I think I have mentioned before that we are a bit obsessed with tacos. Especially taqueria style tacos. We used to live in California and had access to some amazing taquerias there. When we first moved east, it was hard to find similar food here. Thankfully now there is a lot more popping up in the last couple of years. Carnitas tacos are my favorite and they just are not complete without the right salsa.
I don’t use the traditional method for making carnitas. The true way to make them is to braise them in a huge pot of their own fat or oil. I have not tried this but I really want to at some point. I use the sous vide method because the pork comes out so perfectly cooked and tender and flavorful. I use my broiler to brown and char the meat a bit right before serving and this makes some really good tacos.
If you don’t do sous vide, you can also do the pork in the oven at low heat and baste it occasionally with the fat/juices and get a great result too. This is what I used to do before I got a sous vide machine.
Red or green taqueria style salsa is a must with these. Today I made red. Both are easy to make with relatively few ingredients. The salsa really makes these tacos though so I highly suggest you don’t skip this.
This type of taco needs a corn tortilla, and I usually char them slightly in a hot, dry pan. They are so much better if you do that. Or you could make your own. I have done that before and they take these to a completely different level. I used store bought today though so I charred them. I also top my tacos with a little diced onion and cilantro. That is all these tacos need. Cheese is not typical on this style of taco.
This recipe makes a lot of carnitas. You can shred and freeze whatever you don’t use, and then just defrost and heat to use later on.
Carnitas Tacos + Taqueria Red Salsa
For the pork:
- 4-6 lbs pork shoulder cut into 2 inch thick slabs
- 1 onion rough chopped
- 8 garlic cloves peeled and rough chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick broken into a few pieces or 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 orange unpeeled and cut into wedges
For the salsa:
- 1 large tomato
- 4 medium tomatillos
- 2 garlic cloves unpeeled
- 1/2 onion
- 15 dried arbol chilies stemmed and seeded
- salt to taste
- corn tortillas warmed or charred
- chopped cilantro and white onion
For the pork:
- Mix the pork ingredients in a large bowl and toss well, seasoning with a good amount of salt. Place into vacuum sealed bag and seal if using sous vide. Cook at 185 for 16 hours.
- If using oven method, set oven to 300 and place pork ingredients in an oven safe pot with a lid. Cook with the lid on for 2-3 hours, occasionally basting the pork with juices. Check the tenderness of the pork. If it is getting somewhat tender, remove the lid an allow the pork to finish cooking until very tender. If still hard to pull apart, cook with the lid on another hour or so and try again. The pork should be fully tender when done.
- Remove the pork from the juices and shred the meat. Taste it and toss with some salt if needed. Use a bit of the pan juice to moisten the meat. If you used the sous vide method, heat the broiler and place shredded meat on a foil lined baking sheet.
- Place under the broiler until browned and slightly crispy. You can also do this in a skillet if you like.
For the salsa:
- In a heavy skillet or under your broiler, cook the tomato, onion, tomatillos, and garlic. Let them roast until they start to blister and blacken and soften a little.
- Peel the garlic and add all the ingredients to the blender or food processor. Add the chilies to the hot pan briefly to soften or else microwave them for 5 seconds. Add to the blender. Blend until the mixture is well blended, adding a little water if needed. Taste and add some salt and vinegar or lime juice if it needs a bit more acidity.