Salsa Verde Carnitas

Carnitas are the Mexican version of pulled pork. Braised first in a spicy sauce, pork shoulder is slow cooked until so tender the meat just shreds easily with a fork, then it’s roasted at high heat to make crispy browned bits full of flavor.

It’s taco meat, burrito meat, or just stewy meat to serve with rice and beans or with tortillas.

Salsa Verde Carnitas

This version of carnitas, adapted from a Sunset recipe for braised pork, is cooked first in a braise of tomatillo salsa verde, or green salsa. It’s delicious served with fresh corn tortillas and topped with a shredded cabbage slaw, Cotija cheese, avocado, and Mexican sour cream.

Salsa Verde Carnitas

  • Cook: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6

If you have time, lightly toast the whole cumin and coriander seeds first, in a small skillet on medium high heat.


  • 3 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat (not all the fat, just the glaring excess fat), cut into large (3 to 4 inch) chunks
  • 2 cups tomatillo salsa verde, bottled or homemade
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped, stems and tender leaves
  • Salt
  • 12 to 16 corn tortillas, heated and softened
  • 1/4 head of cabbage, very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar (if you only have unseasoned, add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to it)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Cotija Mexican farmer's cheese, or some grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • Crema fresca, crema Mexican, or sour cream
  • Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish


1 Simmer pork with salsa verde, onion, stock, spices until tender: Put the pork, salsa verde, chopped onion, chicken stock, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and oregano in a large, thick-bottomed pot, and heat on high heat. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and simmer until meat pulls away easily with a fork, about 3 hours.

2 Shred meat with two forks, then broil: Preheat oven broiler. Remove meat from the pot and put into a roasting pan. With 2 forks, tear the meat into large shreds, spreading them out in an even layer in the roasting pan. Put pan on the top rack of the oven. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes until edges and some parts are brown and crispy.

3 Skim fat, reduce the salsa verde sauce: While the meat is browning in the oven, skim the fat from the liquid in the large pot. (Discard but do not put the fat down the drain or you will clog your pipes.)

Heat the pot on high and vigorously boil the remaining liquid, stirring, until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, several minutes.

4 Return meat to sauce, stir in cilantro: Return the meat to the pot with the liquid. Stir in chopped cilantro. Season with salt.

Serve with heated and softened corn tortillas (20 seconds each in the microwave spread out over a paper towel will heat and softened packaged tortillas sufficiently), diced avocado, crumbed Cotija or grated Monterey jack cheese, sour cream (or crema fresca), and seasoned cabbage slaw.

Seasoned Cabbage Slaw

Place thinly sliced cabbage in a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle with seasoned rice vinegar, salt and pepper. You can substitute white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for the rice vinegar, if you do, sprinkle on some sugar to help balance the acidity of the vinegar. Toss. Adjust seasonings. Let sit for 10 minutes for the cabbage to absorb some of the dressing.

Salsa Verde Carnitas

Main Ingredients