This healthy Cafe Rio salad recipe with creamy tomatillo ranch dressing is a copycat recipe with healthy, simple, homemade ingredients that are easy to make in the slow cooker. Plus they are a favorite of my immediate family for large family gatherings.
I love to eat at Cafe Rio. It’s not my favorite restaurant, but it’s relatively affordable and whenever a group of us are going out, we usually end up coming here because everyone can agree on it. Not all of you have the privilege of living near a Cafe Rio. But if you live by Chipotle, I’m told it’s sort of like that.
The main thing I don’t like about Cafe Rio is that since I eat Clean most of the time if I eat their sweet pork, I feel awful. It tastes so good, but if you look at the copycat recipes for it, they use Coke and brown sugar. No wonder I feel bad after eating it!
So, I played around with the ingredients and come up with this Cafe Rio pork salad recipe that’s so much healthier and (I think) better than Cafe Rio’s. Each individual part isn’t very hard, but all the time involved does add up.
My dad is a traditional eater. He likes American and Italian food and that’s about it. My mom hates to cook. I think it’s really funny that pretty much all of their children enjoy a wide variety of food and enjoy cooking. Seem off subject? Well, it’s hard to come up with a meal to eat for family gatherings that everyone will eat. There are about 30 of us when we’re all there and we’ve found that this pork salad recipe is our go-to meal.
The only person who doesn’t like it is my dad. BUT, because he can pick and choose which foods he eats, he comes up with a dish that he may not love, but he doesn’t complain about it. The same goes for the children. Some of them, all they eat is a tortilla and cheese, but at least it’s something – and it’s not hot dogs. And we can easily split up the different parts of the salad so it’s hardly any work for each individual.
In fact, as much as I enjoy going to Cafe Rio, I think my wallet does not. So my solution you might ask. I created this healthy Cafe Rio sweet pork salad that I can make at home. This is great because then I can enjoy one of my favorite meals but having more control over what goes into it! The dressing is made from scratch with no ranch mix but tastes just like the real thing! It may be a touch thinner, but still so yummy.
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Cafe Rio salad recipe
No ranch packet, Coke or brown sugar .. Just good, healthy and simple ingredients. Make Cafe Rio at home.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 300 minutes
- Total Time: 345 minutes
- Yield: 14 1x
- Category: Main Course
- Cuisine: Clean Eating
For the sweet pork:
- 3 1/2 Lbs Pork Loin Roast
- 28 oz Diced Tomatoes
- 2 in Chipotle Chilis (from canned chipotle chilis adobo sauce any unused portion can be frozen) (for Clean Eating sub 2–3 diced jalapeños)
- 1 Tbl Coarse Real Salt
- 1 Tbl Chili Powder
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
- 1/3 Cup Honey
- 1/3 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
For the Tomatillo Ranch Dressing:
- 3/4 Cup Buttermilk
- 3/4 Cup Mayo
- 2 Small Tomatillos (quartered)
- 1 Clove Garlic
- Juice of 1/2 a Lime
- 1/4 Cup Cilantro
- 1/2 Tbl Dill, fresh (packed)
- 2 Tbl Parsley, fresh (packed)
- 1/2 tsp Real Salt
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/8 tsp Ground Mustard
For the Salad:
- 8 Large Tortillas (for the Clean Eating diet use whole wheat, spelt or einkorn) (for the gluten-free diet, use gluten-free, corn or omit)
- 4 Cup Cooked Rice, Cilantro lime rice would be a great option (for the Clean Eating diet use brown rice)
- 2–3 Cup Cooked Pinto beans or black beans
- 14 Cups Chopped Romaine Lettuce
- 1 Cup Pico de Gallo, to top (diced tomato, onion, cilantro)
- Cotija Cheese (crumbled, to top)
- Sour Cream, (to top)
- Guacamole, (to top)
- Tortilla chips or Tortilla Strips, to top (Corn tortillas sliced and fried in oil)
To make the pork:
- If Pork Loin is very large, cut into two or three pieces.
- Place the pork loin in a crock pot and turn on to high heat. Place all other ingredients in a blender and puree until very smooth.
- Pour over the pork in the crock pot and cook for 5-6 hours, or until tender and shreds easily with a fork. Shred and toss well in sauce. Keep warm until ready to serve.
To make the dressing:
- Place the buttermilk, mayo, tomatillos, garlic, and lime juice in a blender.
- Puree until very smooth. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and puree just until the herbs are finely chopped.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To assemble salads:
- Place a tortilla on a plate or in a bowl.
- Place desired amount of sweet pork on the tortilla.
- Top the pork with with a scoop of rice and beans. Top rice and beans with desired amount of lettuce. Garnish with a scoop of pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, a handful of tortilla strips and crumbled cotija cheese.
- Top with tomatillo ranch dressing.
Keywords: Good, Healthy, Simple