Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken

Copycat Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken – a simple and delicious chicken recipe that is perfect for salads, burritos, quesadillas and tacos!

If you’ve ever been to Cafe Rio, you know how good their Mexican food is! That’s why we’ve made so many copycat recipes—this chicken, cilantro lime rice, sweet pork barbacoa, and even their cilantro ranch salad dressing!

cafe rio chicken recipe in a white bowl

Have you ever been to Cafe Rio??

It’s one of our family’s all-time favorite Mexican grill restaurants and one that we frequent often. It’s mostly located on the West Coast, with a few exceptions. But if you’ve never been, have no fear because today, I’m bringing you a copycat recipe for Cafe Rio’s Shredded Chicken.

Basically, it’s a delicious chicken recipe with some Mexican flavors that is perfect for salads, tacos or burritos. It’s flavorful and is something I can double and freeze if there are leftovers for future meals!!

It tastes very similar to Cafe Rio’s recipe and is just so good that it’s now my go-to chicken recipe, especially when we have a Mexican burrito/salad bar set up. We also serve it with our copycat Cilantro Lime Rice and Cilantro Ranch Dressing from Cafe Rio too.

Copycat cafe rio chicken in a crockpot

The simple recipe

Aside from the chicken, there’s only five other ingredients you put in the crockpot (minus the water—that hardly counts as an ingredient):

  • italian dressing
  • garlic
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • ranch dressing mix

COOK. Simply place the chicken in the crockpot and pour all the other ingredients on top. Cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours, or LOW for 5-6.

SHRED. Shred the chicken (for tips and different methods for shredding chicken, go here), and put back in the juices. Serve however you like!

Can I cook cafe rio chicken in an instapot? Yes! Just place all the ingredients in the pot, set it to poultry and cook for 6 minutes, 10 minutes if the chicken is frozen. Allow the pressure to release, shred the chicken, and serve.

Serve it Cafe rio style

There are several different entrees you can use this chicken in! Here are some ways you can do it Cafe Rio style. 😉

Burrito: Wrap the chicken, rice, your choice of beans, and some shredded cheese in a large flour tortilla. If you want it “smothered”, cover in enchilada sauce (red or green), add more shredded cheese on top, and broil in the oven until cheese is melted.

Enchiladas: Wrap chicken and shredded cheese in a flour tortillas, then cover in enchilada sauce and more shredded cheese. Bake or broil in the oven until cheese is melted.

Quesadillas: Just sandwich some cheese and chicken in a tortilla and cook on a skillet or in the microwave until the cheese is nice and melty. Similar to this quesadilla recipe!

Salad: Start with a tortilla in the bottom of your dish. Then add (in this order) rice, beans, chicken, fresh lettuce, and all your favorite toppings (listed below). Serve with cilantro ranch dressing.

Any of these entrees can be served with Mexican rice, cilantro lime ricebeans, tomatoes, lettuce, avocados, cheese, salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, cotija cheese, cilantro, and any of your other favorite taco toppings.

Cafe rio shredded chicken in a white bowl

Double it and freeze

Can I double the recipe and freeze some for later? Absolutely you can! Double all the ingredients and cook for the same amount of time in a slow cooker. Once the chicken has been shredded, place half of it into a freezer safe ziploc, along with half of the juice. Freeze for up to 4 months. Reheat in a slow cooker or thaw and reheat, covered, in the oven.

Not only is this chicken delicious, but it’s simple and can be used in so many ways. Whether it’s burritos, tacos, quesadillas, chimichangas, taco salad or tacos, I think you’ll love it!!

For more mexican recipes, check out:

Cafe Rio Chicken Recipe

5 from 62 votes
Copycat Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken - a simple and delicious chicken recipe that is perfect for salads, burritos, quesadillas and tacos!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 5 minutes
Servings 5
Calories 351 kcal
Author Lil' Luna


  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Zesty Italian Dressing
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp dry ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup water


  • Spray inside of crockpot with cooking spray. Add chicken to slow cooker.
  • In a small bowl combine Italian dressing, minced garlic, chili powder, cumin, ranch dressing and water. Pour over chicken and cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours, or LOW for 5-6.
  • Remove chicken from crockpot and shred. Add chicken back to juices and serve with salad/burritos/tacos. ENJOY!

Recipe adapted from Simply Happenstance

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About Kristyn

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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Recipe Rating


  1. DO you add ranch dressing mix or already made ranch dressing into the mix? Please and thanks
    (Cafe rio shredded chicken)

  2. 5 stars
    Hi! I am making this recipe x6 how kuch longer will i need to cook For? If i TRiPPLED tHe recipe in one CROCKPOT

    1. I would check it at that 4 hr mark & if it’s still not done you can check every 30 min or so.

  3. 5 stars
    I make this often and love it!! i am prepping freezer meals for after i have a baby. i am wondering: do you recommend cooking it completely, shredding it, and then freezing? or putting the ingredients and the chicken in a freezer bag and freezing, then popping it in the crockpot day of? also wondering if thawing the chicken first is necessary in the second scenario.

    1. Either work just fine. For me, I like to cook it & then shred it, that way it is ready for me. I just take out the morning of to thaw or run the bag under some warm water. Good luck with a new baby!! How fun!

