Carnitas Tacos

These carnitas tacos are made with moist, tender pork shoulder, avocado, onion, tomatillo salsa, lime, and cilantro. Great party food for a crowd, a weekend dinner, or outdoor entertaining.

A pile of soft tortillas topped with carnitas, onion, guacamole, and cilantro. They're resting in a woven basket on a pile of blue napkins.

You’re strolling down the streets or through the markets in Mexico, and the aroma hits you. Immediately, hunger strikes. A minute later, you’re eating a little pile of tasty meat cushioned by a warm tortilla and electrified by a little salsa: carnitas tacos. Life is good.

My way to serve tacos at home is to set out a pile of carnitas or sliced steak or shredded roasted chicken, warm tortillas, a few bowls of salsa (if you’re ambitious, try spooning a couple contrasting salsas on a single taco), chopped white onion, cilantro, and lime wedges. Letting your guests make the tacos themselves, rather than assembling them beforehand, ensures the tortillas will stay warm and won’t get soggy.–Roberto Santibañez

Carnitas Tacos

A stack of flour tortillas topped with pork for carnitas tacos.

These carnitas tacos are made with moist, tender pork shoulder, avocado, onion, tomatillo salsa, lime, and cilantro. Great party food for a crowd, a weekend dinner, or outdoor entertaining.

Roberto Santibañez

Prep 40 mins

Total 40 mins

  • To whip up these carnitas tacos, set out everything on a table—the pot of hot carnitas, the stack of warm tortillas wrapped in a towel, the bowl of salsa, a dish of chopped onions, a mound of cilantro, and some lime wedges. Let everyone have at it, creating his or her own tacos by plopping a couple spoonfuls carnitas onto each tortilla, heaping on toppings as desired, and then adding a squeeze of lime at the end. Restraint is actually a good thing in terms of not overloading the tortillas, which can easily turn soggy and floppy. That’s why this recipe makes so many darn tacos—rather than getting greedy with the goods on a single taco, simply make yourself another…and another…and another.

*How to warm and store tortillas

Not just any tortillas will suffice for these standout carnitas tacos. You want the best tortillas you can make or find. Sometimes that means swinging by the store on the way home for whatever you can find, but sometimes, suggests author Roberto Santibañez, that means seeking out a local tortilla factory (you’d be surprised at how many there are, says Santibañez) or asking a local restaurant if they’ll sell you some of their freshly made tortillas or tortilla dough.
If your tortillas aren’t warm and pliable, your carnitas tacos will suffer dearly. Heat a comal, griddle, or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add a corn tortilla. After 30 seconds, you should see steam escaping from underneath the disk. If you don’t, turn up the heat a bit before you heat the next tortilla. After another 15 seconds, flip the tortilla. Soon you should see some pockets of air forming. Heat it for another 45 seconds, flip it once more (you’ll see a few golden brown spots), and cook it for a final 15 seconds. Flour tortillas take about the same amount of time to cook as corn tortillas, but they require slightly lower heat, more frequent flipping, and, occasionally, a little less time because they’re more susceptible to burning. Keep the tortillas warm by wrapping them in a towel as you heat the others. Use right away or as soon as possible.
If you’re needing to warm tortillas for a crowd, place 2 tortillas in a skillet over medium-high heat, place 1 tortilla directly on top of the other. After about 45 seconds, turn over the stack so that the bottom tortilla is on top. Then flip over only the top tortilla, so that it’s still on top of the other tortilla. After about 45 seconds, turn over the stack, then turn over the top tortilla only, so that it’s still on top. After another 45 seconds, turn over the stack and cook for a final 45 seconds.
Wrap any tortillas you don’t demolish at the table in a kitchen towel, place them in an airtight plastic bag, and store the bag in the fridge. Eat them within a day, reheating them according to the instructions above.

Serving: 1tacoCalories: 133kcal (7%)Carbohydrates: 13g (4%)Protein: 9g (18%)Fat: 5g (8%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 26mg (9%)Sodium: 210mg (9%)Potassium: 263mg (8%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 2g (2%)Vitamin A: 162IU (3%)Vitamin C: 2mg (2%)Calcium: 26mg (3%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Originally published May 2, 2015

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