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 served with rice and beans. This version of carnitas, adapted from a Sunset recipe for braised pork, is cooked first in a braise of tomatilla 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 Recipe

  • Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6.
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Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds pork butt (pork shoulder)
  • 2 cups salsa verde, bottled, canned, or homemade
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teas dried)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt
  • 12 to 16 corn tortillas, heated and softened
  • 1/4 head of cabbage, very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoons olive oil
  • 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

Method

1 Trim the excess fat from the pork shoulder roast. Put the roast, the salsa verde, 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 Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove meat from liquid in pot and put the meat into a roasting pan. With 2 forks, tear the meat into large shreds, spreading them out in an even layer in the roasting pan. Roast meat for 15 to 20 minutes until parts are brown and crispy.

3. While the meat is roasting, skim and discard fat from the liquid in the large pot. Heat the pot on high and vigorously boil the remaining liquid, stirring, until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, 8 to 10 minutes.

4 Return the meat to the pot with the liquid. Stir in chopped cilantro. Season with salt.

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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 on olive oil, 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.

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Carnitas recipe adapted from a braised pork recipe in Sunset magazine.

Showing 4 of 39 Comments

  • Mark

    Great recipe. I make something very similar to this, but I do a couple of things differently that I think really help to give it better flavor.

    I cut my pork roast into chunks and rub with a homemade mix of cumin, ancho chili powder, salt, pepper, and mexican oregano, letting it sit for a few hours prior to cooking. I think that allows the meat to really hold on to that flavor.

    And a couple of tips for the tortillas:
    1. A woman that lived in South America showed me that if you wet the top and bottom corn tortilla prior to placing them in the microwave, you’ll get much better results. You may have to throw the top and bottom one away as they will become too soggy.

    2. If I have the time I will use my cast-iron skillet to heat my corn tortillas. Spread, very lightly, a bit of water or oil on to the tortilla and cook on each side until it just starts to color. This blows away cooking them in the microwave, but it does take considerably longer.

  • jennbec

    Since I’m not a big pork person, I think I’ll try this chicken and some of my frozen stash of homemade salsa verde. My boyfriend’s been bugging me about getting that stuff out of the freezer and on to the plate. Thanks, Elise, for getting the idea ball rolling! :-)

  • Lydia

    For those who don’t eat pork, will this same treatment work for beef? If so, which cuts would you recommend? I’m thinking I would try this with brisket.

  • Kalyn

    I’m absolutely drooling. Carnitas is one of my very favorite things to order in a Mexican restaurant.

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