Delicious slow cooker pork, a quick & easy tomatillo salsa verde - these pork carnitas tacos are a truly delicious combination that you'll be back for again and again.
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Many years ago now, I volunteered for a month at a center in Mexico. For people in the US, it's probably hard to appreciate the dramatic introduction to Mexican food I had - I had a very basic awareness, but at that time and even now it was hard to get decent Mexican food in the UK.
One of the things I remembered having and instantly loved was salsa verde. As I've learned more recently, the Mexican version differs from the Southwest US version. The Mexican version might be more familiar as tomatillo salsa verde, but, whatever you call it, it is one of my favorite additions to Mexican food. It's the perfect way to top these slow-cooked pork carnitas tacos.
What are tomatillos?
Tomatillos are small fruits that go by a number of names, including Mexican tomatoes. While they do look a little like green tomatoes, they are distinctive in having a papery cover to them, similar to cape gooseberries (which also go by a few names) that they are related to. Tomatillos have a relatively sharp flavor when raw but it mellows when cooked. They are great in sauces, such as tomatillo salsa verde which is on the table in most Mexican restaurants.
Variations on tomatillo salsa verde
Tomatillo salsa verde is essentially tomatillos, green chili and usually a little onion, cilantro and garlic. There are two or three basic methods to make it - roasting, boiling, or blending them up raw.
Each has it's own qualities, as you might expect: roasting gives a certain depth, raw is a bit more sharp and punchy, boiled is smoother and mellower. Boiled is what I think I had all those years ago and so is what I have gone for here.
Pork carnitas are a classic meat choice for tacos and various other Mexican dishes where the meat is cooked with citrus juice and herbs. Given the meat is cooked low and slow to be lovely and tender, it's something that is easily adaptable for a slow cooker. I've slightly adapted this recipe from Recipe Tin Eats to my own tastes here.
Both versions are delicious, so use whichever you prefer, I just mainly didn't feel the need for quite as much salt and used a smaller piece of meat. The key thing for me is to not skip the tomatillo salsa verde I have included here as it really makes these tacos.
These pork carnitas with tomatillo salsa verde are such a delicious option for Taco Tuesday or any other excuse you want to come up with. Easy to make, flavorful and such a great mix.
The meat is tender and full of flavor, the sauce gently punchy. Even better, add a few pieces of avocado and queso fresco or cotija to really finish it off. This will soon become a firm family favorite, as it is for us.
Like tacos? Try these!
- Tacos al pastor (grilled)
- Jerk shrimp tacos
- Sweet potato tacos
- Slow cooker chicken mole and carne asada are both great in tacos too!
- Plus get more ideas in the Mexican recipes archives.
Pork carnitas tacos with tomatillo salsa verde
For tomatillo salsa verde
- 8 oz tomatillos 225g
- 2 green chilis eg serano
- ½ onion small
- 8 stems fresh cilantro/coriander (approx), main stem removed
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ onion
- 3 lb pork 1.4kg, eg Boston butt, shoulder
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ cup orange juice 120ml
To make up tacos
- 8 tortillas small, corn or wheat as you prefer
- 1 avocado
- 1 oz queso fresco or cotija cheese or a little more as needed
For salsa verde
- Remove the papery casing from the tomatillos and wash off any stickiness. Place them whole along with the chilis in a pan of boiling water and simmer, uncovered, for approx 10 minutes.
- Drain the pan and put the tomatillos and chilis in a blender or food processor along with the roughly diced onion, cilantro and roughly chopped garlic. Blend until smooth then transfer to a dish. The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for a few days until needed, as suits. You may just need to add a little water to thin it slightly before using.
- Slice the onion and put in the bottom of a slow cooker in a layer.
- Pat dry the pork and cut into chunks around 2in/5cm cubes. Crush the garlic and mix it with the salt, paprika, oregano and cumin. Rub the mixture all over the meat (don't worry if it doesn't spread over completely).
- Put the chunks of meat into the slow cooker, on top of the onion, and pour over the orange juice. Turn on low and leave to cook for approx 7-8 hours.
- Once done, remove the chunks of meat and shred with two forks. If you'd like the meat slightly crispy, warm a little oil in a skillet/frying pan and cook just enough of the meat at a time so that you have a thin layer. Turn after a couple minutes and cook another couple minutes.
- Make up the tacos with some of the meat, some tomatillo salsa verde, a few cubes or slices of avocado and a bit of cheese crumbled on top.
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