Pork Carnitas Tacos
Who doesn’t love yummy Pork Carnitas Tacos! A small street taco filled with crisp pork carnitas, cabbage, a handful of cilantro, sour cream, a homemade avocado Salsa Verde and a dash of hot sauce!
We have all been witness to my new obsession lately with TACOS! I am not gonna lie, I have been a burrito girl my whole life. But now that I am eating low carb low sugar, my favorite things in a burrito are now a no go. Like black beans, corn, lettuce that gives you zero nutrition, and the tortilla itself. Enter pork carnitas street tacos!
I’ve been making pork carnitas forever and have finally found THE recipe that I just simply adore and now use in my pork carnitas tacos. Best part, I can feel okay with making the choice to have one tiny taco shell vs a huge flour tortilla! Plus, I can eat this yummy goodness shell free if I really want to! The flavors are all still there, so no need to up my carb count if I have none left for the day.
What are carnitas tacos you ask?
Normally, they are done with the shoulder of the pork that has been seasoned, possibly braised and then pulled apart. I personally get the awesome 4 pack of pork roasts at Costco because they are easy, pre packaged and great on the pocket book! Some traditional seasonings for pork carnitas are garlic, bay leaves, marjoram and oregano. The pork can be oven roasted, slow cooked or even done in a pressure cooker, such as an Instant Pot (my preferred method). They key is to find a way to get the meat slightly crispy… but we will get to that later.
Where are carnitas from?
The word carnitas literally means “little meats” and is a dish commonly recognized as Mexican cuisine. It originated from the state of Michoacan.
What is the difference between carnitas and barbacoa?
Barbacoa is shredded beef and is seasoned with chipotle adobo, cumin, cloves, garlic and oregano. Here in the USA Barbacoa is often prepared with parts from the heads of cattle. Such as the cheeks. But in northern Mexico it can be made from beef head. So, as you can see… there is quite a big difference. One is pork (carnitas) and one is beef (barbacoa) It depends on what kind of meal you are going for. I personally LOVE me some shredded beef and that is often what I order at most Mexican restaurants, along side carnitas. Again, this is why I love street tacos because you can order two, or three, and have a different filling in each one!
What do you serve with pork carnitas?
I just had this question for myself while making my pork carnitas tacos! I can’t have some of these, do to the higher carb count, but it’s still a good list. Here is what I found:
- Mexican style coleslaw
- A spicy smoked sweet potato salad
- Black bean salad with mango, cilantro and lime
- Cilantro Rice
- Pork and Poblano soup
- Avocado Salad with tomatoes, lime and a toasted cumin vinaigrette
- Jicama coleslaw
- Mexican Rice (always a favorite for those who can eat carbs)
Alrighty, let’s get down to the nitty gritty… how to cook these pork carnitas tacos!
Here are the three ways I mentioned:
- Slow cooker
- Oven roasted
- Pressure cooker (Instant Pot)
Pork carnitas slow cooker:
Place garlic, onions, orange juice, lime juice and seasoned pork shoulder into your slow cooker. Cover it and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours. Once done, remove the pork from the slow cooker and shred the meat. Return it to the pot so it can mix with the juices. Season with anything extra you’re needing and serve.
The reason I don’t choose this method is due to the pork drying out. I have done this a hundred times and I swear my pork always just tastes a bit to dry to me. No matter how much I let it sit back in it’s juices. It could be a texture thing, but non the less, this isn’t my ideal method. Plus, the pork isn’t crispy.
Pork carnitas oven:
Season the pork with a rub of 1 tbsp dried oregano, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp avocado oil
Sear until brown on all sides, this should take about 10 minutes.
**You can sear the pork in a dutch oven that you can put right into the oven. Or sear the pork in a stove top safe pan and transfer it to a large baking sheet later, preferably one with a lip. The sear is really important. It helps get that crispy texture and also seals in the moisture.**
Add onion, garlic, lime juice and chili powder to the pot. Pour in 14.5oz of chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a medium-low and cover the pork. Continue to let it simmer until the pork is very tender, this should take about 2.5 hours.
After the 2.5 hours are coming to an end, preheat your oven to 400 degrees (F)
At this point, you’ll want to transfer the pork to a large baking sheet, as whole as possible. Keep all that yummy cooking liquid! Drizzle the pork with a small amount and lightly season it with salt.
Bake the pork until it is browned, about 30 minutes. Drizzle more of the liquid on the meat every 10 minutes or so.
Use two forks to shred the pork as it browns in the oven.
Pressure cooker (Instant Pot):
This is my favorite way to make this dish because it is the fastest. I know that a lot of dishes taste excellent when they are done slow, and with the utmost care, but I have a 5 year old and a hungry husband! Plus, when I get home at 5pm I am also pretty dang hungry! Enter, my favorite kitchen tool, my beloved Instant Pot! Since this still takes over an hour, I tend to make this recipe on the weekend. You can even make it the night before and re heat it.
Here’s how to do it:
Take your pork shoulder (or roast) and massage in the rub of oregano, cumin and avocado oil. Place the pork in your Instant Pot on the trivet. Top it with the onion, jalapeno, minced garlic and squeeze the orange juice all over it. Seal that sucker and cook on high for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Once done, quick release.
The meat will be very tender and falling apart. Shred the pork with two forks, or buy a pair of these… cause I own some (thank you sister-in-law) and they not only work so flippin well, you feel like a total bad ass while using them!
Save the juices in the Instant Pot. Skim off the fat if there is any. Now here is the most important part. Since you are pressure cooking the pork, you didn’t have the opportunity to crisp it up by searing or basting as per the oven method. Take a good bit of the shredded pork, place it in an oiled pan on the stove top (I prefer cast iron) drizzle over some of the reserved juice. Now wait, be patient, it is hard not to stir the pork, but don’t. Let the juices evaporate. Let it get a bit crusty and golden. Flip the pork and crisp up the other side, but not as much. You don’t want ALL the pork to get hard. It’ll be difficult to eat if you do. Do this in batches, it’s important to not crowd the pan.
Build your taco. Eat. Repeat.
Set up your yummy goodness for a buffet style dinner and let whomever is lucky enough to be over for dinner, make their own masterpiece!! Don’t forget the homemade Salsa Verde though, it’s that final added touch that will send you Pork Carnitas Tacos to a whole new level of awesome!
Pork Carnitas Tacos
- 2.5 lb Pork Shoulder or Roast (thawed)
- 1/2 onion
- 1 jalapeno - chopped and seeds removed
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 lg orange
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
Rinse and dry your pork.
Combine the rub ingredients and massage into the pork.
Place the pork on top of the trivet in your Instant Pot (or pressure cooker)
Top with chopped onion, chopped jalapeno, minced garlic and the juice of your large orange.
Put on the lid, make sure the vent is closed and cook on high for 1 and a half hours.
Once done, quick release.
Remove the pork onto a cutting board and shred.
If there is any fat on top of the juices left behind in the Instant Pot, feel free to skim that off and discard.
If you have more than about a cup of juice left, reduce the remaining liquid by setting the mode to saute with the lid off.
Next, take a skillet (I personally use a cast iron for this part) and heat your oil.
In batches, place some of your shredded pork into the skillet.
Poor over some of the saved juice and WAIT. You'll have the urge to stir the pork, but don't. Let the juice evaporate. This will give your pork a nice crispy texture.
Once the liquid has mostly evaporated and you can see a nice browning happening, flip the pork to brown the other side, but only slightly.
Remove the pork, set aside and repeat with the remaining pork.
Drizzle enough liquid over the finished pork to add moisture and more flavor.