Slow Cooker Sweet Pork Barbacoa


Let me begin by saying, I never thought I’d be dedicating a post to sweet pork. Ever. I used to hate the stuff. My husband loves it, so when we first got married I was still in the try real hard to impress him phase, so I tried making several different sweet pork recipes. Every time it was so hard for me to choke it down, because it was like eating a piece of candied pork inside a taco. It was far too overly sweet, not sweet in a good way at all. It was a weird kind of sweet. I sacrificed about eight too many times and made it for dinner because he liked it, then I finally decided; this is so lame, why am I making and eating something I can hardly choke down? Several years have gone by since. We frequent a local “Mexican” (I wouldn’t really call it Mexican but it’s still very good) restaurant called Cafe Rio and my husband, of course, often orders one of their Sweet Pork Barbacoa entrees. I decided to give it a second chance and I tried his sweet pork tacos and I actually found I liked it enough to order one for myself on our next visit. After trying it I decided it’s not anywhere near as sweet as some of the Cafe Rio knock off recipes out there. That is why I decided to come home and make my own rendition.

sweet pork tacos

This is one of the easiest recipes ever! Yes you could brown the roast in a skillet in a bit of oil first, and you could replace the onion and garlic powder with fresh sauteed onions and garlic, but that would remove much of the simplicity of this slow cooker recipe. To me a slow cooker recipe is one that you toss in and go, a recipe that is perfect for a busy day. So I’ve decided to keep it at that.

There are many uses for this pork, which are listed in the recipe. It is most definitely not limited to just tacos. You can also add more sugar if you’d like, if you want a really sweet pork. This pork is quite possibly even better the second day around, I feel it gives it more time to absorb more flavor (it’s not often I say a certain food is better as a leftover =). This is my second time making this recipe and I’d have to say it is very close to that of Cafe Rio (I brought some of theirs home to compare). It’s flavorful, unbelievably tender, with just the right amount of sweet, and again it’s incredibly versatile. So, if you have some of this left over after your tacos from the first day then the next day around you could use it for enchiladas and so forth. Enjoy!

sweet pork tacos2

 Note: these are my tacos without 85% of the toppings I add =). I had to leave them off so you could actually see the pork. For topping ideas I like to use: Romaine lettuce, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, or Cotija cheese, diced Roma tomatoes or pico de gallo, guacamole or diced avocados, sour cream, green or red onions, fresh salsa or cilantro lime ranch, hot sauce (Tapitio and tons of it), lime juice and cilantro. Not all of those at one time but most. It just depends on what I have on hand but they are all great options. Also, I always serve them in fried corn tortilla shells or fresh flour tortillas.


Slow Cooker Sweet Pork Barbacoa

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours


  • 3 lbs pork shoulder (aka Boston Butt Roast)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar , or more to taste for a sweeter pork if desired
  • 2 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt , or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste


  1. Place pork roast in a slow cooker. In a mixing bowl whisk together light-brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add in chicken broth and tomato paste and whisk mixture until well blended. Pour chicken broth mixture over pork roast in slow cooker. Cover slow cooker with lid, cook on low heat 7 - 8 hours. Remove roast from slow cooker, remove fat from roast and shred (I don't shred the pieces very small because it will kind of have a "mushy" texture if you over-shred it). Ladle out some of the fat (the shiny orange layer of liquid) from the top of the broth in the slow cooker and discard. Return shredded roast to slow cooker and allow to rest on warm heat for 1 - 3 hours. Strain broth. Serve inside tacos, enchiladas or burritos or serve over nachos, salads or tostadas.
  2. Recipe Source: Cooking Classy


  • Kristy @ Sweet Treats & More: I just posted a Slow Cooker Sweet Pork too! Yours looks amazing…I will have to give it a try!! January 4, 2013 at 8:51am Reply

    • Jaclyn: That’s funny we posted the same thing, great minds think alike haha =). Yours looks amazing too, and lightened up – sign me up! Thanks for your comment Kristy! January 4, 2013 at 10:24am Reply

  • katie: I love trying new sweet pork recipes. My husband always gets the pork salad at Cafe Rio (when we’re close by one!) but I always get grilled chicken…for some reason I don’t like it at Cafe Rio, but I love it at home! (I think it’s cuz I’m hooked on the chicken;) January 4, 2013 at 10:23am Reply

  • Janet: I’m looking forward to trying this, thanks for sharing your recipe! January 4, 2013 at 12:17pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: You’re welcome! Thanks for your comment! January 5, 2013 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Jessica@AKitchenAddiction: My husband will love these. . .and I love that you can make it in the slow cooker! :) January 4, 2013 at 2:49pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: It’s always nice to have a generous collection of delicious slow cooker recipes =). I hope you do have a chance to try these Jessica, thanks for your comment! January 4, 2013 at 8:29pm Reply

