TasteFood: Make carnitas for Cinco de Mayo tacos and tasty leftovers

Carnitas are a perfect party food for the weekend. They are great for a casual gathering and fun to eat, inviting everyone to roll up their sleeves and assemble their own wrap. They also require time to cook the meat — a perfect project for the week before Cinco de Mayo.

Start the meat early in the day so it has time to slowly braise in a bath of citrusy beer and chipotle until meltingly tender. Once the meat is cooked and shredded, take a few extra steps to drive in more flavor. Reduce the braising liquid to a potent sauce to glaze the meat. Then run the meat under the broiler to slightly char and caramelize in spots. Then it’s time to assemble, a task in which everyone can get involved, piling the smoky, spicy pork on fresh tortillas with a crunchy cabbage slaw and any other fixings you like. If you have any leftovers, the meat may be used in sandwiches or loaded on homemade nachos the next day.

Pork Carnitas

Serves 6



1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1 (4½- to 5-pound) bone-in pork shoulder

Olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped

1 bottle Mexican beer

2 cups fresh orange juice

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1/3 cup chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

6 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon brown sugar, plus more for sprinkling

Kosher salt

For serving:

Flour tortillas

Red Cabbage Slaw (recipe below)

Sliced avocado

Fresh cilantro


Mix the rub ingredients together in a small bowl to make a paste. Smear the rub all over the pork and in the folds and crevices. Let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature (or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours).

Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, taking care not to scorch the spices. Transfer to a plate.

If the pan is dry, add 1 tablespoon oil to it. Add the onion and saute until slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully pour in the beer, scraping up any brown bits. Add the orange juice, lime juice, chipotles, garlic, bay leaves and brown sugar.

Return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pot. (It will not be completely submerged.) Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the pork is tender and falling off the bone, about 3 hours, turning the pork in the stock every hour or so.

When ready, remove the pork from the braising liquid and transfer to a cutting board to cool slightly. Strain the braising liquid into a saucepan. Skim off some of the collected fat. Bring to a boil and reduce by about one-third, about 10 minutes.

While the sauce is reducing, shred the meat with two forks and discard the bone. Spread the meat in a baking dish and lightly season with salt. Drizzle some of the reduced braising liquid over the shredded pork to your taste. Lightly sprinkle with brown sugar. Transfer to the oven and broil until the meat begins to crisp in spots, 1 to 2 minutes.

To serve, arrange a tortilla on a plate. Spoon the slaw in the center of the tortilla. Top with the meat. Garnish with avocado slices and cilantro.

Red Cabbage Slaw

Makes about 2 cups


3 cups shredded red cabbage

2 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

1 small sweet red pepper, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

Dash of hot sauce

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Combine the slaw ingredients in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. Add a pinch of sugar if desired. Refrigerate until use.

Lynda Balslev is a San Francisco Bay Area cookbook author, food and travel writer and recipe developer.

For more food and drink coverage follow us on Flipboard.

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