pork, tacos
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Pork Shoulder Two Ways: Carnitas Tacos

Yesterday, in honor of Administrative Professional’s Day, my office threw a party for the administrative staff and hosted a chili cook-off.  I originally wanted to enter a white turkey chili that I’ve made many times, but was unable to do so since two white chicken chilies had already been entered. So, back to the drawing board I went and developed a chili based on a pork carnitas recipe that was already a favorite of ours.  Since I was using a very large pork shoulder roast and the chili would take a longer time to cook, I decided to make carnitas tacos for our dinner Thursday evening.

Carnitas tacos are my favorite type of taco!  These are the sort of tacos that you get from a little taco stand in Mexico, topped with cilantro, onions and a wedge of lime and they just make me feel like Summertime. “Carnitas” means “little meats” and it is traditionally made by frying pork in lard and then braising it.  The method I use is probably a little healthier, as I don’t fry the pork in lard at all.  I braise the meat and then broil it to crisp it before adding it to the taco.  This recipe takes a little bit of time to make and you’ll want to marinate the meat overnight in order to get the best flavor.  The pork also takes about 3 hours to braise, but once that is done, the rest goes quickly (and so do the tacos)!

Carnitas Tacos

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print
You will need:
  • 3 to 4 pound pork shoulder roast
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  1. First, cut the pork shoulder into approximately 3 to 4 inch chunks.  It doesn’t matter if you buy a boneless pork shoulder roast or if the bone is left in, just remove the bone when you prepare it.  There is a thick band of fat on one side of the roast that you will want to remove as well as any other thick bits of fat.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the salt, cumin, oregano, garlic powder coriander and chili powders  to form a dry rub. Evenly distribute the spice rub onto the meat, them place the seasoned meat in a sealed container and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Heat a large braiser or dutch oven on medium high heat with enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan.  Brown the marinated chunks of meat in batches and set the cooked chunks aside.  It is important when you are searing meat that you do not crowd the pan.  Crowding the pan will cause the meat to steam and it won’t brown.
  4. After all of the meat has been seared, add 3/4 cup of orange juice to the pan to deglaze it, scraping up all the little brown bits.
  5. After deglazing the pan with the juice, add the chunks of meat back to the pan.  Add enough chicken broth to almost cover the meat and bring to a simmer.
  6. After it comes to a simmer, cover the dutch oven and place into a 300 degree oven for three hours, stirring at the top of each hour.
  7. At the end of three hours, you’ll notice that the meat is tender and falling apart.  Now if you’ve ever made pulled pork, this next part of the process will be very familiar.  Remove the meat from the pan and transfer it to a platter or large flat baking pan so that it will cool enough that you can work with it.  Do not discard the braising liquid.  While the meat is cooling, reduce the braising liquid on medium high heat until it’s about half the amount.
  8. Using food preparation gloves to protect your hands, carefully remove the bits of fat from the meat and discard.  The meat will be fall apart tender and you can “pull” it into shreds or chop it into chunks. Toss the bits of shredded or chopped meat in the braising liquid and place the meats back on the large baking pan.  Place the meat under the broiler for about five minutes on each side.
The next part is easy–make tacos!  I prefer white corn tortillas purchased from the Mexican market.  Most Mexican markets make their own tortillas onsite and they are always great and very inexpensive.  I think I bought three dozen for about $1.39!  I served these tacos with an avocado and tomatillo salsa.
Brown the meat in batches
Note the color on the seared meat

Deglaze the pan with the orange juice

You’ll notice that I changed pans in this photo.  This was unintentional.  I used a six pound roast, two pounds heavier than what I normally use.  I normally like making this in my 5 quart cast iron braiser, but after I added all the meat back into it, it was just too full, so I switched to a 6.75 quart oval dutch oven.  This recipe is for a three to four pound roast, so, if using a larger roast, you’ll want to increase the amounts on the spice rub as well as the braising liquid.
The pork after braising for three hours

A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for guacamole, which is the basis for the avocado tomatillo salsa.  It’s almost exactly the same recipe, only I used 1/4 cup of oil to fry the garlic and serrano pepper and I added two roasted tomatillos to the food processor with the cilantro, serrano chili, lime juice and garlic.  You can buy canned tomatillos, but since I was fire roasting fresh tomatillos for the Pork Chili Verde, I used those.  The fire roasting gave it a nice smoky flavor.  Delicious!

This entry was posted in: pork, tacos


Hello and thank you for visiting my blog, Salty Sweet Life! My name is Tracey and nothing makes me happier than cooking for my friends and family. Food is my passion, whether I'm trying out a new restaurant, delving into a cookbook or mixing up a cocktail.

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