Silvestre Valencia, former owner of Viva Taco Bus in Turlock, California, adds jalapeño pickling liquid to the pork braise, which tenderizes the meat and keeps it from drying out. Looking for more taqueria traditions? Check out 16 of our favorite taco recipes, here.
Featured in: “On the California Taco Trail.”
Carnitas Tacos (Michoacán-Style Braised Pork Tacos)
Carnitas, a Mexican-style pulled pork, gets tangy punch from the addition of spicy pickled jalapeño brine to the cooking liquid. The meat then gets piled high into warm taco shells.
Yield: serves 8-10
2 hours, 30 minutes
For the Carnitas:
- 3 tbsp. lard or vegetable oil
- 3 lb. skinless bone-in pork shoulder, cut into 3-in. pieces (have your butcher do this)
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 3⁄4 cup whole milk
- 8 cloves garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the heel of a knife
- 6 jalapeño pickling liquid, from above
- 1⁄3 cup jalapeño pickling liquid, from above
- 1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
- 1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice
- 2⁄3 cup fresh orange juice
For the Salsa:
- 6 tomatillos, husked and cored
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 plum tomatoes, cored
- 1 canned or jarred whole pickled jalapeño, stemmed
- 3 tbsp. jalapeño pickling liquid, from above, plus more for serving
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Warm corn tortillas
- Coarsely chopped cilantro
- Thinly sliced radishes
- Orange wedges
- Make the carnitas: In a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, melt the lard. Season the pork generously with salt. When the lard is hot and shimmering, add the pork and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 10–12 minutes. Add the milk, garlic, jalapeños, pickling liquid, onion, and lime and orange juices. When the liquid boils, turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the pork is tender, about 2 hours. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- When the pork is cool enough to handle, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a cutting board, then chop it into ¼-inch chunks. Strain the liquid into a bowl, then pour it back into the empty Dutch oven. Add the pork to the liquid and turn the heat to medium. When the liquid boils, scrape the carnitas into a warmed serving dish and cover tightly with foil. Clean the Dutch oven and return it to the stove.
- Make the salsa: In the empty Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, char the tomatillos, garlic, and tomatoes, turning occasionally, until blackened all over, 12–15 minutes, then transfer to a blender. Add the jalapeño, pickling liquid, and salt to taste, then purée.
- To serve, top the tortillas with the carnitas, spoon each taco with salsa, and garnish with cilantro and radishes. Accompany with more pickled jalapeños and orange wedges on the side.