Barbacoa can mean a lot of things depending on the context. It can mean a dish, the meat used in the dish, a way of cooking, or the oven the dish is cooked in.
It came from the Taino people of the Caribbean who spoke Arawak. Barbacoa can refer to the meat from the head of cattle, goat, or lamb used in the recipe. It can mean the slow cooking method used, which is done over an open fire, originally a pit lined with maguey leaves. This pit was also called barbacoa.
By association, the dish made in this way, with lots of spices, is named the same. When the dish became popular in South-western USA, mainly Texas, it became what we know as “barbecue”. Although pork is not the usual meat used, the pork barbacoa recipe has become quite popular due to the lightness of pork and the variety of flavors you can obtain.
Barbacoa pork is usually obtained from the shoulders and hind of the animal. The following sweet barbacoa pork recipe is inspired by the Cafe Rio delicacy that so many people swear by.
Slow-Cooked Sweet Mexican Pork Barbacoa Recipe
- 3 lbs. pork butt roast, preferably with the fat removed
- 2-3 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 cans of Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper
- 10-20 oz enchilada sauce, according to taste
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp chili powder
- ¼ tsp cumin powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cilantro to season
You can modify the amount of the powdered ingredients according to taste or even add diced onion, garlic, and chilis instead.
- In a bowl or Ziploc bag, add the pork along with 1 can of soda and half of the brown sugar and put in the refrigerator to marinate for between 2 hours to overnight. You can change the amount of soda and sugar you use as well as the duration for which you marinate, depending on how sweet you want the pork to be.
- Once marinated, transfer the contents to a crockpot or slow cooker.
- Add the garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, salt, pepper, cumin powder, and the chicken broth.
- Cover with the lid and cook on low heat for 8 hours. You may reduce the time to at the most 4 hours by increasing the heat, but this may take away the taste of the barbacoa pork.
- Take the pork out after it is done and shred it with forks. Remove any bones, fat, and other parts you may not like.
- Put the pork back into the slow cooker and add sauce, and the rest of the coke and brown sugar to it. Cook it on low heat for around 2-3 hours more. Add more spice if you wish according to your taste.
- Strain away the broth. Plate the pork and serve as you would wish. Season with chopped cilantro.
Note here that you can use a different combination of spices, a different sauce, some other sweetener, and additional seasonings in the Mexican pork barbacoa recipe. You can even make the sauce at home yourself if you like to DIY things.
How to Serve the Slow-Cooked Barbacoa Pork?
There are numerous ways to serve barbacoa pork. Because this is a Mexican pork barbacoa recipe, it is very common to serve them in tacos, burritos, taquitos, enchiladas, quesadillas, tostadas, etc.
But you can also have them on salads and nachos.
Here, we will also describe the other two popular ways on how to serve them in the Cafe Rio style and how to use leftover barbacoa pork in enchiladas.
Cafe Rio Pork Barbacoa Recipe
- Fresh corn or wheat tortillas
- Mexican cheese blend
- Cilantro lime rice
- Black beans
- Romaine lettuce
- Pico de Gallo
- Crispy tortilla strips
- Cotija cheese
- Cafe Rio cilantro tomatillo ranch dressing
- Lay the tortilla on the plate and sprinkle the cheese blend over it.
- Put the cilantro lime rice over this, followed by the black beans, and then the barbacoa pork.
- Garnish with chopped lettuce, Pico de Gallo, guacamole, tortilla chips, chopped cilantro, cotija cheese, and place a few lime wedges on the sides.
- Serve with the dressing.
Also watch how sweet pork is made at Cafe Rio:
- 1 ¾ cups red enchilada sauce
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 4 tbsp flour
- ½ tsp onion salt
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1-2 cups cheese blend
- ¾ tsp cumin
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- Preheat your oven to 400°F.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan. Use medium heat so that the butter does not burn.
- Add the flour and chicken broth and whisk to a smooth consistency.
- Add the enchilada sauce, brown sugar, cumin, and salt, and stir for 5 minutes.
- Fill the bottom of a casserole dish with a layer of the sauce.
- Take a tortilla and line it with the pork, cheese blend, and chopped cilantro. Now roll it.
- Make a few of these rolls and place them parallelly in the casserole dish.
- Cover with the sauce and sprinkle more cheese over it.
- Bake for 15 minutes. The cheese should have melted and the dish should have turned a nice brown.
- Garnish with cheese and cilantro and dress with more sauce if you wish.
How to Store the Slow-Cooked Sweet Barbacoa Pork?
The pork barbacoa dish can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator if stored in an airtight container. You can store it for 2-3 months even if you keep it in an airtight, freezer-safe container. If you do plan to store it, do not keep it outside for more than 2 hours as this could cause it to go bad.