This easy recipe for Crispy Carnitas Tacos turns pork shoulder into juicy, caramelized heaven. Add a fresh tortilla and you’ll never want to eat anything else, ever again.
Ah pork, the meat that keeps on giving. It is a staggeringly versatile protein. From BBQ ribs, to Asian meatballs, and now… carnitas! This deceptively simple recipe has an incredibly complex and tasty final product, perfect for tacos, breakfast hash, or just out of hand eating!
But in this case tacos.
What is carnitas, you ask?
Well, besides DELICIOUS, it’s a Mexican pork shoulder dish. The pork is slowly simmered – traditionally in lard! – until it’s super tender and juicy. This recipe takes that concept and pushes it a step further. OH YES!
Pop quiz: what’s everyone’s favorite part of roasted meat? The crispy bits. Yeah, those little pieces of dark, caramelized meat that pack flavor and crunch in every bite.
Well, today is EVERYONE’s lucky day. Because this carnitas recipe combines the tenderness of slow-cooked meat with crispy cooked edges. And it rolls it all up in a tortilla. TA-DAAA!
There’s a certain magic to these carnitas tacos, for a few reasons:
- Three ingredients.
- Two steps.
- One pot.
That’s it! The three ingredients are pork shoulder, orange juice, and salt. Oh and water. Does that make it four? Ugh, my list was so pretty and symmetrical. I’m sticking with three.
The pork shoulder should be of the Boston butt variety, with plenty of fat on it. The orange juice can be fresh or bottled – no big deal either way. The juice helps with caramelization, but you don’t taste orange in the final product. And salt, well, hopefully that’s self-explanatory.
Now the two easy steps to carnitas heaven!
One: dump chopped pork, orange juice, and salt in a big pot, with enough water to barely cover the pork.
Two: simmer. For a long time. A couple hours at least. As the water simmers, the fat from the pork begins to render off, and the water begins to evaporate. After a while, the pork will be simmering in its own rendered fat, becoming incredibly tender and flavorful.
When all the water has evaporated, the pork will start frying, creating those delectable crispy, tasty bits that everyone loves to snitch and eat. But unlike the crispy parts of a roast, which are limited, the entire batch of carnitas will become crunchy yet juicy. It’s basically irresistible.
Now all you have to do is scoop your crispy carnitas into a tortilla – preferably a homemade flour tortilla! – and add your toppings of choice. Guacamole or sliced avocado make a nice creamy contrast to the pork, and we swear by this charred salsa verde to top it all off. You’ll probably need a margarita or a paloma as well. Just sayin’.
Crispy carnitas tacos: Three ingredients. Two steps. One pot. Win win win.
- 3 lb. pork shoulder (Boston butt roast), including a good layer of fat
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 teaspoons salt (more to taste if necessary)
- About 3-4 cups water
- 12 tortillas
- Favorite taco toppings: guacamole, sliced avocado, cilantro, green onion, cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc.
- Cut pork into large chunks, about 1 inch by 3 inches. (It's not science, just eyeball it.) Keep the fat on the pork.
- Place pork, orange juice, and salt in a large dutch oven or heavy pot. Add water until pork is just barely covered.
- Simmer pork for about 2 hours on medium low heat. Keep the pot uncovered. No need to stir.
- After two hours, turn heat to medium high, so the water is boiling. Continue boiling until the water has evaporated and the fat has rendered from the pork, about another 45 minutes.
- Continue cooking on medium high as pork browns and fries. Watch carefully and stir as needed to prevent pork from burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a metal spatula to incorporate the browned bits.
- When the pork is crispy, remove from heat. Place several layers of paper towel in a bowl. Remove pork from pot with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
- Serve the pork in tortillas with your favorite toppings. I like guacamole, sour cream, and salsa verde. Best eaten with a margarita!
Recipe adapted from Homesick Texan.
Oh yeah, here’s some homemade flour tortillas for you…
A splash of charred salsa verde…
And that grapefruit margarita…
Finally some zesty guacamole…enjoy!