Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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Lauren Zembronhttps://www.healthyfoodforliving.com/
I am a 34 year old living outside of Boston with my wonderful husband, energetic daughter, sweet son, and playful dog. I have degrees in both psychology and guidance counseling, and have worked in a variety of school settings. I strive to find a balance between the two basic food philosophies of “eat to live” and “live to eat“. I believe that food should be (and is!) one of the great pleasures of leading a healthy lifestyle.

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.

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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.

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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.

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

Cut the pork into large chunks.

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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.

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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!

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

Nestle the seared pork into the liquid mixture…

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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.

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

… but a tender and moist interior.

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

And serve!

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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.

Carnitas (Pulled Pork Tacos)

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)

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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