Carnitas Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

This tender braised pork is topped with a bright and tangy salsa
42 Ratings
100% would make again
Photo: Dave Katz/Tasting Table

This classic dish from the Michoacán region of Mexico, in which chunks of pork are braised in orange juice and milk, is a summer staple. It’s the perfect taco filling—especially when topped with a bright tomatillo salsa.

You can find tomatillos at many grocery stores and Latin markets, but if you have any difficulty, substitute plum tomatoes and continue with the recipe as is. This makes a salsa roja, which will be equally delicious spooned over the braised pork.

If you feel inspired, one other way to increase flavor in your carnitas is to reduce the braising liquid before adding it back to the pork. Just cook the liquid down to one cup, and you’re good to go.

To learn more, read “TT Culinary Institute: Carnitas.”

Carnitas Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa

Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours and 35 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours and 5 minutes


For the Carnitas:

3 tablespoons lard or canola oil

3 pounds skinless, boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3-inch pieces

Kosher salt, to taste

10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 large white onion, roughly chopped

¾ cup whole milk

¾ cup orange juice

¼ cup lime juice

¼ cup pickled jalapeño slices

¼ cup jalapeño pickling liquid

1 teaspoon orange zest

For the Salsa and Assembly:

1 pound (8 small) tomatillos, husked and cored

4 garlic cloves

1 jalapeño—stemmed, halved and seeded

3 tablespoons lime juice

Kosher salt, to taste

Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving

Roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish

Thinly sliced radishes, for garnish

Diced white onions, for garnish

Lime wedges, for serving


1. Make the carnitas: In a large Dutch oven, heat the lard over medium high heat. Season the pork with salt and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring as needed, until golden brown,15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a bowl.

2. To the pan, add the garlic and onions, and cook until lightly golden, 5 minutes. Return the pork to the pan with the remaining carnitas ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a light simmer and cook, covered, until the pork is tender when pierced with a knife, 2 to 2½ hours. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a bowl. Add 1 cup of the braising liquid to the pork and, using two forks, roughly shred the carnitas into bite-size pieces. Season with salt.

3. Meanwhile make the salsa: Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add the tomatillos, garlic and jalapeño, and cook, turning as needed, until charred, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender to cool. Once cooled, add the lime juice and purée until smooth. Season with salt.

4. Serve the carnitas on corn tortillas with the salsa, cilantro, radish and onion, with lime wedges on the side.

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