Carnitas Tacos with Pickled Cabbage Slaw

July 1, 2010

Summer Taco  and Salsa Party Continued…

The first taco that Chef Gigi made was her Carnitas Taco with Pickled Cabbage Slaw. I’m definitely a fan of carnitas tacos and this recipe didn’t disappoint.  The only disappointing factor had nothing to do with the recipe – I thought the flour tortillas were too thick – easy enough to fix.

Carnitas Ingredients:
3 Pounds Pork Shoulder
(aka pork butt – even though it’s no where near the butt) – Cut into 2-3 inch cubes/pieces
Taco Seasoning –  Enough to coat the meat – Any kind will do – she used an organic brand – but uses some from Costco at home.
1 Tablespoon of Vegetable Oil – Enough to coat the bottom of a heavy wide pan or large dutch oven.
Water – Pour until it reaches the top of the meat – don’t totally cover the meat.
8 oz. of Coca-Cola – Regular, not diet – the sugar is an important part of the cooking process
3-5 Cloves of Garlic
1 Onion – quartered
1 Lemon – halved
1 Orange – halved
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon Oregano Flakes – dry
2-3 Teaspoons Salt
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

(Serves: 4-6)

Cut pork into 2-3 inch cubes and season with the taco seasoning – make sure the meat is coated well. (If you don’t like pre-made taco seasoning – just use your own version).

Heat a heavy wide pan until hot and then add the vegetable oil – enough to coat the bottom of the pan or dutch oven.

When the oil is very hot, add the taco seasoned pork cubes. Fry until browned on all sides. Once browned, add enough water to barely cover the meat and then add the Coca-Cola.

Add the onion and squeeze the orange and lemon, adding the juice and the fruit pieces to the pan.

Season with salt, pepper flakes and oregano (Chef Gigi’s tip was to rub the oregano between your fingers before placing into the pot – works well with your own oils).

Bring pot to a boil and then lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove citrus and continue to cook until tender. (Total cooking time is around 2-3 hours).

Remove meat when it’s softened and shred with hands or a fork. A student asked if you should turn the pan down to low during the cooking process and the answer was – no, always keep it on medium heat or the liquid won’t evaporate like it should.

Someone else asked how often you should stir the meat – occasionally was her answer – 2-3 times during the whole cooking process.

She recommended serving with pickled slaw, cilantro leaves, jack cheese and a lime wedge on a flour or corn tortilla.

Recipe for Pickled Cabbage Slaw

1/2 head Green Cabbage (Cut into 1/8’s and shred) – yields about 4 cups
3 Green Onions, sliced
1/2 Carrot – shredded
1/4 Cup Red Pepper – small diced
1/4 Cup Cilantro, chopped or to taste (She showed us how to cut cilantro – you roll the bunch and fold the top side under – similar to this MonkeySee video)
1/4 Cup Hot Water with 2 Tablespoons sugar dissolved in it
3/4 Cup White Vinegar
2-4 Tablespoons Picked Jalapeño Liquid (depending on desired heat level)
Chopped Pickled Jalapeños (optional – again… depending on desired heat level)

Mix all ingredients together and place in a ziploc bag overnight. Adjust seasonings after tasting the next day.

Chef Gigi’s staff used burrito sized flour tortillas cut in 1/2 and it was just too much. I like a really light tortilla and will go for that next time I make these.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the second taco and sauce recipes.



  1. This sounds absolutely and utterly incredible. I’m printing this out to be made soon. We love anything Mexican and this just sounds fantastic. Thank you so much for posting these recipes :o)

    • It really was great – seems a little involved, but she went through it rather quickly. Can’t wait to see what you think or how you tweak it.

  2. I can’t wait to make this one for friends! I loved the flavor of the carnitas and was amazed to see how easy it was. I remember glancing at you and we both smiled and were pretty excited to know that we would be able to recreate the dish.

    • This would be fun for an outdoor dinner party… hmmm, maybe in August 😉

  3. This one sounds just wonderful. I never knew that citrus was added to the water. I usually order carnitas at restaurants but now I know I could actually make it myself…….amazing.

    Hugs, Mommers

    • I was surprised at the ease as well – nothing more than your short ribs – which, BTW are yummy!

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