An intoxicatingly spiced Yucatan pork dish is the basis for these tacos that boast layers of complex flavors in both the pulled pork and the salsa.

For those familiar with Yucatan-style slow-roasted pork, you can stop reading right now and simply jump to making your shopping list, because you’re not going to want to miss this. For the rest of you, rest assured, spice-slathered and roasted pork takes on another layer of depth and heat from a habanero salsa. Worry not, no one’s asking you to dig a hole in the backyard.–Renee Schettler Rossi

What to do with the leftover salsa?

Author Joe Yonan notes that although this habanero salsa recipe makes a mere 1/4 cup of salsa, a little goes a long way. If you have some left over, it’ll last for 2 weeks in the fridge. Yonan notes that you can use it “on all manner of eggs and meats, and as a salad dressing base, but my favorite use might be to mash a tablespoon or two into the yolks of a half dozen hard-cooked eggs, along with mayo, for a party snack that puts the devil back into deviled eggs.”

Pulled pork tacos with habanero salas and pickled onions on flour tortillas.

Pulled Pork Tacos with Habanero Salsa

5 / 2 votes
An intoxicatingly spiced Yucatan pork dish is the basis for these tacos that boast layers of complex flavors in both the pulled pork and the salsa.
Servings4 tacos
Calories148 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes


For the habanero salsa

  • 1 habanero chili pepper
  • 1 clove garlic unpeeled
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 scallion white and green parts, coarsely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt

For the pulled pork tacos

  • 1 cup Yucatan-Style Slow-Roasted Pork
  • Sour cream optional but decadent


Make the habanero salsa

  • Char the pepper by holding it with tongs over the flame of a gas burner, turning as needed, until it’s spotted black and blistered all over. (If you don’t have a gas stove, broil the habanero a few inches from the broiler element, turning as needed.) Let cool.
  • Remove the loose outer layers of papery skin from the garlic clove but leave the tight inner peel intact. Char the garlic clove over the gas burner, using the same technique as you did for the habanero, until it’s completely blackened.
  • Carefully stem the habanero, scrape out the seeds, and coarsely chop the pepper, preferably wearing plastic gloves to protect your fingers. (And by all means, whatever you do, resist the urge to rub your eyes.) Peel the garlic clove, coarsely chop it, and add it to the bowl of a food processor (preferably a mini one) along with about half the habanero. Add the cilantro, scallion, lime juice, oil, and salt to taste and process until a loose salsa forms. Taste. If you want the salsa to be spicier, add more of the habanero and adjust the amout of lime juice and/or salt if need be. Set aside for just a few minutes. (You can cover and refrigerate the habanero salsa for up to 2 weeks.)

Make the pulled pork tacos

  • Heat the pork in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, 4 to 5 minutes. Warm the tortillas in a dry skillet over a medium-low flame, then wrap in aluminum foil to keep warm.
  • Lay the tortillas out on a plate. Divide the pork among the tortillas and top with just a little bit of the salsa (be judicious until you know how much you can handle). Any remaining salsa can be covered and refrigerated for up to a week or so to be spooned onto more tacos or eggs or baked potatoes or just about anything at will.
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Serving: 1 tacoCalories: 148 kcalCarbohydrates: 13 gProtein: 15 gFat: 4 gSaturated Fat: 1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 2 gCholesterol: 37 mgSodium: 42 mgPotassium: 327 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 1 gVitamin A: 209 IUVitamin C: 19 mgCalcium: 29 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2011 Joe Yonan. Photo © 2011 Robert Briggs. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These were by far the best pork tacos I’ve ever tasted. We couldn’t believe how delicious they were. Our corn tortillas were about 6 inches in diameter, and the 1/4 cup of pork per tortilla was perfect. I think the salsa has a lot to add to the tacos—it’s a must. We doubled the salsa recipe (except for the habanero) and it was fantastic. We used one whole habanero for the double recipe, and it had a lot of kick. I loved the fresh flavours. Everything tasted like heaven together. I served the tacos with avocado and tomato salad on the side. These taste like Mexico! Will absolutely make these again.

This was delicious. I doubled the salsa recipe and used one whole habanero, and it was a bit on the spicy side. A little of this salsa goes a long way. If you don’t like spicy, I suggest only using only a quarter of the chile in a single recipe. We added Queso Fresco to our tacos, and it helped to calm down the heat a bit. I also served it with an avocado, corn, tomato and hearts of palm salad, which paired perfectly with the tacos. I did have to add more lime juice to get the salsa to be a looser form. A 1/4-cup measurement of meat per 6-inch tortilla was perfect. Two tacos per person with a salad of some kind works well as a meal. If you’re only serving tacos and your crowd is hungry, you may want to plan on three per person. I know we’ll be making this one again.

Originally published February 05, 2021

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    We really enjoyed this salsa, and found the charring of the garlic to be an interesting touch. It was very easy to make, and while I only used half of a habanero chile, my husband thought it would have been great with even more heat. It ended up sitting for a bit after I made it, and it didn’t seem to be harmed by this. I think this would be very easy to make in much greater quantities—and I will, as the salsa was gobbled up quickly. I easily see it pairing with chicken or fish (e.g. fish tacos, or in making ceviche).

  2. How would one go about doubling the recipe? i.e. doubling the meat? I can only seem to find 6 lb to 8 lb pork shoulder roasts.

    1. Hi QChilds, if using an 8 pound pork butt, I would definitely double the paste ingredients.