Chicken Tacos (Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken Copycat Recipe)


I will admit it, I’m a Cafe Rio/Costa Vida addict.  It’s rare that I go more than a week without eating at one of the two. All their entrees are so full of exciting flavors that they keep me coming back for more. Since I eat there so frequently I thought maybe it’s time to create another copycat recipe. One of my favorite things to get there is the shredded chicken salad or shredded chicken tacos, so here is my version of that chicken.

This chicken is SO easy to make! If you haven’t noticed, I love my slow cooker. You simply toss in a few ingredients along with some spices, and then allow it to cook low and slow all day while the flavors meld together and wallah! It almost seems to good to be true doesn’t it? It does all the hard work.
This Shredded Chicken recipe is not only to be used as a taco filling but also for burritos, enchiladas, salads, quesadillas, taquitos, etc. So, if you don’t use it all the first night you make it you can use the left over chicken to make a different entree the next night, bonus! I hope you love this amazing shredded chicken that is so incredibly tender and filled with the prefect blend of flavors and spices. May it be your go to chicken filling for many of your favorite Mexican dishes! Enjoy!


Chicken Tacos (Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken Copycat Recipe)

5 from 1 vote


  • 2.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Zesty Italian Salad dressing
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper , optional (adjust according to desired heat preference or omit)


  1. Place chicken breast halves in the slow cooker. In a mixing bowl whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour mixture over chicken in slow cooker, cover slow cooker with lid. Cook chicken on low heat 6 - 8 hours. Shred chicken (it's so tender I usually just shred it in the slow cooker without even removing it), then cook shredded chicken in broth in slow cooker an additional 30 minutes on low. Drain broth from chicken. Serve warm in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, taquitos etc. Note: for taco filling ideas and how to cook corn tortilla shells see this post here.
  2. Recipe Source: Cooking Classy


  • the Grows: I should also be in Cafe Rio/Costa Vida Addicts Anonymous. SOOO good. This looks delish! We will definitely be trying this soon. April 18, 2012 at 2:05pm Reply

  • jayemmtee: omg i am the worst cook ever and have been looking for super easy recipes to feed my hubby and i! and we loveeee mexican! :) thank you!! April 18, 2012 at 5:56pm Reply

  • scrapwordsmom: YUM!! April 18, 2012 at 8:28pm Reply

  • Normal Food For Normal People: We just got our slow cooker of a box and are looking to put it to good use. Soon we’ll be featuring a bunch of articles on our blog about what we can do with it. We have heard it can create miracles quick and easy – and it certainly looks like what you have done is par for the course. We can’t wait! April 19, 2012 at 7:54am Reply

  • Jacquelyn Grandy: Hi Jaclyn! I actually just posted a shrimp taco recipe today. We love tacos and really anything Mexican in our house. These look amazing and I am definitely going to give them a shot. You can’t have to many taco recipes right? April 19, 2012 at 10:01am Reply

  • Anonymous: Made this tonight for my family….me, hubby and 5 kids ranging from 19 to 6 absolutely loved it. This one is a keeper! April 27, 2012 at 10:21pm Reply

  • Anonymous: How much chicken do I need for 35 people? April 28, 2012 at 8:51am Reply

  • Jaclyn: Anonymous 1 – So glad to hear you loved it! Thanks for the comment.
    Anonymous 2 – That is a good question =). I think last time I made this it served about 7 people so I would say you’ll want to do about 5x the recipe. Also you probably already knew but you’ll want to divide it between a few slow cookers. I hope that helps and I hope you enjoy! April 28, 2012 at 1:39pm Reply

  • Ann Sanders: I made this last Saturday. Only thing that I added was a 7 oz. can of Salsa Verde, otherwise, made as written. Such a BIG hit. Got lots of compliments. Enough left over for chicken enchiladas on Cinco de Mayo!. Thanks for the recipe. April 30, 2012 at 7:01am Reply

  • Anonymous: hi, can this be made ahead of time and frozen for a party? May 17, 2012 at 2:31pm Reply

