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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:

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5 from 109 votes

Cafe Rio Chicken Recipe

By: Lil' Luna
Copycat Cafe Rio Shredded Chicken - a simple and delicious chicken recipe that is perfect for salads, burritos, quesadillas and tacos!
Servings: 5
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 5 minutes


  • 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
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  • 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!


Calories: 351kcal, Carbohydrates: 12g, Protein: 39g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 116mg, Sodium: 1368mg, Potassium: 742mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 316IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 26mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
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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. Jamaal Scarp says:

    Along with every little thing which seems to be developing inside this area, many of your perspectives tend to be somewhat exciting. Having said that, I am sorry, but I do not subscribe to your whole suggestion, all be it refreshing none the less. It appears to everyone that your commentary are actually not totally justified and in reality you are yourself not entirely certain of your point. In any case I did take pleasure in reading through it.

  2. Kat says:

    5 stars
    I have made this for years with my own twists. I use sugar free Italian dressing (not diet) and the added cumin, chili powder is amazing.

  3. Alesha says:

    The is chicken is AMAZING! Made it for a family reunion and everyone loved it! I loved that it was so versatile and can be used for many kinds of dishes not just Mexican!

  4. Aleks says:

    This tastes nothing like cafe Rio chicken. It’s good but not the same.

    1. Lil'Luna Team says:

      Thanks for the feedback and for giving the recipe a try.

  5. Jessica Nelson says:

    Tastes absolutely nothing like the Cafe Rio chicken, was so excited but all of the recipes for the copy cat seem to be copy and pasted from one another and they are not it!

    1. Jessica says:

      Also want to add that it doesn’t have any Spanish flavor, but should have gathered that would be the case based on the Italian dressing… Good Italian shredded chicken recipe I guess.

    2. Lil'Luna Team says:

      Sorry to hear the recipe wasn’t what you were hoping. We test and tweak all of our recipes in the kitchen, so no copy/pasting happening over here. But I appreciate the feedback and thanks for giving the recipe a try.

  6. Angie Bendixen/Bird says:

    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?

    1. Lil'Luna Team says:

      It would be about 6 ounces of meat, maybe a little more.

  7. Britt says:

    5 stars
    Someone mentioned an instapot version. Where can I find that? Ty

    1. Lil'Luna Team says:

      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!

  8. Bethany says:

    5 stars
    Absolutely phenomenal

  9. Kate says:

    5 stars
    This is a great recipe!! Super flavorful!! Will definitely make this again!!!

  10. Susan M says:

    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!