  • Jo Romero: Great recipe and really simple to make, I usually cook pork shoulder in beer and thyme in the crockpot but next time I’ll try this – looks delicious! January 4, 2013 at 3:47pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks. That sounds delicious too! January 5, 2013 at 3:01pm Reply

  • Becky @ lovetobeinthekitchen: This looks amazing! I just came across your site today and spent at least an hour looking at all your amazing recipes. I am impressed that you come up with so many yummy ideas and take the time to find the perfect recipe. Thanks for sharing! January 4, 2013 at 11:31pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks so much Becky for your sweet comment! I’m so glad you enjoyed browsing my site and I hope you continue to follow along and enjoy what you find here! January 6, 2013 at 12:15pm Reply

  • Ramona: I totally agree with you about anything sweet or even salty overpowering a dish. I don’t like things in any extreme… balance of flavors is my motto. Well, except for spicy food… I love it spicy. :) This pork looks really tender and juicy. I have been meaning to make a pork dish like this after I had it at Chipotle. You are making me want go buy some pork butt now. :) January 5, 2013 at 12:32pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Haha oh good =) glad you are wanting some pork butt! It’s funny that it’s called that because the butcher told me it really is the shoulder portion so not sure how the name came about. I’m with you on the spicy! I love hot sauce so much that sometimes I pour so much on you can hardly see whats underneath. I crave the stuff like crazy. My fridge will never go without =). January 5, 2013 at 1:35pm Reply

  • angela @ another bite please: i looooove sweet pork…and am loving your recipe…all the others that I was finding out there includes coke…and truthfully it makes me cringe to think of adding coke to my wonderful meat…so thank you for a truly homemade version of this which my family is sure to love!

    and slow cooker i “heart” that…nice easy mommy night for dinner. January 5, 2013 at 8:13pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Yeah I figured Cafe Rio probably isn’t pouring coke over their pork =). I love slow cooker meals myself, they are such a breeze. It gives me more time for preparing dessert! January 7, 2013 at 10:46pm Reply

    • Jessica: I agree! I really don’t like the recipes that use coke. I don’t even keep soda in the house so I don’t want to buy it specially for a recipe. I can’t wait to try these out! February 29, 2016 at 1:05pm Reply

  • Chris: These look really nice, great recipe. I a load of guacamole on that would be amazing. January 6, 2013 at 7:06am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks Chris! I totally agree, what mexican food isn’t good with a pile of guacamole loaded over it =)? January 8, 2013 at 9:14pm Reply

  • Slow Cooker Sweet Pork Barbacoa: […] Here’s a really good recipe especially if you like the sweet & sour stuff. […] January 6, 2013 at 8:01pm Reply

  • Vespa Woolf: This caught my eye because we do love barbaoa, although I will cut down the amount of sugar. We don’t like it too sweet! I make homemade corn tortillas with dried corn and lime and this would be perfect with them. Thanks! January 7, 2013 at 4:59am Reply

  • Tony B | Simple Awesome Cooking: Awesome! I’ve been looking for a solid pulled-pork type slow cooker recipe. The barbacoa style was the hook. Just found your blog and am digging it so far! January 10, 2013 at 8:05am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks so much Tony! I hope you love the sweet pork! January 11, 2013 at 10:48am Reply

  • Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious: Jason is a huge fan of barbacoa so he will be thrilled when I make this for him! I can’t wait to stuff these in some tacos with some freshly made guac. YUM! January 11, 2013 at 3:22pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I hope you and Jason love it =)! Thanks for your comment Chung-Ah! January 11, 2013 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Sarah: Is there anything you can do if you don’t have a shredder? :( February 1, 2013 at 7:34pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Hi Sarah – when I stated “shred” in the recipe I just meant to shred it using two forks or a fork and a knife =), sorry I should have been more specific. It should be very tender after cooking that long and shred easily. February 1, 2013 at 8:04pm Reply

  • Tara: My husband and I love Cafe Rio. I have already made this twice in two weeks, I can tell that is going to be a family staple! Thanks so much for the recipe!
    tara February 13, 2013 at 1:35am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Tara – I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed! And isn’t cafe rio amazing =)? I wish I had copycat recipe for all of their recipes but I will keep working on more I’m sure =). Thanks so much for your comment! February 17, 2013 at 11:12am Reply

  • Shayne: Hi — I specialize in making freeze ahead dinners. I put all the ingrediants into a zip lock, then to the freezer. I made it a few days later. I poured everything into the slow cooker straight from the freezer and it came out great. Super yummy – like eating meat candy! Thanks February 15, 2013 at 11:02am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Shayne – that is a great tip – I’m going to have to give it a try! Thanks so much for your comment! February 17, 2013 at 11:16am Reply

