There’s a bit of a misconception about Mexican food in the states. What you usually find here isn’t what you would find there. Authentic Mexican focuses on fresh ingredients and lots of flavor, like this recipe for Slow Cooker Carnitas for Tacos.
During a recent visit to Mexico, there was a line of food stands next to my hotel. Some featuring my favorite Mexican dishes including carnitas, which are made from all parts of pork. Traditionally, most parts of the pig are cooked and chopped right in the stand.
While there I had the carnitas with sope, which are like small fried corn cakes, but for this recipe, I’m using the meat for tacos on a corn tortilla.
Making the Carnitas
For this version, I took many of the same ingredients typically found in that street version and cooked it overnight in a slow cooker. I woke up in the morning to the fragrant, somewhat sweet smells from the orange, Mexican Coca-Cola® and bay leaf.
To prep most of the ingredients, the 7-5/8″ Petite Chef knife works well. Use it to quarter the onion, halve the orange and chop the garlic.
When choosing meat for this dish, a pork shoulder is a good choice because you want something with more fat content to help keep the meat moist while cooking.
The pork is cut into 3-inch pieces before going into the cooker.
Cooking carnitas in the slow cooker makes it easier to monitor rather than cooking it on a stove top. It also reduces the fat typically found in traditional carnitas.
There are a few tips to keep in mind when making this recipe. Make sure to use Mexican Coca-Cola® or cane sugar cola, because the sugars will help caramelize the meat.
To bring out even more flavor in the meat, consider oven broiling it or pan frying it a bit to get some crispy edges before placing it in the slow cooker.
When the meat is done use a Cleaver or large heavy knife to chop the meat into very small pieces (carnitas). It’s much easier than shredding with a fork.
Making the Pickled Vegetables
To add some brightness to the dish, pickled vegetables pair nicely with the deep flavors of the pork. They also add some crunch for those that are used to a hard taco shell.
The pickled vegetables are incredibly easy to make. Thinly slice the carrots with a 7″ Santoku.
Then thinly slice the green pepper, jicama and onion using the 7-5/8″ Petite Chef.
Toss them all together in an agave syrup, white vinegar and dried oregano mixture to sit for at least an hour, and they’re done!
Once everything is done, serve the carnitas on top of a corn tortilla, topped with the pickled vegetables. Once you make your own Slow Cooker Carnitas for Tacos, you may never seek them out at a Mexican restaurant again.
Slow Cooker Carnitas for Tacos
For the carnitas:
- 4-5 pounds pork shoulder, chopped into 3-inch pieces
- 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 orange, halved
- 1 bottle Mexican Coca-Cola® or cane sugar cola.
- 1 white onion, quartered
For the pickled vegetables:
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 4 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 carrots, sliced thin
- 1 white or yellow onion, sliced
- 1 green pepper, sliced
- 1 jicama, sliced
- 2 jalapeños, sliced (optional)
- Place the pork into the slow cooker and rub the chopped garlic into the top of the meat.
- Sprinkle the pork with the bouillon powder and bay leaves.
- Squeeze the juice from the orange halves over the roast, then add the orange halves, Mexican Coca-Cola® and onion to the slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
- Meanwhile, mix the agave syrup, white vinegar and oregano in a bowl. Place the carrots, onion, green pepper, jicama and jalapeños (if using) in a large bowl and pour the white vinegar mixture over the vegetables, mixing everything together. Let this mixture sit for at least one hour.
- Once the meat is cooked, remove from the slow cooker and allow to cool for a couple minutes. Use a Cleaver to chop the meat into small pieces, around one-quarter of an inch.
- Place meat into a hot skillet. Add some of the liquid from the slow cooker to the skillet and over medium-high heat, brown the edges of the meat so they are crisp.
- Serve on corn tortillas topped with pickled vegetables.