Salsa Verde Carnitas

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Salsa verde pork carnitas, pork shoulder slow cooked in tomatillo salsa verde sauce, then pulled apart, browned in the oven, and returned to the sauce.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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

Salsa Verde Carnitas Recipe

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  • Cook time: 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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

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Salsa Verde Carnitas

Showing 4 of 29 Comments / Reviews

  • Maggie

    Made this today for 4 other friends who came for dinner.The aroma throughout my house while the pork cooked, was putting me in a relaxed, comfortable mood, yet eager to enjoy the finished product.My friends so enjoyed “MY” creative genius (ha, ha). I found that I was most partial to the juices with the pork, so especially enjoyed it with a rice dish I cooked as a side. Putting it in tortillas (taco like), was good, but seemed to need something more. I did include all the condiments, but maybe the Salsa Verde I used was too mild. That aside, the pork Verde and juices were and are still, calling me back for more! Thank you mucho.. Esta es muy sabor!

  • Patricia

    Hi, How much will it matter if I use ground Cumin and ground coriander instead of the seeds?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • jonathan

    Bocce balls! I’ve been eyeing your Chile Verde recipe for a while, was planning on making it this Sunday for a Super Bowl gathering, and then…WHAM! You post this (which, truth be told, is kinda like serving the Chile Verde in taco form).

    And to think my shrink and I had just reached a breakthrough on my inability to make a decision. ;-)

    Lydia…while brisket is delicious and requires a long braise or smoke to yield tender meat, I’m sure you’d get the same end result from a cheaper cut like a chuck roast, whose shape is closer to that of a pork butt/shoulder.

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