  • Michelle Y: Thanks for the recipe! I used a 3lb pork loin and was able to use the pork to make pulled pork enchiladas and two pulled pork pizzas. The pork was nice and moist and flavorful in both! March 6, 2013 at 8:43am Reply

    • Jaclyn: That’s great to hear you enjoyed this Michelle and were able to get two meals from it, I always love when I can do that =). Thanks so much for your comment! March 7, 2013 at 9:41am Reply

  • Marilee: I am not clear on what you do with the broth after you strain the fat off. Do you put the shredded pork in it while it’s resting in the crockpot? Sorry if this is a stupid question. Thanks March 30, 2013 at 11:39pm Reply

  • Marilee: Haha-never mind I figured it out. I put the meat back in the broth. I’m sure it would dry out other wise. Thanks for the great recipe.T
    he meat tastes amazing! March 31, 2013 at 12:17am Reply

    • Jaclyn: You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed and figured it out =), let me know if I can help in the future! April 2, 2013 at 7:38pm Reply

  • Five Things to Know Before You Go on a Utah Vacation: […] one of these burritos, y’all), so I looked online to see if I could find a copycat recipe.  This one from Cooking Classy looks great, so I think I’ll give it a try.  I’ll just make my […] April 23, 2013 at 3:57am Reply

  • Jen: I made this last night and I am still thinking about it. It was THAT good! I don’t know if I have ever made anything better. This is our number one favorite meal now. Thanks for this recipe and all of yours! June 22, 2013 at 10:01am Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so glad you liked it that much Jen :)! You’re welcome and thanks for your comment! June 27, 2013 at 6:34pm Reply

  • Carmen: I was born in Mexico and Barbacoa is a tradition in all of Mexico and it is done with the head of beef cattle. It`s usually cooked very slow in a hole dug in the ground and the meat is cover with maguey leaves. The pit is then sealed covered with damp earth. This is after you clean it , by removing the eyes, tongue, ears, etc. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the whole head. Then the onion, garlic and cilantro. Wrap it in paper and then wrap it in burlap.
    If you do this recipe with pork it would not taste as good. But it sound good as Slow Cooker Pork Tacos. :-) November 24, 2013 at 1:15am Reply

  • Helen Hilton: I like your recipe, I am Mexican, the only thing I will change is the flour tortillas, we use corn tortillas with pork…. always…… it gives you a better flavor. Thanks for sharing. June 23, 2014 at 8:54pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: These actually are corn tortillas pictured but they do look decieving :). I’m with you on that one though. Most of the time I like my tacos with corn tortillas. I just heat them in like 1 tsp oil over medium-high heat until each side is lightly browned, that’s why they look like so. June 23, 2014 at 9:46pm Reply

  • Jody: I made this today, as the centerpiece for our Mexican feast. There are 7 of us dining, and we ate the entire 3.25 pounds of meat, minus enough for 1 taco. I called dibs on it. My sweetie’s Mexican mother loved it. She said it reminded her of her Tia’s cooking. Thanks for the recipe. It’s definitely going into the permanent files. August 24, 2014 at 6:47pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so glad you family liked this Jody! Thanks for letting me know! September 4, 2014 at 10:23pm Reply

  • christina: Just put this in the slow cooker, but as I suspected looking at the amount of liquid, it no where near covers the piece of pork. The liquid is barely an inch on the bottom. Any comments appreciated!! April 7, 2015 at 6:44am Reply

  • Athena: Thank you so much for your recipe! I am not usually a fan of pork but we made this today and it was fantastic! It was a keeper for the family too! July 11, 2015 at 6:57pm Reply

  • Amy J: I have to write a comment/compliment. This is a wonderful recipe! I have used it at least 5 times and it is perfect. I haven’t used it with the tomato paste. I just squirt in some ketchup but it is amazing. So glad you posted it!! Thanks a bunch! July 17, 2015 at 12:47pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so glad you like the recipe Amy!! July 18, 2015 at 10:46pm Reply

  • Jackie: Ok, this is my 1st question after trying and loving 5 of your great recipes and easy instructions. Can I use boneless pork chops since that is what I have on hand already? Thanks! September 8, 2015 at 3:07pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I wouldn’t recommend it with this recipe, it’s wouldn’t be nearly as tender. I wish though, I love when I can use up something I already have on hand for a recipe. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the recipes Jackie! September 8, 2015 at 11:29pm Reply

  • Emily: Jaclyn, what did you use for the tortilla’s they look amazing! March 8, 2016 at 8:13pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Just corn tortillas cooked in about 1 tsp oil per side until golden :). March 9, 2016 at 11:44am Reply

  • Laurie: Just used your recipe to makeup a batch of slow cooker pulled pork…can hardly wait for supper! Thanks for the recipe. June 22, 2017 at 8:37pm Reply

Add your comment:

Copyright 2011-2017 Cooking Classy
Design by cre8d