Crispy Pork Carnitas Street Tacos Recipe

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If you're looking for a delicious and easy-to-make Mexican dish, look no further than carnitas street tacos! These street tacos are made with crispy slow cooker pork carnitas, topped with onions and cilantro, and they're perfect for serving at parties or as a main course. Plus, they're really easy to make - anyone can do it!

One of our favorite things is having Taco Tuesday at our house but taco night can be any night when the weather warms up. We have taken well to the deck of our new home. It's where we are grilling carne asada, sipping strawberry mojitos and bottomless boozy strawberry lemonade, and just honestly enjoying the little things again.

pinterest pin for crispy carnitas street tacos

I feel like after the last few years the world has been having, enjoying some little things are the best part of my day.

Which is why we are making some of the best little things ever: little things in little things! Carnitas street tacos! They're so savory, rich, and juicy. Like you'll need napkins on hand because the

This recipe is super simple to make and won't heat up your house during the warmer months because the carnitas are made in the slow cooker! I also have an instant pot carnitas recipe if you need your taco fix fast.

I have all the best tips for making the best carnitas street tacos; from tips on buying the best cut of pork, to the best toppings, to all of my favorite variations of ways to serve it, and favorite mexican food sides to serve it with.

Jump to:

What are carnitas?

Carnitas means 'little meats', and they make the best pork tacos ever! Authentic pork carnitas tacos are traditionally made from pork shoulder (a cut that's also called pork butt or boston butt) which is slowly cooked submerged in lard, confit-style, until the pork is juicy and tender. Then the fat is cranked to high heat to give the pork seriously crispy edges.

Home-style carnitas are more approachable, like a Mexican pulled pork: instead of slow cooking in pork fat, the pork butt is braised in a crock pot with chicken broth, citrus juices, spices and herbs, until fork tender and shreddable just like pulled pork for sandwiches. So consider this method like the mexican version of pulled pork!

mexican pulled pork being shredded to make crispy carnitas

Once the meat is shredded you place the pork onto a sheet pan and broil it with a few ladlefuls of the fat that rendered of of it in the slow cooker until you have some amazingly crispy, tender pork ready to make the most delicious taco you've ever had.

What are street tacos?

Street tacos and street food are a central piece of modern Mexican culture, with stalls lining the streets of every major city in Mexico. 

carnitas street tacos sitting in a taco holder on a plate, garnished with pickled red onions, cilantro, and lime

Mexicans refer to this street food as antojitos, or "little cravings," as they consider them a snack or small meal, not the main course. For that reason, most Mexican street food is small, making it easy to hold and eat as you walk around. They're easy meals to eat and make and always served with plenty of lime wedges.

The most significant difference between street tacos vs. regular tacos is their size. Street tacos have a small corn tortilla base (emphasis on the corn tortilla, honey) making them easy to grab and go. Usually, taquerias double up the corn tortilla so it doesn't tear or rip easily. 

Tips for buying the best pork for carnitas

When buying pork to make carnitas, the best cut to use is pork butt (also called boston butt). It's the thicker part of the pork shoulder, very tough with fat marbled throughout it and a nice fat cap on top.

Pork butt is a really thick, fatty cut that does best in low and slow cooking, which is why it's so great in a slow cooker, a smoker, or in your oven for hours. The tough connective tissue melts away but the higher fat content keeps it nice and juicy while it cooks down into tender chunks of pork.

mexican style pulled pork in the slow cooker in chunks, surrounded by rendered fat

When shopping for and storing pork butt, this is what to look for:

  1. Redish-pink pork with plenty of meat and white fat. If the pork is looking blue-green in any spots, the meat is pale, or the fat has dark spots, don't buy it.
  2. Raw pork keeps in the fridge for 3 days. If you are planning on cooking it later in the week, freeze it. Thaw it in the fridge overnight when you're ready for this crispy carnitas recipe.
  3. For this recipe, go for the boneless pork butt. The cooking process goes a lot faster by cutting them into smaller hunks.

How to Make Pork Carnitas Street Tacos

Take all of your ingredients and throw them into the slow cooker. Literally, that's just about it for the pork until it's shredding time!

