Carnitas (Pork tacos) recipe

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Carnitas are corn tortillas filled with a pork mixture and other ingredients. In this recipe, the pork is first cooked in water, spices, herbs and tomatoes for several hours, then roasted briefly. It is then used as a filling for corn tortillas, together with typical Mexican ingredients such as avocado, lettuce, refried beans and cheese.
Preparation time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 260 minutes, Serves: 4 - 6 
Carnitas, literally meaning 'small pieces of meat' in Spanish, is a very typical Mexican dish. The meat most commonly used is pork, and specifically shoulder cuts. There are some versions of carnitas that use beef, but the meat typically used is pork. Since the cut of pork used for carnitas is tough, the meat is first braised in liquid and then roasted. The braising softens up and flavors the pork, since the braising liquid contains a number of spices and herbs.

As with all Mexican recipes, carnitas come in many different versions. The main concept remains the same, that is, corn tortillas filled with meat, the difference is in the way the meat is cooked and the other ingredients that are used as a filling together with the meat.

Making carnitas, as with most Mexican recipes, is quite simple. The secret is to prepare all necessary ingredients before you start. You should start cooking the meat well in advance since it takes between 3 and 4 hours to cook. You can even do this a day before and refrigerate.

In the traditional way of cooking carnitas, the pork is slow cooked for several hours in lard, milk, salt, thyme, oregano, bay leaf and garlic. When the meat becomes tender, it is cooked on a high heat until the milk evaporates. When the outside of the pork turns crisp the pork is shredded and used for the carnitas.


For the pork
2 pounds pork shoulder (bone and fat removed), cut into large 2 to 3 inch cubes
2 cups beef broth
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprica
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 pickled jalapeno peppers, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

To serve
1 cup pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa)
1 cup grated cheddar or jack cheese
Lettuce, shredded, lightly sprikled with vinegar and salted
1 cup refried beans
2 avocados, seeded and finely sliced
12 corn tortillas


Cook the pork
In a large saucepan over medium high heat add the pork, broth, tomatoes, cumin, paprica, oregano, onion, garlic, jalapeno chili, salt and black pepper. Cover the meat with water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer covered for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is tender.

Roast the pork
Preheat oven to 400 F.

Remove the pork from the cooking liquid (discard the liquid) and lay it in a roasting pan. Using a fork, break the pork into smaller chunks. Roast it for 15 to 20 minutes until crispy and brown, turning once after 10 minutes.

Heat the corn tortillas in the oven or microwave, according to the directions on the package. Wrap warm tortillas in a towel to keep them warm and soft, ready to use them.

Assemble the carnitas
Place a corn tortilla on a plate. Spoon some of the pork mixture in the center, top with the pico de gallo salsa, cheese, lettuce, refried beans and avocado. Fold (roll into a cone shape or as a cylinder, as it is done with fajitas) and set aside. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until you have used all of the pork mixture.
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