Sunday, December 19, 2010

Puerto Vallarta Inspired Carnitas

Last year Kono and I were invited to our friend Dave’s place in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.  It was right on the beach with a priceless view conveniently located next to an abundance of amazing restaurants, many of which we had the pleasure of dinning at.

Since we were so close to the source I dragged my husband on a foot journey outside of the touristy areas and in to the local neighborhoods above the beach to track down some authentic tacos.  I figured that this would be the best way to find out if my American carnitas or fish tacos tasted anything like the real thing.
We discovered a small taqueria (I didn’t see a name anywhere) that was frying up pork rinds (delish) and ordered their carnitas which came on a plastic bag covered plate with a variety of condiments.  
One of the condiments was a green colored sauce that you put on your tacos.  When I asked what it was called, they told me it was guacamole.  Definitely not what I was used to when I think of guacamole.  Being that I had a language barrier I had to take what I was told and simply enjoy.  It was amazing!!!
 The next stop was a small food truck.  We stumbled on this small little cart by following a sign on the corner that lead us to a beat up side street with a line of locals in front of it.  
I peeked around the line and saw Alex (I assumed the guy in the cart was Alex) pulling chunks of meat from a large clay pot and chopping it up to put in the taco’s.  The clay pot got my attention and the next thing I knew I was standing in line trying to blend in with the crowd.  That was impossible because we clearly looked out of place with tourist stamped all over our faces.  Even though I was out of place with a language barrier, I was determined to taste his wares using the universal language of point and nod.  It worked well and we soon found ourselves digging into another batch of amazing tacos that were equally delish.
We ended our taco feed at Marisma, a well blogged about fish taco stand which was difficult to find being located on a side street with very little pedestrian traffic to ask directions.  This stand clearly catered to expatriates “in the know” that were very comfortable with the locals.  The fish tacos were amazing and the freshly made corn tortillas were incredible.
What I discovered is that our tacos in the US are pretty close to the tacos in Mexico.

Traditionally carnitas are cooked low and slow in a vat of fat creating a moist and tender pull apart or rough chopped melt in your mouth pork that has crispy bits that are amazingly tasty.  I don’t have that luxury in my home kitchen and I don’t think I ever will.  My version of carnitas without the vat of fat is maybe not so authentic, but, it is delectable and easy to make. 

My notes to you...
This is the first time I added orange juice, which is optional.  The orange juice gave the pork a sweet citrus background flavor, so, it all depends on how I feel, sweet or savory.  If you are feeling savory, leave out the o.j.

Another option is to place the pulled or chopped carnitas under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the edges.

3          pounds            pork butt
4          cloves              garlic, minced
1          med                 onion, chopped small
1          tsp.                  oregano
2          tsp.                  kosher salt
1          whole               bay leaf
1          14 oz. can       chicken broth
½         cup                  orange juice (optional)

Cut the pork into large sections (about 6 pieces).  Place in a large heavy bottom pot with a cover; add garlic, onions, oregano, salt and bay leaf.
Pour orange juice and chicken broth over the meat.  Bring to a boil and cover.  
Lower heat to a med low and let cook for 1 hour.  Uncover and let cook over med high heat for 30 minutes or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.  

Take two forks and pull pork as you would pulled pork or remove form the pot and give the pork a rough chop.
Serve on a fresh corn tortilla smeared with guacamole sauce and chunky onion salsa.
Optional; place the pulled or chopped carnitas under the broiler for 3 – 5 minutes to crisp up the edges.


  1. Hi there! I must have stumbled to your site because of Pinterest. I saw this carnitas recipe and the guacamole sauce recipe, and I have made it twice in the past 2 weeks! My husband says it's the best pork I have made yet. (We love huge batches of pork to use for tacos that lasts for days + extra to freeze.)

    So, thank you so much. I can't wait to make a huge batch soon because we ate it all on Thursday. Cry.

    1. Hi Cindy,
      I'm so glad that you stumbled upon my site and for sharing your husbands compliment with me. I appriciate the kind words and your story.

      Since you loved the carnitas and love pork (me too) check out the chile verdes recipe. It's easy and quite tasty

      Happy Cooking and Eating Too

  2. Oh my goodness. YES! That's next. Thank you so much. <3

  3. Could this recipe be done in a slow cooker?

    1. Yes, to tenderize - but you will need to finish it on the stove to allow the liquid to evaporate.

  4. Can I replace the pork with beef instead?

    1. I have not done it myself, however I think it will work well. I would suggest using Beef Chuck.