  • grated cheese*
  • lettuce
  • tomatoes


  1. Put roast in a slow cooker with about 1c water. Cook on high 8-10 hours. Remove roast and shred with forks, removing any fat. Drain and quickly rinse crock pot (don’t worry about getting everything out, just a quick rinse to remove any extra fat hanging around). Return shredded pork to slow cooker with remaining ingredients. Stir to combine well and heat through till warm.

To serve:

  1. In a flour tortilla, add a layer of rice, pork, and black beans. Roll up like a burrito, and spoon enchilada sauce on top. Sprinkle with cheddar (or other) cheese. Broil until cheese is melty. Serve with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes, if desired.


*For a gluten free version, use brown rice tortillas and be sure your enchilada sauce is gluten free (most green sauces are). For dairy free, just skip the cheese!

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    1. oh and luckily I found the El Pato sauces….the green was in the Mexican Food aisle and the yellow was in the tomato sauce aisle. 🙂

  1. this looks really tasty! what exactly are the sauces made of (what are the main ingredients)?? if they aren’t in our grocery store, what would i look for?

  2. This looks yummy! I am adding it to my menu plan list for sure! Thanks for sharing. And I wanted to let you know that your family is in my prayers!!

  3. This became a family favorite back in 2008 when you originally posted it. We love it for all the reasons you give. It’s SO delicious.

    With only two of us at home, I now just start with the Kirtland Smoked Pulled Pork from Costco in the refrigerated section. After warming the pork in the microwave as per the package instructions, I add the other ingredients and have dinner ready in just a very few minutes. It’s wonderful!

  4. How spicy is this? It sounds great, but I’ve never used that kind of tomato sauce to know how hot it is (my kids won’t eat anything too spicy).

    1. Juliann – it does have a kick to it, for sure. My husband’s family adds about 1-1 1/4c brown sugar to this recipe to tone down the heat for sensitive palates. If you’re really nervous (or don’t want to use too much sugar), feel free to use 2 cans of plain tomato sauce and just one can (I recommend the yellow) of El Pato sauce. Hope this helps!

  5. Excited to make this next week! My Walmart in my tiny town with literally nothing had the sauces! I miss Cafe Rio, so this will be fun to try.

  6. Made this today and it is the best pork I have EVER had. Reminds me of my favorite pork tacos from a mexican restaurant here in town. So delish!

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