While it's cooking, why don't you make some homemade corn tortillas? They're really much easier than you think!

Once your pork is juicy and tender, take it out onto a cutting board to shred it with forks, then put it on a baking sheet. Pour on some of that fat from the slow cooker, give it a little tossy-toss and put it under the hot broiler until you have those delicious crisp edges.

Serve the carnitas on warm corn tortillas, doubled up, with fresh cilantro and white or red onion with a squeeze of lime for an authentic street taco. Simply dressed, easy to eat, and so damn good.

Eden is holding a carnitas street taco and squeezing a lime over the taco.

Ingredients

Boneless Pork Shoulder (Pork Butt).

Mojo Marinade or Orange Juice. The authentic recipe for carnitas are slow cooked in lard, while most homecook adaptations have it cooked in orange juice and aromatics. My original crock pot carnitas recipe does this, it's a really approachable, easy way to get great pork tacos.

Mojo criollo is a popular Cuban marinade made with sour orange juice (or just limes and orange juice), a ton of garlic, and seasoned well with oregano and cumin. It's great to season pork with because it has so much flavor, so I used it in this recipe. You can find mojo in your local hispanic market or make your own mojo with this recipe. All you need are orange and lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper, and oregano.

ingredients for carnitas are displayed on a marble counter. There is a pork butt, spices and herbs, an orange and limes, a head of garlic and onion, salt and pepper, apple cider vinegar and orange juice, and chicken broth

Onions and Garlic. These don't need to be all diced and minced up. Cut the garlic in half to expose the cloves and quarter the onion, we are using them to give our slow cooker meal amazing flavor and they won't be in our final shredded pork

Chicken broth. This is what the pork will braise in. Chicken stock has a light enough flavor that it will provide flavor, but won't alter it like beef stock would.

Seasonings. If you're using the mojo, you don't have to worry too much about adding a lot of seasoning. Some chili powder or red pepper flakes, a little more cumin, throw in that orange zest, zhush it up as high or low as you want.

Serve the best pork carnitas tacos with

Street tacos are really straightforward and simple. Because they're so small, you don't put a lot of toppings on them.

But that's the blessing: because they're so small...you can eat many of them and have them all with different topping combinations! I like to separate them by 'topping types'.

Eden is spooning chopped onions onto a pulled pork street taco

Type 1: you need some brightness to cut through that fatty pork. There's classic pico de gallo, or even a citrus-tossed slaw, or a quick-pickled sliced or chopped onion. Or you can take the sauce route with this. I love a good roasted tomatillo salsa verde, or a really fresh chimichurri.

Type 2: you may want some dairy in there. Crumble in some queso fresco or cotija cheese, or make a sour cream remix with a lime avocado crema, it's really good!

Type 3: You want some spicy. This is where I bust out my orange taquera sauce recipe from my favorite taqueria in South Florida, but you'll never go wrong with a spicy red salsa or just some tapatio hot sauce.

Other delicious recipes to make with carnitas

Make at-home burrito bowls by serving the carnitas with cilantro lime rice, seasoned black beans, guacamole, queso fresco, and loads of salsas for Chipotle at home!

With Breakfast: I love how versatile this is, even at breakfast. Swap the ham for pulled pork on your eggs benedict, hash them up in a cast iron skillet with breakfast potatoes, scramble them with eggs, put them in a breakfast quesadilla. The whole family will enjoy it!

Making Nachos: we're talking plenty of cheese sauce, crispy corn tortilla chips, sour cream, refried beans, plenty of guac, salsa, and plenty of pork.

How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat Carnitas

This pork roast makes a LOT of carnitas street tacos. It's perfect for a big family get together, a festive party, or for freezer meal prep.

overhead view of three street tacos with mexican pulled pork being served with cilantro, lime, and onions.

Store the carnitas meat in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can reheat them in the oven at 325 degrees F or in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl or plate until hot.

You can also freeze the pork in freezer-safe bag or sous vide bags (like the ones from Foodsaver). Freeze them as flat as you can, not only does this help freeze them more quickly and help them thaw quicker as well but you safe serious freezer space!