  4. 5 stars
    Yay!! I am so happy that I can make this at home! I get the shredded chicken every time I go to Café Rio! This is so easy & juicy!

  5. 5 stars
    This is my favorite! Your recipe tastes just like cafe rio’s. Making this again soon…my family loved it!

  6. 5 stars
    When i make this recipe i make sure to double it. We use this meat for tacos, burritos, nachos- pretty much anything and it is easy to store. So TAsty!

  7. 5 stars
    This is a great recipe that everyone loves. It taste just as good as cafe rio and can be used for different dishes. So versatile!

  8. 5 stars
    Turned out exactly like the cafe rio shredded chicken! I made their salad at home using the cilantro lime rice recipe as well and it was just as good as buying it from the restaurant.

  9. 5 stars
    I was so excited to try this because there isnt a cafe rio near me. I dont think it tastes like the cafe rio version at all but it is pretty delicious. I will make it again

  10. 5 stars
    This is fantastic! I didn’t have exact ingredients, but didn’t want to go to the store so I just used what I had and it turned out perfect! I didn’t have the zesty Italian dressing so I used Olive Garden dressing that I had. I didn’t have the ranch powered so I used the stuff that’s premade and eliminated the water. We recently moved and I can’t find my garlic press so I used garlic powder. I put it in the crockpot with frozen chicken and just went with the longer time. So Yummy!!! Thank you!

  11. 5 stars
    Made this recipe for my sons grooms lunch this is the only thing he requested! (feeding a 150) simple, easy to follow and tastes AmAziNg!!!

  12. 5 stars
    This recipe is great! My family loves it, my kids beg for it. We always make quesadillas with it but I like to make extra so we can use it through the week on salads and other things. Yum!

  13. 5 stars
    The first time I cooked it was for our family and my kids loved it. I then decided to triple the recipe for my daughters birthday, it was a hit!

  14. 5 stars
    Love love love this recipe! My entire family loves it and thats included two incredibly pickey eaters. Thank you so much!!

    1. Yay! I’m so glad you all enjoyed the chicken! It’s a family favorite over here too. 🙂

    1. This recipe serves about 4. But on the recipe card in this post, you can change the serving size and it will automatically change the amounts of ingredients you need as well.

  15. 5 stars
    I don’t live in the area to try cafe Rio, so I can’t comment on whether or not this is a good copycat, but this recipe IS delicious and I use it often in my quesadillas. It’s also easy to make, which is a plus!

    1. Ooh I have never made them with chicken quarters before. You’d have the bone and skin that you’d want to make sure to get out of. So I imagine you could pre-cook, shred and then just re-heat with the sauce/marinade in the crockpot. You’ll have to let us know how it turns out if you give it a try!

    1. Just place all the ingredients in the pot, set it to poultry and cook for 6 minutes, 10 minutes if the chicken is frozen. Allow the pressure to release, shred the chicken, and serve.

  16. 5 stars
    This was so much better than I had thought it would be (not a big meat-eater). My husband and I loved it! It will definitely be our go-to chicken recipe.

    1. That makes me so happy to hear! I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe so much. It’s definitely a go-to in our house as well!

  17. 5 stars
    SO DELICIOUS! Cafe Rio is my absolute favorite restaurant, and I love being able to recreate it at home. 🙂
    Yesterday I substituted a jalapeno lime vinaigrette dressing for the italian, and it was yummy as well!

  18. 5 stars
    This tastes just like Cafe Rio! I’ve doubled the recipe (and kept the cooking time the same) with stellar results. This is a new family favorite recipe. Thank you for saving our wallets! 🙂

  19. 5 stars
    My family loves this recipe! So easy, and rave reviews. I keep individual serving sizes in the freezer for my teenagers. I always make salads or enchiladas, they love it for burritos and nachos

    I was buying cafe rio way too often. This has definitely helped our budget.

  20. 5 stars
    Fantastic recipe. I double the recipe and freeze the leftovers in individual portion sizes. My teenagers love grabbing it when they get hungry. This freezes really well, so its a perfect recipe to prep ahead or have on hand for any reason. It’s saved my sanity on stressful days more than once.

    We’ve saved a ton of money on take out with this one.

    Thank you!!

  21. 5 stars
    I feel like I’m missing out, never dining at a Cafe Rio, but that’s what I get for living in northern Indiana. Lol! We absolutely love this recipe and double it every time I make it. It’s versatile to do any type of dish with and it freezes well, so doubling the recipe makes for an easy dinner later on. I just made a double batch today and am freezing the entirety for my daughter’s birthday party. Thank you for a tasty, easy recipe!

    1. You’re welcome!! I’m so glad that you enjoy the chicken recipe. You know, I personally love the homemade even better than Cafe Rio… so not missing out too much, I’d say! 😉

  22. 5 stars
    Sooooo good!!! I thought this sounded yummy, but I don’t use the crock pot too often. So happy that I found instant pot instructions within the post! This made delicious tacos, and will now be my go to recipe for chicken tacos. Thanks for a delicious recipe!

  23. What is the serving size? I see you said it serves 5 but HOW much does it serve per serving? Like how many ounces of meat?