At every Taquería I have been in from the hills of Mexico to the dust roadsides of Texas my favorite taco is always the Carnitas. It is the most prefect pork taco you have every dreamed of: juicy yet crispy and flavorful but not too spicy, bliss in a tortilla. I had never really made them myself so I began the research on how to make this wonderful pork taco, and what I learned was they are not that hard to make. It just takes time. Traditionally a whole pork shoulder or fresh ham is use, we are a family of 4 and I have self-control issues when it comes to carnitas so that was way too much meat for us. I opted to use some boneless country style spareribs, only about 3 pounds, it was perfect amount for the 4 of us. This also means that I am making myself carnitas whenever I want them because pork spareribs are like the cheapest cut of pork in all of Costco.
I served my carnitas as a taco, but they meat is prefect for topping a salad or filling a burrito. With a pork taco I like to put away the standard taco toppings and go for lime juice, pickled onions, avocado, and a little fresh cilantro relish. You could add some Cotija cheese if you can’t go cheese-less on your taco. I wanted to put some chopped tomatillos into my cilantro relish but both my nearby grocery stores were all sold out…total bummer, but if you have them in your store add one or two if you like. I served these tacos with a side of black beans and rice, my mom who came for the carnitas dinner totally skipped the tortilla and just made a wonderful bean, rice and carnita extravaganza on her plate. She was so happy with dinner, that she texted me after she got home to tell me it was her favorite meal I have made in a long time. That sounds like success to me.
Country Style Pork Spareribs Carnitas Tacos
- 3 lbs of country style spareribs
- 1 large onion quarter
- 4-6 smashed cloves of garlic
- Adobo Season Salt
- Bay leaf
- 4-6 smashed cloves of garlic
- Black pepper
- Granulated garlic
- ½ cup lemon or lime juice
- ¼ cup orange juice
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Water to cover the meat
- One red onion thinly sliced
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ lemon juice from the jar is fine
- Half a jalapeno thinly sliced
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1-2 cloves of smashed garlic
- ½ cup Fresh cilantro chopped
- Half a Red onion diced
- 1 Fresh jalapeno diced
- 2-3 Avocado
- Lime wedges
- 6-8 Tortillas traditionally corn, but we like flour
Dust all sides of your pork with the dry spices, be generous this is where you meat is going to get most of its flavors. Then place the spareribs in a single layer in a big heavy bottomed Dutch oven. Add the bay leaf, garlic, and onion to the pot. Then add the braising liquid, only use enough water to just cover the meat. Put the meat on the stove top without a lid and let it simmer for at least 3-4 hours.
Don’t mess with the meat. Let the braising liquid reduce all day until only the fat from the pork remains in the bottom of the pan. At this point you can turn off the heat, put the lid on the meat and just let it sit on the stove top until you are ready to eat. You could even put the pot into the refrigerator overnight, just don’t discard the drippings in bottom of the pan.
Preheat your broiler to high. When you are ready to eat remove the meat from the pan and give it a rough chop. I also chopped up the onions but discarded the garlic.
Return the meat to the pan, salt for flavor, and stir it well coating it with the wonderful fat from the bottom of the pan. If you have stored your carnitas overnight in the fridge after braising you may need to heat the fat up on the stove top before you mix up the chopped meats and the fat. Place your pot of carnitas under the broiler until the top of the meat gets crispy and brown. When they come out they ready to eat!
Pickled Red Onion
In a microwave safe container mix all the sugar, salt, vinegar and lemon juice, heat in the microwave just until hot. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve. In a non-reactive bowl put you thinly sliced onion, pepper corns, hot peppers, and garlic. If you like spice feel free to add more jalapeño or switch it up and go with habanero peppers. Then pour the hot vinegar over the onions and stir. Pickled onions only get better with time so feel free to make them in advance and store them in the fridge. Don’t forget to fish out the peppercorns before you serve, someone could break a tooth.
Mix all the diced ingredients together and if you can find it feel free to add one or two tomatillos. I don’t add any lime juice or salt to this relish mostly because there is plenty of salt and lime on the carnitas, but if you use this for anything else you may want to add some of both.
Now you can just build a taco with all the accompaniments and enjoy pork bliss.