  • Jaclyn: Anonymous – it probably could (I’ve never tried) but I would recommend making it fresh because fresh is always better. I’ve even done this overnight if you need it for lunch. You could just cook it for the 8 hours overnight then turn it to warm in the morning until lunch time. The great thing about this dish though is it’s minimal efforts, really you just throw it all in the slow cooker then basically forget about it while it does all the hard work so it is a great meal to serve a party =). Hope you enjoy. May 17, 2012 at 9:08pm Reply

  • Anonymous: Used my pressure cooker instead of crock pot for instant satisfaction and it turned out wonderful. June 3, 2012 at 4:52am Reply

  • Jaclyn: Anonymous – I’ve been considering buying a pressure cooker for that reason =). What should take hours to cook in a slow cooker can be cooked much less time in a pressure cooker. Glad to know this recipe worked well in a pressure cooker. Thanks for your comment! June 3, 2012 at 8:41pm Reply

  • Anonymous: I am a single Dad and need ideas the kids will eat. They all love chicken so made this and used it to make enchiladas, quesadillas and taquitos over the weekend. Great, easy recipe. Thanks so much for posting! I have no idea what Cafe Rio is but it must be good! (and on a river!) September 20, 2012 at 1:14pm Reply

  • Jaclyn: Anonymous – you’re very welcome =)! I’m so glad you enjoyed it and used it for a variety of entrees. I love the versatility of this chicken. They use it at Cafe Rio (River =) to make salads, burritos, tacos, enchiladas and quesadillas. That’s one thing I love about it, it can be used for more than one meal and you don’t have to eat the same thing the next night by switching it up. You should also try the Shredded Beef Tacos on my site, also another versatile delicious recipe. Thanks for the comment! September 22, 2012 at 9:01am Reply

  • Loudoun Travel: Just wanted to stop by and say thank you for this delicious recipe. We had it tonight and it was a big hit. I consider myself a nitwit in the kitchen and my family is very picky about what they eat. I’m happy to say that this recipe was EASY–even for us nitwits and it was so good that even my picky family ate it up and asked for seconds/thirds. THANK YOU for sharing this!!! October 2, 2012 at 4:35pm Reply

  • Jaclyn: Loudoun Travel – Thanks for your comment, I’m so glad your family liked this recipe! It’s actually what I’m having for dinner tonight =). It’s one of the meals I make most often because it’s easy and delish and I can usually get two meals out of it if its just my small family eating. I love slow cooker meals. October 3, 2012 at 3:29pm Reply

  • Anonymous: Could I use a cooked rotisserie chicken? October 11, 2012 at 11:12am Reply

  • Jaclyn: Anonymous – I wouldn’t recommend it just because that is one of the best parts of the recipe that the raw chicken has all day to cook and marinate in the delicious spices and flavors. Its cheaper to use chicken breasts and it’s probably easier as well because you don’t have to carve around bones and remove skin and so forth. I hope that helps! October 11, 2012 at 8:21pm Reply

  • Dana: This recipe is by far the absolute best that I’ve found on foodgawker. I give this dish 5 stars due to the versatility and endless uses for delicious shredded chicken. Thanks Jaclyn! January 5, 2013 at 4:06pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks so much Dana for such a wonderful review, definitely one of the best I’ve ever been given =)!! I’m so glad you’ve loved the recipe. I use this one all the time myself too. Simple and versatile. Thanks for your very kind comment, it made my day! January 7, 2013 at 10:45pm Reply

  • Menus this week + Pinterest Interests 1.12.12 | Over The Big Moon: […] Chicken Tacos […] January 12, 2013 at 5:01am Reply

  • Froozan: How many people does this recipe serve ? If I use a pressure cooker how long should I cook it for ? January 24, 2013 at 1:28pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: It should make enough for about 6 – 7 people, as far as your question about how long to cook I’d recommend you view this recipe for cooking times as I’ve never done it in a pressure cooker before:
      Hope that helps! January 24, 2013 at 3:00pm Reply

