I remember the first time I saw a food truck. I was a teenager with a fresh driver’s license, my first car, and an excuse to drive twenty miles to the nearest “city” (population: 15,000, woo!) because I was taking classes at the local community college. A friend and I went to Wal-Mart (uptown shopping, baby!) to pick up Suikoden for the original Playstation and noticed a strange truck parked at the far end of the parking lot. Despite the near-overwhelming urge to rush home to play our new prize, the aroma of pork, cumin, and chiles reeled us in and emptied our meager wallets in exchange for the best tacos our gastronomically inexperienced taste buds had ever latched on to.
Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t imagine a world where you could get everything from beef pho to saag paneer to real fish and chips out of the side of a truck whenever you wanted. Flash forward to the present. I’ve since moved to the “city” (20,000 population!) and have experienced the full force of the food truck lifestyle during visits to Portland and Seattle, but my hometown still has only a small collection of taco trucks. And you know what? That’s okay. Sure, there are times when I wish I could go out and get chicken tikka masala or takoyaki, but I can still get something that never fails to satisfy: pork carnitas.
There are few foods more satisfying than slow-cooked pork, and carnitas are right up there among the best ways to prepare it. Since monetary and financial (not to mention health) concerns keep me from eating all my meals standing outside a food truck or sitting down at my favorite Mexican restaurant, I decided to learn how to prepare it at home.
My favorite slow cooker pork carnitas recipe differs somewhat from the way it is traditionally prepared. Traditionally, once the pork has been lightly shredded, it is returned to the skillet and fried until crispy. While this is indeed delicious, I decided to leave off that step in order to make the final dish a bit healthier. Still, after being slow cooked with orange and onion and all those lovely spices, pork doesn’t need to be fried in order to taste great.
- 3½ Pound Boneless Pork Shoulder
- 1 Large Yellow Onion, Quartered
- 1 Large Orange
- 6 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1 Tsp Cumin, Ground
- 1 Tsp Onion Powder
- 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
- ½ Tsp Coriander, Ground
- ½ Tsp Oregano, Dry
- ½ Tsp Dry Chipotle, Ground
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
- ½ Tsp Black Pepper, Ground
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Season pork shoulder with salt and pepper.
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil.
- Brown pork on all sides, then transfer to slow cooker.
- Deglaze the pan with one cup of chicken broth, then transfer to slow cooker.
- Cut the orange into quarters and squeeze the juice into the slow cooker, then throw in the juiced segments and the onion.
- Add all remaining ingredients to slow cooker. The level of the liquid should be about half to two-thirds of the way up the side of the pork.
- Cook on low until the pork shreds easily, about eight to ten hours. Turn the pork over halfway through cooking.
Serve your finished pork carnitas however you like. Aside from adding a porky punch to just about any Mexican dish you can think of, you can treat them the same way you would pulled pork BBQ. Of course, my favorite application is still the stately taco with just a little bit of salsa and onion.
Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Nutrition
The following figures are based on six servings per recipe, enough for two large pork tacos per person. Since everyone takes their tacos differently, these figures reflect the pork only.
Question of the day: what is your favorite way to eat carnitas? Tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and everything in between are favorites, but have you done anything off the beaten path? Let us know in the comments below.