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Carnitas Tacos

A recipe for Carnitas Tacos from The Immigrant Cookbook!
Course Main
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword carnitas, pork, taco
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Resting Time: 12 hours
Total Time 14 hours 35 minutes
Servings 6 -8 servings


  • 3 1/2 pounds (1.5 kg) boneless pork shoulder
  • 3-4 cups (1 1/3-1 3/4 lb, 600-800 g) rendered pork fat or lard enough to mostly cover the meat
  • Half a 7 ounce (200 g) can chipotle peppers in adobo or more to taste
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper


  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stick canella Mexican cinnamon
  • 1 cup (7 ounces, 200 g) brown sugar
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 225 g) kosher salt

To serve:

  • 18-24 small tortillas
  • 1 cup (240 ml) Mexican crema or sour cream optional
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz, 100 g) pickled red onions (recipe below) recipe below
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz, 115 g) pickled jalapeño peppers optional
  • Cucumber slices seeds removed
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves separated
  • Lime wedges

Pickled Red Onions or Jalapeño Peppers:

  • 1-1 1/4 cups (240-300 ml) white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons table salt
  • 1 cup (4 oz, 115 g) thinly sliced red onion or jalapeño peppers


  • In a nonreactive stockpot, combine the brine ingredients with enough water to cover the pork (about 8 1/2 cups, 2 liters). Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let cool completely. Add the pork to the pot, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
  • Once the pork has brined, preheat the oven to 275˚F (135˚C). Remove the pork from the brine, patting it dry with paper towels, and cut it into 2 inch (5 cm) pieces.
  • In a large Dutch oven, heat the fat over medium heat until it melts. Add the pork pieces, cover the pot, and roast in the oven until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours. Transfer the meat to a mixing bowl, discarding the oil. Finely chop the chipotles and add them to the meat with their sauce. Add the orange and lime juice, toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • To assemble, spread each tortilla with crema, if using, and top with a generous amount of the seasoned pork. Sprinkle with the pickled onions and jalapeños, if using, and top with the cucumber slices, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime.

To make the pickled red onions or jalapeños:

  • In a small pot, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Place the onion or jalapeño slices in a jar or tub, pour in the vinegar mixture to completely cover them, seal, and refrigerate for at least one hour before using or up to several days.