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!
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.
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
- chili powder
- 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 rice, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, avocados, cheese, salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, cotija cheese, cilantro, and any of your other favorite taco toppings.
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:
- Sweet Pork Barbacoa
- Slow Cooker Creamy Fiesta Chicken
- Baked Taquitos
- Sheet Pan Fajitas
- Chicken Enchilada Dip
- Carne Asada
Cafe Rio Chicken Recipe
- 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.
This looks very yummy! What do you put in your burritos?
Oh, you could add whatever you like. Rice, beans, meat, pico, sour cream, anything 😉
DO you add ranch dressing mix or already made ranch dressing into the mix? Please and thanks
(Cafe rio shredded chicken)
It’s just the mix 🙂 Hope you like this!! Thank you!
This chicken is amazing and a new family favorite itnis good in quesadIllas and naChos
I agree!! Glad your family loves it! Thank you for letting me know!
Not only does this taste great but it’s so simple you could EASILY make this for big events!
If i double the recipe do i have to double the cooking time?
You shouldn’t have to 🙂
Thanks for a delicious lunch or Dinner!
You are so welcome!! Thank you!
So delish!!! Perfect amount of seasoning, will definitely make over and over again!!!
Yay!! I love to hear that! Thank you for letting me know!
Hi! I am making this recipe x6 how kuch longer will i need to cook For? If i TRiPPLED tHe recipe in one CROCKPOT
I would check it at that 4 hr mark & if it’s still not done you can check every 30 min or so.
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.
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!
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!
This is my favorite! Your recipe tastes just like cafe rio’s. Making this again soon…my family loved it!
I’m in LOVE with Cafe Rio’s shredded pork- thank you!
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!
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!
I love using this recipe for pretty much any LARGE gathering. There’s never leftovers.
What brand of zesty italian dressing do you prefer to use?
I don’t have a favorite brand, honestly. I usually grab whatever is on sale 🙂
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.
Yay!! So, glad you think so! I love that I can have it at home anytime!
This is an excellent recipe. I made it as written. The whole family loved it!
I am so glad your family liked it!! Thank you for sharing that!
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
Thank you for trying it 🙂
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!
Love the improvisions 🙂 Thanks for sharing that!!
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!!!
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!
So easy and so delicious!
Oh my goodness. This is a game changer! Love, love, love this recipe! Thank you for sharing!
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!
So happy it was a hit! Thank you for trying it!!
My favorite recipe to use with any Mexican recipe. Sooo flavorful and juicy!
Mine too!! Thank you!
Love love love this recipe! My entire family loves it and thats included two incredibly pickey eaters. Thank you so much!!
Exactly like cafe Rio but better.
Yay!! We think so too. 😉 It’s a yummy one!
From the first bite, a family favorite!! Will be making frequently!
Yay! I’m so glad you all enjoyed the chicken! It’s a family favorite over here too. 🙂
How many does this recipe serve? Did I miss where you said that?
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.
My client and his family loves copycat Cafe Rio….. thank u thank u
You’re welcome! So happy to hear they enjoyed it!
Foolproof, versatile, and delicious!
Thank you! Glad to hear you enjoyed the chicken!
This is SO GOOD! It smelled amazing cooking and it did not disappoint. So delicious and easy. I love it!
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!
I was wondering can you make this recipe with chicken quarters and if so do you need to pre-cook them beforehand?
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!
Doesn’t taste anything like it
Thanks for the feedback and giving the recipe a try.
What are your tips for making this in the instant pot?
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.
Simple and delicious!
Thank you!! So glad you liked them!
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.
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!
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!
Ooh that does sound yummy. So glad you enjoyed this chicken recipe! We love Cafe Rio too. 🙂
Made it for a family party and people wanted the recipe! Thank you
Could this chicken be used in some of the Mexican soup recipies that you have shared?
Loved loved loved this chicken. So good I was eating it by its self!!!
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! 🙂
This was so yummy! Made it for a big group family dinner and everyone commented on it.
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.
Absolutely amazing! We made this in the instant pot and it was so juicy and flavorful.
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.
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!
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! 😉
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!
This is a great recipe!! Super flavorful!! Will definitely make this again!!!
Someone mentioned an instapot version. Where can I find that? Ty
You can refer to the instant pot cooking instructions in our plain Shredded Chicken recipe but use the ingredients from this Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken recipe. Hopefully that helps! https://lilluna.com/shredded-chicken/
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?
It would be about 6 ounces of meat, maybe a little more.