Carnitas Tacos

by elyn_ryn

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!

Slow-Cooked Pork

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.

Yield

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.

Toppings

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!

Print Recipe
Pork Carnitas Tacos
Pork shoulder that is slow-cooked until tender and then browned in a skillet to add a crispy taste.
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Mexican, Tex-Mex
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Mexican, Tex-Mex
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Servings
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Pork
  1. Cut off any excess fat from the pork and generously salt and pepper on all sides. Place a rack or 3 to 4 balled-up sheets of aluminum foil in the bottom of the slow cooker to hold the meat off the bottom. Add the pork and orange juice and cook on high. After 2 hours turn the heat down to low and cook for another 8 to 9 hours. The pork is done when it is tender and easily pulled with a fork.
  2. Pull the pork into small pieces and separate and discard any fat. Save the broth. Set aside.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to a large non-stick skillet. Add all the onions, jalapenos, oregano, and cumin and cook until the onions and jalapenos wilt. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant. Then add all the green chiles and stir until heated. Remove from the pan and place into an extra-large bowl, cover, and set aside.
  4. Add about 4 cups of pulled pork to the skillet and a little cooking oil. Spread pork evenly over the pan bottom and cook on medium to brown some of the meat. Then add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the broth from the pork. Cook until the broth is absorbed. Add 1/4 of the lime juice and stir. Move pork to the bowl with the cooked onion mixture.
  5. Repeat step 4 until all the pork is browned and all the lime juice is used. Move the browned pork to the large bowl after each batch and keep it covered. When finished browning all the meat, toss the meat and onion mixture to blend together.
Lime Crema
  1. Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, hot and sweet chili sauces, onion powder, and garlic powder until well mixed. Store in the refrigerator.
Assembly
  1. Heat the taco or tostada shells per instructions on the package. Add the browned pork, Cotija cheese, lime crema, and any toppings you choose. See the list in the notes for topping ideas.
Recipe Notes

Yield

The recipe feeds about 12 people. An 8-pound pork shoulder will end up cooking down to approximately 4 pounds of meat. One pound of cooked pork feeds about 3 adults.

For smaller yields, divide the recipe ingredients in half or by 1/4.

Removing Fat from the Broth

Place all of the broth in the refrigerator or freezer for a little while to let the fat rise to the top of the broth and harden. Then remove the fat before adding the broth to the cooked pork.

Mexican Oregano

If you do not have Mexican Oregano, substitute regular oregano or marjoram.

Make Your Own Shells from Tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush tortillas on the front and back sides with oil. Bake for 3-5 minutes on each side or until crispy.

Toppings

Add any toppings you like to the tacos. Here is a list of ideas:

  • lettuce
  • tomato
  • avocado
  • raw onion
  • cilantro
  • fresh jalapeno
  • salsa
  • pico de gallo
  • salsa verde
  • lime wedges
  • shredded cabbage
  • sour cream
  • guacamole
  • cheddar or pepper jack cheese

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