Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

I had several recipes for carnitas sitting in my “pork recipes to make” folder, and instead of tackling the difficult task of choosing between them, I decided to come up with my own.

I opted to use a pork loin roast rather that the traditional (re: fattier) pork shoulder cut for a leaner carnita. I further personalized this recipe by including my favorite Mexican spices for the dry rub, and adding some freshly squeezed orange juice to the meat for a bright kick of flavor.

This is the perfect post to feature process photos, but you certainly may scroll down for the full ingredient list and directions, as well as an in-detail description of these tasty tacos.

Process:

Start with an approximately three pound pork loin roast. Don’t trim the fat off – the loin is a fairly lean cut of meat, and you want to keep the small amount of fat on the meat for this application; it will melt into the meat and keep it moist and tender.

Cut the pork into large chunks.

Season with dry spice rub – ensuring that every side is fully coated.

Place the seasoned pork into a hot dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with a bit of oil.

Sear on all sides; be sure not the move the pork around too much or else proper browning and crisping won’t occur.

Take the browned pork out of the pot and pour in the beer.

I don’t know a whole lot about beer varieties, but this was one we had on hand that sounded good.

The mention of citrus in the description caught my attention, as it sounded like a great pairing with the freshly squeezed orange juice that is added to the pork.

The beer does a great job of lifting up all of the browned bits of seared pork from the bottom of the pot – there’s SO much flavor in those little nuggets!

Ah, there’s the orange juice I just mentioned.

Nestle the seared pork into the liquid mixture…

cover the pot, and place in the oven for 1/2 hour to seal in the flavor of the beer and orange juice.

Remove lid, turn pork pieces over, and return pot to oven–without lid–for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the pork is fork tender, turning pork pieces 1 or 2 times during the cooking process.

When the pork is ready, it will have a dark and crispy outer layer…

… but a tender and moist interior.

At this point, you simply shred–or “pull”–the pork with two forks right into the sauce.

Give the pulled pork a toss to evenly coat it with the reduced sauce.

And serve!

I served the pulled pork on corn tortillas, accompanied by Greek yogurt, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and a bit of chipotle hot sauce.

Oh, these were gooood! Some of the pork pieces were nice and crisp, whereas others were tender… but all of it was well-seasoned and flavorful.

The creamy Greek yogurt added tang and extra moisture; the cilantro and lime juice lent a freshness that balanced out the spices of the dry rub; the avocado gave a delicious richness; and the chipotle hot sauce was the perfect smoky finishing touch.

John gave his seal of approval, and I loved the carnitas as well… so I’m pretty sure these pork tacos will be gracing our table many times in the future. We didn’t even come close to polishing off the whole potful of pulled pork, so I used the leftovers in quesadillas later on in the week.

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

Ingredients for the pork:

  • 3 lb boneless pork loin roast, cut into large (3-4 inch) pieces (do NOT trim away the small amount of fat)
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or enough to cover the bottom of the pot
  • 12 fluid oz beer, (or chicken stock), preferably with citrus notes
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Accoutrements for the tacos:

  • warmed corn tortillas
  • avocado slices
  • 2% plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • fresh cilantro
  • hot sauce (such as Tobasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce)
  • lime wedges
  • salsa (John tried salsa verde and said it was a great accompaniment)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine salt and rest of spices in a small bowl. Spread spice mixture onto a plate. Evenly coat the pork pieces on all sides with the dry rub.
  3. Heat oil in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add in the seasoned pork pieces, and sear all sides until browned (about 1 minute per side). Remove pork from the dutch oven.
  4. Pour in the beer (or chicken stock) and scrape the bottom of the dutch oven to deglaze and release the browned bits of pork. Add in the orange juice, and bring mixture to a boil.
  5. Add in the seared pork. Cover dutch oven and place in oven for 1/2 hour.
  6. Remove lid, turn pork pieces over, and return to oven–uncovered–for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the pork is fork-tender, turning the pork pieces 1-2 times during the cooking process.
  7. Shred pork right into the sauce using two forks. Toss the pulled pork with the reduced sauce. There will be less sauce than there is for BBQ pulled pork (or my Spicy Pulled Chicken), so don’t expect a super saucy end result.
  8. Serve with accoutrements.


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20 comments to Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

  • Jenn Hoberer

    Hi,
    This is probably the best carnitas recipe I’ve ever found. Thank you so much for putting it up with all of the beautiful pictures! It was delicious!
    Best regards,
    Jenn

  • Yvonne

    Loved these. Can’t wait to make them again on Cinco de Mayo. Thank you!

  • Mike

    This recipe was fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing- My wife and I made it for Cinco de Mayo and we absolutely loved it- it’ll be a welcome new addition to our recipe book!

