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Jul 22, 2021


Sweet Pork Taco Salad Dinner

Recreating the Irresistible Café Rio Sweet Pork Taco Salad at Home

There’s something special about enjoying a mouthwatering meal at your favorite restaurant, but when you can recreate those flavors in the comfort of your own home, it’s a game-changer. My family’s love for Café Rio’s Sweet Pork Taco Salad Dinner inspired me to embark on a culinary adventure, searching for recipes that could rival the restaurant’s version. After some experimentation and tweaking, I’ve come up with recipes that my family prefers over the original. Not only does this make me happy, but it also saves us a considerable amount of money. Today, I’m excited to share with you my personalized versions of the Sweet Pork, Cilantro Ranch Dressing, Cilantro Lime Rice, Black Bean, and Key Lime Pie recipes. So, let’s dive into the delightful world of homemade Café Rio-inspired dishes!


Here is what you need to make this Sweet Pork Taco Salad Dinner:


Sweet Pork

The star of Café Rio’s taco salad is undeniably the succulent sweet pork. To recreate this tender and flavorful meat at home, start with a pork shoulder and marinate it in a tantalizing blend of spices, including brown sugar, garlic, cumin, and more. Slow-cook it until it reaches that melt-in-your-mouth consistency. The aroma that fills your kitchen will make your mouth water in anticipation. Trust me; this sweet pork recipe will be an instant hit with your family!


  • 5 pounds pork shoulder roast
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups Dr. Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin


  • In a crock pot add the tomato sauce, Dr. Pepper, garlic, molasses, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and cumin. Mix to combine.
  • Cut pork roast up into at least four pieces and set in sauce.
  • Cook on low all day.
  • Take the pork out of the sauce and shred all the pieces.
  • Place it back in the sauce and let it cook till you are ready to serve it.
  • This is great for salad or a burrito.

Cilantro Lime Rice

No taco salad is complete without a bed of fluffy and fragrant cilantro lime rice. I’ve perfected this recipe to capture the essence of Café Rio’s version. Cook the rice with chicken broth and toss it with freshly squeezed lime juice and chopped cilantro. The combination of citrusy tang and the aromatic herb creates a delightful companion to the sweet pork, enhancing the overall flavor profile of the dish.


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 lime (zest and juice)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro (chopped)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 cups minute rice


  1. In a saucepan combine butter, chicken broth, lime zest and juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, and cumin.
  2. Bring to a boil and then add the minute rice.
  3. Place a lid on the pan and turn off the heat.
  4. Set aside till serving time (I like to let mine sit for at least a half hour).
  5. Fluff with a fork right before you serve it.

Black Beans

To add a protein-packed punch and earthy flavor to your taco salad, don’t forget the black beans. I’ve developed a simple yet delicious recipe that involves sautéing onions, garlic, and spices before adding the black beans. Simmer them until they are tender and infused with all the savory goodness. These black beans will bring an extra layer of richness to your salad and make it a wholesome and satisfying meal.


  • 2 cans (15oz) black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)


  1. In a saucepan add olive oil, garlic, and cumin.
  2. Over medium heat cook until you can smell it. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  3. Then add tomato juice, beans, salt, and pepper. Simmer until some of the liquid is absorbed and evaporated.
  4. Stir in cilantro when ready to serve.

Cilantro Ranch Dressing

One of the elements that elevate Café Rio’s taco salad to the next level is their creamy cilantro ranch dressing. I’ve tweaked the classic ranch dressing recipe by adding fresh cilantro, lime juice, and a touch of jalapeño for a tangy and slightly spicy twist. This homemade dressing brings a burst of freshness and a zesty kick to the salad. It’s incredibly easy to whip up and will have your taste buds dancing with joy.


  • 1 jar (16oz) La Victoria Salsa Verde
  • 1 pkg. buttermilk ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender.
  2. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate till serving time.

Key Lime Pie

Now that we’ve covered the savory components of the meal, let’s indulge our sweet tooth with a refreshing dessert. Café Rio’s Key Lime Pie is a crowd favorite, and my modified version will not disappoint. The buttery graham cracker crust perfectly complements the tangy and creamy key lime filling. It’s a dessert that strikes a delicate balance between tartness and sweetness, leaving you craving more with every bite.



  • 1 sleeve of Saltine crackers (crushed)
  • 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers (crushed)
  • 1/2 package Pepperidge Farm Chessmen butter cookies (crushed)
  • 3/4 cup butter (melted)
  • 1/4 cup sugar


  • 4 cans of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups key lime juice
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • zest of 4 limes

Kiwi Lime Topping

  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 package (3oz) lime jello
  • 2 limes (zest and juice)
  • 3 kiwi’s

Whip Topping

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla



This recipe makes 2 pies.

  1. In a gallon-sized Ziploc bag add saltine, Ritz, and Cheeseman crackers and sugar.
  2. With a rolling pin crush them till they look like sand.
  3. In a microwave-safe bowl melt butter. Then add butter to the bag seal it and with your hands work the butter in until the crumbs are all coated.
  4. Take your 2 pie plates and divide your crust mixture (about 1 1/2 cups for each one.)
  5. Press out to cover the bottom and the sides of the pie plates.
  6. In a pre-heated 350-degree oven cook crust for 10 to 15 minutes. Take out and let cool.
  7. In a mixing bowl add sweetened condensed milk, key lime juice, sour cream, and lime zest. Mix till all combined.
  8. Pour half of the filling into each pie crust.
  9. Turn your oven down to 325 degrees and cook for 25 to 35 minutes till the filling is set. Let cool on the counter for about 10 minutes then put in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  10. While pies are in the fridge make the kiwi lime topping.
  11. In a saucepan add water and cornstarch.
  12. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly till boiling.
  13. Turn off the heat then add jello and lime juice, and stir till the jello is dissolved.
  14. Then add kiwi, and mix to combine.
  15. Take pies out of the fridge and top them with the kiwi lime topping.
  16. Return to fridge to continue setting up.
  17. Right before serving make your whip topping.
  18. In a mixing bowl add heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla.
  19. Mix till peaks form.
  20. When done put on top of pies.
  21. Add some lime zest on the top for garnish.
  22. Serve and enjoy.


In Conclusion:

Recreating the Café Rio sweet pork taco salad dinner at home has not only brought immense joy to my family but also saved us a significant amount of money. By modifying the recipes to suit our preferences, we have found versions that we enjoy even more than the original. The Sweet Pork, Cilantro Ranch Dressing, Cilantro Lime Rice, Black Bean, and Key Lime Pie recipes I’ve shared with you today are a labor of love and the result of countless delicious experiments. I encourage you to have fun with these recipes,

This is Renee “Doing what I Love”

To see how I made it live Click the links below.

(2) Facebook Sweet Pork and Cilantro Ranch Dressing

(2) Facebook Cilantro Lime Rice and Black Beans

Facebook Key Lime Pie


Hi there! My name is Renee Dalton. I'm not a professional chef but a self taught cook and baker. I have loved to cook and bake for as long as I can remember. Cooking and baking for others is one thing that brings me a lot of joy.

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