Carnitas Tacos with Pickled Red Onions

February 16, 2021

One of my favorite recipes of all time. Hands down my favorite tacos we make at home. Carnitas are a perfect + flavorful weeknight dinner!

Taco Tip: Get a friend from Texas

When it comes to carnitas, I take advice only from the best tex-mex cook I know. My friend Treva was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. She rocked my world when she shared her mom’s secrets to great carnitas:

  1. First, braise the pork in just enough orange juice to cover the meat.
  2. Turn up the heat and let the liquid evaporate.

You’re left with tiny tender pieces of generously seasoned pork crisping in their own rendered fat. My tacos have never been the same since learning this Texan insider tip.

I took the extra step to introduce a few other flavors like lime, garlic, and what I call the triple threat of Mexican spices: chili powder, coriander, and cumin. Served in warm tortillas and topped with proper fixins’—especially fresh-tasting, homemade pickled onions—carnitas will feed a crowd easily. 

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Carnitas Tacos with Pickled Red Onions


  • Author: Kelsey Nixon
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 1/2 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Description

The world’s greatest tex-mex inspired carnitas tacos.


Ingredients

Scale

Pickled red onions

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and cut into rings
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced 

Carnitas

  • 1 (3-pound) pork shoulder (or butt), trimmed of excess fat 
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed 
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Garnishes (optional)

  • 16 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1 large avocado, chopped or sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1/3 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
  • 8 lime wedges

Instructions

  1. For the onions, in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, bring the lime juice, vinegar, sugar, salt, and jalapeno to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. 
  2. Put the onions in a separate bowl, and pour the vinegar mixture over them. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool for about 20 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 days. 
  3. For the carnitas, cut the pork shoulder into 1 ½-inch to 2-inch pieces and put them in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add the lime juice, orange juice, garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, and salt.  Add just enough water to cover the pork and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking on a gentle simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. 
  4. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until all of the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated, 10 minutes. Continue cooking, carefully turning the pork pieces, until they develop brown crispy edges, 5 minutes. 
  5. Serve the pork with the pickled onions, warmed tortillas, avocado, cilantro, cabbage, cheese, and lime wedges for squeezing. 

Notes

Quick Pickle Garnishes: You can use the method for the quick pickled onions for peppers, radishes, or even cabbage. Just slice the vegetables thinly and taste them as they sit—tougher vegetables like cabbage may need a bit more time in the vinegar mixture.