      • Elizabeth: I made this is the pressure cooker using the directions from Barbara’s chicken taco filling. For frozen chicken breasts, cook 12-15 minutes at high pressure. Super fast and convenient in the pressure cooker. Great recipe with lots of flavor. Thanks! May 5, 2014 at 7:12pm Reply

  • Heather: First of all this recipe is so great!! Thank you for posting it! A question though, if I am making a double batch of this recipe do I still cook it for the same amount of time in the crock pot? If not how much longer do I add to it? February 21, 2013 at 5:49pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Heather – I would probably cook it for the same amount of time and then test a piece to see if it shreds easily, if not add another hour. Hope that helps! February 21, 2013 at 6:56pm Reply

  • Mina: What brand slow cooker do you use? June 8, 2013 at 4:13pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Crockpot – I bought a cuisinart and liked my crockpot better because the cruisinart had a lot of steam evaporate out the sides around the lid (because it didn’t fit well) and I ended up with dry food. The crockpot is the one that seals on the sides here:
      It’s nothing heavy duty, I wish the frame was a better build you can tell it’s pretty cheap but I love the way it cooks stuff. June 8, 2013 at 6:19pm Reply

  • tony: Made these tocos for my family tonight. Everyone loved them. Tastes so good when it hits your lips! June 15, 2013 at 4:33pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so glad you hear everyone loved these Tacos! Thanks so much for your comment Tony! June 16, 2013 at 10:28am Reply

  • alana: Hey Jaclyn, what slow cooker do u recommend. I don’t have one:( October 12, 2013 at 10:29am Reply

  • Dora: I was wondering if I can use a whole chicken instead of the chicken breast January 3, 2014 at 12:10pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: That should work fine, I would cut it into portions first and I would probably recommend using the light dressing (which I occasionally do with the breasts too) just to cut back on the oils as the whole chicken has more fat. January 12, 2014 at 9:30pm Reply

  • Ruth: I am making this right now, but only used 1 tsp of chili powder since 1 Tablespoon sounded like an awfully lot and I didn’t want it so spicy, I’m unable to serve it to my toddler. Anyone have problems with it being too spicy with the added recommended chili powder AND cayenne pepper!? August 2, 2014 at 11:52am Reply

  • Chicken Tostadas with Slow Cooker Chicken – […] 1 recipe slow cooker shredded chicken, recipe found here […] September 29, 2014 at 1:56pm Reply

  • Jessica Taylor: This was delicious! Spices perfectly balanced. For anyone afraid of 1 tbsp of chili powder remember this recipe calls for 2.5lbs of chicken. Awesome! Thanks! May 17, 2015 at 9:04pm Reply

  • Stephanie: We used this recipe for our Basketball end of season banquet, to feed 100 people. I slow cooked 30 lbs of chicken breasts in my roaster, all day and night between 150 – 200 degrees F.

    It was a hit, but with 30 lbs ground beef as well, it was too much. We packed up the left-overs in zip lock bags and sent some home with families and send a bunch to the local fire dept for the guys to eat. The lime cilantro dressing is the bomb. March 9, 2016 at 12:06am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Wow, what a crowd! So glad it was a hit! March 10, 2016 at 1:04pm Reply

  • Katie: If I put it on high how many hours should I let it cook for April 26, 2016 at 12:17pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Around 3 – 4 hours. April 27, 2016 at 12:21am Reply

  • Jerry: Many years ago I made a recipe like this but only used the Italian dressing, boiled the chicken in water and sauteed it with the dressing in a skillet, and it was so good. Your recipe is SO much better. I made it exactly as written and thinking of adding fresh cilantro next time. Thank you. August 26, 2017 at 5:59pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: So glad you liked them Jerry! August 31, 2017 at 10:10am Reply

  • TLW: I’ve loved this recipe for a few years now, thank you so much for sharing it,I got it from a friend who got it from here. Did you convert it to an instant pot by chance? Not a big fan of Instant Pot yet, but trying to get on the band wagon I guess. hahaha! February 5, 2018 at 1:42pm Reply

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