  • Sandra

    Brilliant recipe, beautifully shared. Thank you.

  • [...] mean, come on. So I googled pulled pork taco to see what I could find and I found this site: Healthy Food For Living. I basically simplified what they had. The pork has such great flavor that you really don’t [...]

  • Freddie

    I will keep this recipe and make this again (good flavor). It is a process to make and the results are worth it. I have made carnitas with pork butt/shoulder and while the taste is great I always feel unhealthy. This recipe allows me to enjoy pork without all the fat, it is a bit healthier. :) Thanks for sharing!!

  • Made this last weekend, and it was delicious. Thanks for the great recipe. This weekend, I tried a bit different: to sear the meat, I grilled it over charcoal. Even less fat, I would think. Also delicious!

  • Katherine

    I made this with a few minor alterations. Used corona beer because that’s what I had. Used regular undated chili powder and ground chipotle powder for the chili peppers. Cooked down wonderfully. This was my first pulled pork recipe. Was mild enough after cooking that even the kids ate it ( without sour cream). Definitely adding this to my go-to recipes

  • Erin

    What a great recipe! I added 4 cloves crushed garlic to the pot before placing in oven, as well as the juice of one lime. For the beer i used Negra Modela. Thanks for a recipe that I will cook time and time again!

  • Sean

    Would it be easy to slow cook in crock pot in lieu of a hot dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot (still browning first of course)? Just wondering if anyone might know how the time conversion might go between the two? Thanks!

  • Jenny

    This recipe is great!!! I love the spices, they are the perfect combination. I didnt have ancho chili powder, so i just used regular chili powder and i didnt have a citrusy beer or an orange, but i did have Bud Light and a lemon and it worked great!! If you already have these spices, this is a cheap dinner that can feed up to 6 people for about $10. I will be making these again!!!

  • Jenny

    @ Sean, I was considering the slow cooker too. I would follow the recipe as far as cutting the meat into pieces, putting the rub on, searing all sides, adding the beer and citrus, Then transport everything to a slow cooker. I would cook it in the slow cooker on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4. Haven’t tried it yet, but sounds about right. I make a lot of stuff in the crockpot. Hope this helps:)

  • Sean

    @ Jenny, I tried it out in the slow cooker & it turned it out great. I followed the same steps in recipe (I can use my slow cooker pot on the stove so made searing/transporting a snap). I did alter the quantities some. I used 2 lbs pork not 3 lbs and cooked on high for 3.5 – 4 hrs. If I went with 3 lbs I might go with the following conversion: 2hrs @ 350°F ~ 4-5 hrs High Slow Cooker. I don’t think you have to be all that picky about as long as the meat is done ;-) (cooking thermometer could slove those worries). If your interested I found the following links helpful:

    General Oven to Slow cooker Cooking Time Conversions
    http://www.crockpot-cooking.com/cpc-basics03.php

    Converting Recipes
    http://www.crockpot-cooking.com/cpc-basics02.php

  • Ryan

    This is such a great recipe, i came across it one day by accident and have been making these tacos about 2x a month since then, the meat is so flavorful and you can make it your own by adding whatever spices you want and choosing what type of beer to use in it, after a few experiments i found that Shocktop beer goes really well with , thanks for the great recipe.

  • Max

    Simply awesome. I go to Costco where they have great pork loin in 6 lb packages for about $20. For the beer, I use a pint bottle of Stella Artois, which I can buy individually at a local supermarket for about $3. After the meat cooks down, I can get about 15 portions of pork, most of which I freeze and reheat individually. Add tortillas & lettuce/cheese/hot sauce, and I can eat for less than $3/meal with this recipe. Thanks again – these are better tacos than I can find in a restaurant around here, and it saves a lot of money.

  • andrea

    Great recipe! I added some pickled cactus to the meat and sauce and the acid from them blended great with the pork. The whole family loved them!

  • Delicious!! Great recipe! :) my husband loved it.
    Maria recently posted..Food Should Taste Good… and this does! {Giveaway}

  • [...] more minutes in the oven.  So, on Sunday I took about 3 hours to prep 3 dinners for the week: 1) Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos), 2) White Cheese and Chicken Lasagna, and 3) Oven Chicken Risotto.  Both chicken recipes are from [...]

  • Carmen

    In addition to the listed recipe ingredients, I used a 50-50 pork/beef combo, a couple of diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, a couple of bay leaves, and a dash of ground cinnamon. I know cinnamon sounds a little weird, but trust me, it works.

  • Hi mates, its wonderful article on the topic of cultureand entirely defined, keep
    it up all the time.
    Roberta recently posted..Roberta

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