Carnitas tacos are awesome! For those of you who don’t know, the word “Carnitas” simply means “little meat”. I’m using pork for this recipe that is seasoned Mexican style and then slow roasted on the barbecue. This meat has outstanding flavor. Wrapped it in warm corn tortillas and stuffed with traditional toppings. I’m using shredded cabbage, guacamole, onions and cilantro and a homemade green chili salsa. If you like Mexican food this is a must try recipe, the flavors are just fabulous! Enjoy 🙂
3 1/2 lbs. pork butt shoulder roast
1 teas. pepper
1 teas. garlic powder
1 1/2 teas. chili powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
3/4 teas. cumin powder
4 tbsp. oil
Method: Pork For Carnitas Tacos
Spoon about half of the paste over the top of your pork and rub it into the meat using your hands.
Flip the meat over and add the rest of your paste and rub it in with your hands.
At this point simply “massage” your pork to get an even coating covering all sides of the meat.
Note: The easiest way to do this is to place your pork on a big piece of foil or just use the butcher paper the meat came in as sort of a tray. This way is less messy and easy to clean up.
Once your pork is completely coated with the paste just transfer it to a plate to marinate anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. (Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate if you plan to marinate overnight.)
To Cook The Pork:
You can cook the pork in a 350 degree oven or on your barbecue. I recommend the bbq but I’ll give you both methods.
You’ll need about 6 to 7 pounds of charcoal, I used mesquite wood for this recipe. Your bbq must have a lid and preferably an upper rack. Gas grills work fine as well.
Place your coals in a mound on one side of the bbq and light. Or, light one side of your gas grill only, at about a medium heat.
After the coals are grayed over place your seasoned pork on the upper rack directly over the coals (or flame on your gas grill) and close the lid. Ideally you want about 350 degrees when the lid is closed and the pork should be about 6 inches above the flames. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes per side. You’ll know it’s ready to flip when it has a nice sear, that’s what you’re looking for.
After all sides have seared (about 45 to 50 minutes) move it to the other side of your grill. You’ll be cooking on “indirect heat”. That basically means your meat is on one side and the “fire” is on the other. The meat should be about 1 to 1.25 feet away from the flames ideally.
Make sure to keep your lid closed, it only needs to be open when you are flipping or rotating the pork.
Cook on indirect heat for another 2 to 3 hours flipping or rotating about every 30 minutes. Basically just take a look at your pork and face the “least done” side towards the heat. Keep in mind that the bottom of the meat and the side facing the fire will cook faster. Knowing this will help you decide whether to flip or rotate the pork, you want even cooking all the way around.
Note: Gas grills will cook the pork faster as they have consistent heat where as charcoal grills tend to cool slightly as the coals burn out. Don’t worry, the 6 to 7 pounds of charcoal will be enough.
Once the pork has cooked for 3 to 4 hours it should start to fall apart which is what you want, perfect for carnitas tacos. At this point transfer it to a plate and cover with foil to let it rest for about 30 minutes. This “rest time” is important so don’t skip this step. It allows the juices in the pork to redistribute back into the meat to give you VERY tender pork.
After that 1/2 hour place your pork on a cutting board and “pull” it apart using 2 forks. It should shred easily. Transfer your carnitas tacos meat to a bowl and get ready to make some awesome carnitas tacos!
Place your seasoned pork on a rack inside a casserole dish or roasting pan and and cover (lid or foil is fine). Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and roast for about 2 1/2 hours. Remove the cover at that point and roast for about 30 to 45 minutes, until the meat browns up nicely.
Remove from your oven, transfer to a plate and follow the resting and shredding instructions above.
You can make the rest of this recipe while your pork is cooking so let’s move on.
Ingredients: Green Chili And Tomato Salsa
15 oz. can diced tomatoes (with liquid)
1/2 onion (big dice)
1/2 jalapeno (for mild salsa)
2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
3/4 teas. salt
3/4 teas. garlic powder
3/4 teas. dry Mexican oregano
2 cups water
Method: Green Chili And Tomato Salsa
Note: If you like a hotter salsa you can use 1.5 jalapenos for medium and 2 to4 jalapenos for hot. This will depend on how hot you like it.
Here’s a trick for you. Make the base salsa first and taste it. If you want it hotter add more jalapenos (up to you how much) to your blender and give it a pulse to break them up a little. Pour a cup or so of your finished salsa back in and blend again to incorporate the jalapenos. Pour that back into your salsa and stir well. You can do this several times if you like using a little bit of jalapeno each time until you reach the “heat level” you desire.
Your salsa is ready so lets move on to the classic cilantro and onion mix.
Ingredients: Cilantro And Onions
1 medium size onion
4 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
Method: Cilantro And Onions
You want both of them to be about the same size chop and dice.
Add both to a bowl and mix well. That’s it!
Now for the easy to make guacamole.
2 ripe avocados
1/2 teas. salt
1/4 teas. garlic powder
1/3 to 1/2 fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 to 4 tbsp. cilantro and onion mix (from the above recipe)
1/2 tomato (small dice)
Add the salt, garlic powder and lemon juice.
Mash with a potato masher or fork until smooth, or chunky if you prefer.
Spoon in the cilantro and onion mix and small diced tomato, then give it a good stir. It’s ready.
For the shredded cabbage:
Note: You could substitute shredded lettuce if you like, the method is the same.
Now it’s time to make your carnitas tacos! Let’s put it all together!
Ingredients: Carnitas Tacos
roasted and shredded pork
corn tortillas (depends on how many people you’re serving)
cilantro and onions
shredded cabbage (or lettuce)
green chili and tomato salsa
Mexican cheese (optional)
Method: Carnitas Tacos
Traditional barbecue style
Grab yourself a big piece of foil and place the amount of pulled pork you’ll be using in the center and fold all sides up to form a basket. Loosely crimp the tops to close it up (not too tight, you’ll be opening and closing it). Place it back on your grill opposite of the fire (indirect heat) to keep it warm.
Place some corn tortillas over the heat to warm them up. About .45 to 1 minute a side. I’m using 2 tortillas per taco but 1 is fine too.
When your tortillas are ready put them on a plate, add some pork, guacamole, cilantro and onions and shredded cabbage, then drizzle on some salsa. If you want to add cheese, sprinkle some over the top and dig in… YUM!
The oven version is basically the same thing. Place your pork in the foil (as above). Turn the heat on your oven down to about 275 degrees and place your foil pouch inside.
Place some tortillas directly on the oven rack to warm for 1 to 2 minutes. Plate, top and serve just as above.
Note: These carnitas tacos are best served hot so I recommend making them to order, they only take a few minutes to make.
You can also freeze any unused pork and salsa for another time. Both freeze well for a few months 🙂
Add some refried beans and Mexican rice (Find Recipes Here) and you’ve got one great backyard (or dining room) feast done in the traditional Mexican style…OLE!
This carnitas tacos recipe makes about 20 to 30 tacos.
This is the kind of meal I like to make when family and friends come over. It’s very “user friendly” since everyone can make their own. I always do this on my barbecue but you can make this in your kitchen too.
The flavors are incredible and if your barbecue is big enough you can place a pot of refried beans and one with rice (with spoons) right on your grill to keep warm.
I set up an assembly line with all of my condiments on the patio table and place a bag of tortillas next to the grill. People can then just toss a few tortillas on the grill, spoon up some beans and rice (while the “torts” are warming), put the warm tortillas on their plate, add some pork and then bring it over to the table to top with the rest of the goodies. Ahhh…carnitas tacos, that’s the life.. anyone got a margarita 🙂 Enjoy and Happy Cooking!