You’re strolling down the streets or through the markets in Mexico, and the aroma hits you. Immediately, hunger strikes. A minute later, you’re eating a little pile of tasty meat cushioned by a warm tortilla and electrified by a little salsa: carnitas tacos. Life is good.

My way to serve tacos at home is to set out a pile of carnitas or sliced steak or shredded roasted chicken, warm tortillas, a few bowls of salsa (if you’re ambitious, try spooning a couple contrasting salsas on a single taco), chopped white onion, cilantro, and lime wedges. Letting your guests make the tacos themselves, rather than assembling them beforehand, ensures the tortillas will stay warm and won’t get soggy.–Roberto Santibañez

A pile of soft tortillas topped with carnitas, onion, guacamole, and cilantro. They're resting in a woven basket on a pile of blue napkins.

Carnitas Tacos

5 / 2 votes
These carnitas tacos are made with moist, tender pork shoulder, avocado, onion, tomatillo salsa, lime, and cilantro. Great party food for a crowd, a weekend dinner, or outdoor entertaining.
David Leite
Servings24 to 32 tacos
Calories133 kcal
Prep Time40 minutes
Total Time40 minutes



  • To whip up these carnitas tacos, set out everything on a table—the pot of hot carnitas, the stack of warm tortillas wrapped in a towel, the bowl of salsa, a dish of chopped onions, a mound of cilantro, and some lime wedges. Let everyone have at it, creating his or her own tacos by plopping a couple spoonfuls carnitas onto each tortilla, heaping on toppings as desired, and then adding a squeeze of lime at the end. Restraint is actually a good thing in terms of not overloading the tortillas, which can easily turn soggy and floppy. That's why this recipe makes so many darn tacos—rather than getting greedy with the goods on a single taco, simply make yourself another…and another…and another.


*How to warm and store tortillas

Not just any tortillas will suffice for these standout carnitas tacos. You want the best tortillas you can make or find. Sometimes that means swinging by the store on the way home for whatever you can find, but sometimes, suggests author Roberto Santibañez, that means seeking out a local tortilla factory (you’d be surprised at how many there are, says Santibañez) or asking a local restaurant if they’ll sell you some of their freshly made tortillas or tortilla dough.
If your tortillas aren’t warm and pliable, your carnitas tacos will suffer dearly. Heat a comal, griddle, or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add a corn tortilla. After 30 seconds, you should see steam escaping from underneath the disk. If you don’t, turn up the heat a bit before you heat the next tortilla. After another 15 seconds, flip the tortilla. Soon you should see some pockets of air forming. Heat it for another 45 seconds, flip it once more (you’ll see a few golden brown spots), and cook it for a final 15 seconds. Flour tortillas take about the same amount of time to cook as corn tortillas, but they require slightly lower heat, more frequent flipping, and, occasionally, a little less time because they’re more susceptible to burning. Keep the tortillas warm by wrapping them in a towel as you heat the others. Use right away or as soon as possible.
If you’re needing to warm tortillas for a crowd, place 2 tortillas in a skillet over medium-high heat, place 1 tortilla directly on top of the other. After about 45 seconds, turn over the stack so that the bottom tortilla is on top. Then flip over only the top tortilla, so that it’s still on top of the other tortilla. After about 45 seconds, turn over the stack, then turn over the top tortilla only, so that it’s still on top. After another 45 seconds, turn over the stack and cook for a final 45 seconds.
Wrap any tortillas you don’t demolish at the table in a kitchen towel, place them in an airtight plastic bag, and store the bag in the fridge. Eat them within a day, reheating them according to the instructions above.
Truly Mexican Cookbook

Adapted From

Truly Mexican

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Serving: 1 tacoCalories: 133 kcalCarbohydrates: 13 gProtein: 9 gFat: 5 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 2 gCholesterol: 26 mgSodium: 210 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 2 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2011 Roberto Santibañez. Photo © 2011 Romulo Yanes. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I love this Mexican classic, and this carnitas tacos recipe creates exactly what I was looking for in terms of taste and texture. The fresh tomatillo salsa was delicious, creamy, and added a nice balance to the rich meat.

Does it get any easier than these carnitas tacos? I don’t think so. This recipe worked exactly as written and produced incredibly great-tasting pork that is fantastic in tacos.

This carnitas tacos recipe is quite the little ace in the hole. It’s so easy yet yields so much flavor. A little bit of prep work, then throw it in the pot and go about your other kitchen tasks—like making tomatillo salsa.

There’s a little checking and stirring here and there, but the dish practically makes itself. Don’t forget to keep the lid off while simmering away.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also 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
    These were utterly, utterly outrageous. We had 4 dinner guests over and I doubled the recipe. We JUST ABOUT had enough–they were that good. One thing that’s missing from this recipe is pickled onions, so I made these from LC, and they were the crowning glory!

    1. Tuck, we love everything about this! Soooo lovely to hear you find these as captivating as we do. And yes, nice touch with the pickled red onions. Thanks so much for taking time to let us know. Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…!

  2. 5 stars
    I had this recipe at a friend’s house and it was wonderfully tasty. In particular, the tomatillo salsa added so much popping flavor, my tastebuds were cheering. I can see making the dish with any meat or just doing it as a vegetarian meal. Really satisfying in every way.