Pork Carnitas Street Tacos

Story by Karyl Henry, KarylsKulinaryKrusade.com

I love pulled pork, but don’t make it very often since it’s just me in the house. But when I do, and I make it in the slow cooker, my kitchen smells amazing and all I want to do is eat the entire batch at once!

So in the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, and for a delicious meal from a crockpot, I created Pork Carnitas Street Tacos.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

  • You only need a few ingredients, and the slow cooker does 95% of the work.
  • This is a great recipe for a crowd, or for a family meal with lots of leftovers.
  • You can make other recipes with the pork, or eat it straight out of the pot.

BEST PORK CUT FOR PORK CARNITAS 

I use pork shoulder, also called pork butt. It has nice marbling throughout, which results in very tender meat.

Bone-in or boneless pork shoulder? I prefer bone-in because the bones add more flavor, and it’s less expensive than boneless.

Do I cut off the fat cap on the back before cooking? No. That fat cap adds amazing flavor, and it easily peels off at the end.

INGREDIENT TIPS

Generously season the pork with salt and pepper first.

The combination of ground cumin, dried oregano, and oil creates an incredibly flavorful rub. The traditional recipes use lard, but I just can’t bring myself to buy it. So I use avocado or canola oil.

Garlic, orange juice, and onion round out the seasonings.

COOKING AND FINISHING 

A slow cooker is ideal, and you can cook it while at work or even overnight. 10 hours on low, or 6 hours on high results in fall-apart-tender meat.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board and use tongs to easily remove the fat cap and any other excess chunks of fat.

Using 2 forks, pull the pork apart. Don’t shred it too finely, because you want to still have small chunks of meat.

PRO TIP:  Strain the juices through a fine-mesh strainer, to reduce the amount of fat. Save the juices and store with the leftover pork, to help retain moisture.

ONE MORE STEP FOR PORK CARNITAS

You need to get that trademark char on the meat for pork carnitas, and there are 2 options.

  • Cast-iron skillet – heat oil over medium-high heat, add pork in one layer, heat for 3 minutes, flip with a spatula and heat for another 2 minutes.
  • Broiler – place pork on a lightly oiled baking sheet, place under the broiler for 5 minutes.

The cast-iron skillet method is best for smaller portions, while the broiler method is better when you’re feeding a crowd.

SERVINGS

Pork Carnitas Street Tacos are great for a crowd! Serve them family-style and let everyone make their own.

LEFTOVERS

Pork Carnitas Street Tacos are perfect for leftovers and great to use for creating other recipes.

Pork Carnitas Street Tacos from KarylsKulinaryKrusade.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 4lbs Pork Shoulder (boneless or bone-in).
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt.
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper.
  • 1 cup yellow onion, cut into large slices or chunks.
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed.
  • 1 cup orange juice.
  • 2 Tablespoons dried oregano.
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin.
  • 1 Tablespoon avocado or canola oil.

STREET TACO INGREDIENTS

  • 18 small tortillas (corn or flour).
  • Diced white onion.
  • Chopped cilantro.
  • 4 limes, quartered.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Rinse the pork shoulder and pat dry with paper towels. Cut off any excess fat, but keep fat cap intact!
  2. Season the pork generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Combine cumin and oregano, add oil and combine well. Brush the rub onto the pork, and then massage it into the meat with your hands.
  4. Transfer the pork into the slow cooker, with the fat cap up. Add garlic, onion, and orange juice.
  5. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 10 hours.
  6. Transfer pork to a cutting board. Pull the bones out. Use tongs to pull off the fat cap and any excess fat chunks.
  7. Take 2 forks and shred the meat. Don’t completely shred into fine pieces, as you still want some small chunks.

CHAR THE MEAT

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large cast-iron skillet.
  2. Add pork to the skillet in one layer and leave it alone for 3 minutes so the meat will char properly.
  3. Flip meat with a spatula and char for another 2 minutes.

MAKE THE STREET TACOS

  1. Add carnitas to tortillas.
  2. Top with diced white onion and chopped cilantro.
  3. Pour over a little of the reserved liquid.
  4. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

NOTES

Bone-in or boneless pork shoulder? I prefer bone-in because the bones add more flavor, and it’s less expensive than boneless.

Do I cut off the fat cap on the back before cooking? No. That fat cap adds amazing flavor, and it easily peels off at the end.

PRO TIP: Strain the juices through a fine-mesh strainer, to reduce the amount of fat. Save the juices and store with the leftover pork, to help retain moisture.

PRO TIP: Only char what you plan to eat right then! Keep the extra pork with the reserved juices and do the second cook immediately before serving. If you try to reheat the charred meat it will get really dry.

To prepare for leftovers:

  • Allow the crockpot to come to room temperature.
  • Cover and store in the fridge overnight.
  • Remove from the fridge, and spoon off the layer of fat.

To reheat in the crockpot: Rest the crockpot at room temperature for 1 hour, and then heat on low for 30 minutes. Char the meat and serve.

Storing leftovers: Transfer the meat to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to one week. You can also portion into freezer bags, lay them flat, and freeze. They will last for up to 3 months.