This recipe for Pork Carnitas Tacos is one of my favorites for entertaining a large group and serving Mexican food. It will feed a lot of people! Although I don’t celebrate Cinco De Mayo as part of my heritage, I like to set a festive table with delicious foods to honor Mexican culture. I am fortunate I have been exposed to lots of Mexican food both while traveling and locally. And even more, most of my friends love Mexican and Tex-Mex food too, so they are always ready for a party!
The pork shoulder (or Boston butt) for this recipe is cooked in a slow cooker until it is tender, juicy, and shreds easily with a fork. I have cooked pork in the slow cooker several times and found it is less greasy if you place an insert into the bottom of the slow cooker. This will lift the pork out of the grease that pools into the bottom of the pot during cooking. If you don’t have an insert, ball up 3 or 4 sheets of aluminum foil and place them in the bottom of the slow cooker. This raises the pork up just enough to cook it in the grease but keeps it from being saturated with it. It seems to be the best of both worlds and yields the best taste.
Pull the Pork after Cooking It
The pork is ready when you can pull it apart easily. Notice in the photo above that there is no visible fat on the pork. That is because most of it cooked out of the pork and became liquid. But don’t worry, this pork will not be dry because some of the liquid is added back to it during the skillet browning step.
Freezing the Cooked Pork
Smaller pork shoulders and butts are harder to find, so I suggest using an (approximate) 8-pound shoulder. If you don’t want the cooked yield of an 8-pound shoulder all at once, freeze some of the cooked pork and cooked-out juices in separate containers. Later, just thaw the meat and frozen juice and start the recipe with the cooked vegetables and spices below.
Add Vegetables and Spices
Since this recipe makes a lot of pork and can be too much for a skillet, I suggest cooking the onions, peppers, and spices first. Cook until the vegetables are wilted. Then set them aside in a large bowl or container and cover to keep them warm.
Brown the Pork in Batches
Brown the pork in batches of about 4 cups at a time. Add a little cooking oil to the skillet, and then add the pork. Press it evenly across the pan so that the bottom can brown. Remember–you don’t want to brown both sides of the pork in the pan, but just enough to add some crispy taste to the tender meat.
Add Some of the Pork Broth
When the first batch is browned, add a little of the broth that cooked out of the pork during slow cooking. Pour the broth over the browned pork in the skillet and cook it until the pork absorbs the broth. Then add the browned meat to the cooked vegetables and cover to keep warm. Continue browning batches until all the pork is browned and added to the vegetables. When finished, stir well to distribute the vegetables and spices throughout the meat. It is now ready to serve.
Removing Fat from the Broth
If you are concerned about how much fat you add to the pork, you can easily remove some. Place the broth in the refrigerator or freezer for a little while. As it cools, the fat will turn white and harden (rising to the top). Then remove the fat before adding the broth to the cooked pork.
This recipe makes approximately 4 pounds of pork after it is cooked and will feed about 12 people, allocating 1 pound of pork for every 3 persons. Pork for tacos seems to stretch a little further because people load up on toppings and fill up sooner.
Serve all your favorite toppings with these tacos! I have included a list in the recipe notes to give you some ideas. You can serve these tacos in soft or crunchy shells. I prefer crunchy shells that have been toasted, but the choice is yours. You can also use folded taco shells or flat tostada shells. Enjoy!