Cinco de Mayo recipe: tacos de carnitas

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a traditional Mexican dish. Shredded pork soft tacos are easy, economical, and delicious tacos made with braised pork.

A Palatable Pastime
Cinco de Mayo calls for traditional Mexican flavors such as these soft tacos filled with braised, pulled pork.

Cinco de Mayo is a perfect time to celebrate Mexican cuisine, recognized by UNESCO as one of the world's "intangible cultural heritages."

This delicious carne can be made with a Boston butt, a pork shoulder blade roast, either bone-in or boneless, or with what is called “country-style” ribs, which are essentially these roasts cut into thick slices (and aren’t really ribs at all).

I used boneless country ribs to make this meat, mostly because it is a smaller cut and I didn’t really want to deal with leftovers. Although this type of meat freezes well, and makes an excellent seasoning for Southern-braised vegetables in place of bacon or smoked turkey. You can do the same seasoning thing with meats cooked outdoors in the barbeque, but for ease, this one was done indoors. It lacks some of the smoky flavor associated with barbecued meat, but that type of meat isn’t necessarily used to make carnitas anyway.

Carnitas is also generally fried after it is braised, and that adds extra flavor, especially if you use lard, but most people generally just pull/shred the meat and leave it at that. It is a bit healthier that way.

This makes a taqueria-style taco, but you may wish to use typical Tex-Mex fillings of your choice, such as lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Your call.

Braised Pork Carnitas

3 pounds boneless country style ribs or sliced boneless pork shoulder blade roast

1 tablespoon oil or lard

1 large onion

3 cloves garlic, chopped

Adobo seasoning and black pepper

2 cups water

1. Sear pork pieces in lard in a dutch oven.

2. Add garlic and onion and seasonigs, along with the water.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately 90 minutes.

4. Allow meat to cool, then shred.

Note: If you want to be frugal, you can cool the remaining cooking liquid until the fat solidifies, then remove the fat and use the liquid for cooking beans, greens or other vegetables. It can also be frozen if you aren’t going to use it right away. Just chill and skim off the fat first.

Tacos de Carnitas

16-20 soft fresh corn tortillas, warmed


Finely chopped onion

Habanero salsa or salsa fresca or salsa of your choice

1. Assemble tacos by briefly warming corn tortillas in the microwave, and stacking inside a clean dish towel.

2. Take two tortillas and place them in a double layer.

3. Fill with desired amount of shredded carnitas, chopped cilantro, minced onion, and salsa.

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