Thaw the carnitas pork in the fridge overnight or put in a sous vide water bath (honestly, my favorite way) at about 120 degrees F for an hour or until completely thawed and heated through. It's a two in one situation there!

FAQ

Do street tacos use corn tortillas or flour tortillas?

Traditional street tacos use corn tortillas but this is your homemade street taco, if you like flour tortillas more, use them!

Why do street tacos use two tortillas?

Corn tortillas can be delicate and easy to tear, especially with the juiciness of the pork and toppings within. Using two tortillas gives you more security so the juices don't break your tortillas open and spill the contents on the ground while walking around.

Can I make carnitas in the instant pot?

Absolutely! I have a really great instant pot carnitas recipe that is just as simple and delicious.

Can I put raw pork in the slow cooker?

It's safe to put the raw pork into your slow cooker, because it cooks until it's perfectly fall apart tender and ready to eat. If you're worried about the browning aspect, I find that we don't need to sear to get the Maillard Reaction in this recipe because we are broiling the pork to make it brown and crispy.

Other Tacos and Hispanic Dishes:

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📖 Recipe

Pork Carnitas Street Tacos

Eden Westbrook
If you're looking for a delicious and easy-to-make Mexican dish, look no further than carnitas tacos! These street tacos are made with crispy slow cooker pork carnitas, topped with onions and cilantro, and they're perfect for serving at parties or as a main course. Plus, they're really easy to make - anyone can do it!
4.67 from 9 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours 10 minutes
Total Time 6 hours 20 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 12 servings
Calories 556 kcal

Ingredients
  

Crispy Slow Cooker Carnitas

  • 4 lbs pork shoulder
  • Juice of 3 oranges
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Zest of one orange
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 yellow onion quartered
  • 5 cloves garlic smashed (or one whole head, halved, if you love garlic)
  • 2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Taco Toppings

  • Warmed corn tortillas
  • Sliced or chopped red onion
  • Fresh cilantro Coriander leaves
  • Salsa verde
  • Taquera salsa
  • Cotija cheese or queso fresco
  • Sour cream or lime crema
  • Lime wedges for squeezing

Instructions
 

To Make Carnitas in the Slow Cooker

  • Cut pork shoulder (also called boston butt or pork butt) into 6 large pieces for faster cooking. If you want it to cook for 8 hours, leave it whole.
  • Place the pork into the slow cooker, then add all of the other ingredients in. Slow cook for 8 hours on low or 6 hours on high. The pork will be tender enough to shred with a fork when it's ready.
  • Use tongs to remove the pork from the slow cooker, then shred the meat on a cutting board using two forks. Place all of the shredded pork onto a rimmed baking sheet in a thin layer.
  • Set your broiler on high. Use a ladle to spoon out some of the liquid from the slow cooker and pour it over the pork. Toss the meat in the fat and juices until all the pork is covered, then place the baking sheet under the broiler for five minutes.
  • After five minutes, carefully pull the baking sheet out, toss the shredded meat again to expose the non-crispy pork that was at the bottom to the top, and place in the oven for another 3-5 minutes until crispy yet again.

To Make Crispy Carnitas Street Tacos

  • Place the hot, crispy pulled pork into two warmed corn tortillas. Top the tacos with an array of different delicious foods. The classic street taco is simple with onions and cilantro, and jazzed up with salsas.

Notes

HOW TO STORE, FREEZE, AND REHEAT LEFTOVER CARNITAS

This pork roast makes a LOT of meals. It's perfect for a big family get together, a festive party, or for freezer meal prep.
Store the carnitas meat in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. You can reheat them in the oven at 325 degrees F or in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl or plate until hot.
You can also freeze the pork in freezer-safe bag or sous vide bags (like the ones from Foodsaver). Freeze them as flat as you can, not only does this help freeze them more quickly and help them thaw quicker as well but you safe serious freezer space!

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 556kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 39gFat: 36gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 147mgSodium: 750mgFiber: 3gSugar: 11g
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