I think I was at a taco truck when I had my first taste of authentic Carnitas.  For those who haven’t had carnitas, it is pork (generally a tougher cut like shoulder) slowly braised or roasted until the meat is fork tender and succulent.  But that’s not the end.  The meat is then either fried or broiled, so that the outsides crisp up and some more of the fat renders out and becomes crispy.  The contrast of super tender pork, with crispy edges is absolutely killer.  The flavors are fairly basic and subtle, allowing the natural taste of the pork to shine.  Carnitas has probably become my favorite meat for tacos, and while it’s a bit more work than steak or chicken tacos, they are well worth it.  Hope you give these Carnitas tacos a try soon, and that you love the recipe as much as I do.

Recipe Overview & Keys to Success

To make the best Carnitas Tacos, try to make sure you do the following:

  1. The cut of meat is very important.  You can’t use pork loin, tenderloin, chops…you need a cut that has a lot of connective tissue and a good amount of fat.  Shoulder/Boston Butt is great, as are country style ribs  which is what I use.
  2. Because of the type of meat, you also can’t really rush the cooking process.  It will take a few hours at low temperature, to really break down the meat and get it nice and tender….so give yourself enough time.
  3. Finally, to get the pork crispy, I like to shred or chop the meat into bite size pieces and then use very high heat – like the oven broiler, on high for 5 – 10 minutes.  Don’t try to do it in a 350 degree oven for half an hour, or you’ll just dry the carnitas out, and it won’t be any good.

RECIPE FOR CARNITAS TACOS

Ingredients (for 4)

  • 4 – 5 country style ribs, or a 3 – 4 lb piece of pork shoulder
  • 2 fresh oranges
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 loosely packed cup of cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 – 3 cups of chicken stock
  • Taco shells (however many you want)
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 limes

Carnitas Tacos

  • I make my carnitas in a slow cooker, but you can do the exact same process in a pot, on the stove top, over very low heat, or in a 250 degree oven
  • Salt and pepper the pork on all sides and place it in a slow cooker that has come up to temperature
  • Using a potato peeler, peel the outside rind of one of the oranges taking as little of the pith (the white part) as possible
  • Add the orange peel to the slow cooker, along with the onions, garlic, cumin, the juice of the two oranges, the oregano, and the cilantro
  • Now add enough chicken stock to cover the pork half way
  • Put the lid on the slow cooker, and allow the pork to cook for 2 – 3 hours, or until fork tender (literally use a fork to test pulling the meat apart, and it should come apart easily)
  • Remove the pork from the slow cooker and you can discard the remaining contents
  • Allow the pork to cool for 5 – 10 minutes, so it’s not too hot to handle, and during that time turn your oven’s broiler on to allow it to come up to temperature
  • Using your hands or knife and fork break up the carnitas into bite size pieces, and taste the pork for seasoning
  • If needed, add more salt and pepper, and then move to an oven proof pan, and place the pork under the broiler.
  • It will probably take 5 – 10 minutes for the top of the pork to crisp up, but it may happen quickly, so check it every 2 – 3 minutes (you don’t want to burn this magnificent meat)
  • While the carnitas finishes under the broiler, cut the avocado, remove the seed, and cut up enough to garnish your tacos; you can also slice lime wedges for an additional garnish
  • Once crisp, remove the carnitas from the oven, and serve it up with some warmed flour or corn (my preference) tortillas
  • I love these carnitas tacos garnished with some creamy avocado, a light squeeze of lime and bit more cilantro

Hope you love these tacos as much as I do.

Wine Recommendation:  To be honest, I love an ice cold beer with Carnitas tacos, and obviously if you’ve got a favorite Mexican beer, the match would be perfect.  If I am going to serve wine, I’d probably go with a light fruity white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gri.

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