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Carnitas Tacos with Pickled Red Onion

Photo: Jennifer Causey Styling: Lydia Degaris Pursell

Hands-on time 25 mins
Total time 7 hrs, 30 mins

Serves 6 (serving size: 2 tacos)

The pork gets a big flavor boost from achiote paste, a mix of ground annatto seeds, vinegar, salt, and spices. Find it at Latin markets.


  • 7 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 4 teaspoons achiote paste
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) boneless pork shoulder, trimmed
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion (half-moons)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons light agave nectar or granulated sugar
  • 12 Fresh Corn Tortillas or packaged corn tortillas, warmed
  • 3/4 cup Tomatillo Salsa

Nutrition Information

  • calories 390
  • fat 16.1 g
  • satfat 3.3 g
  • monofat 7.7 g
  • polyfat 2.8 g
  • protein 27 g
  • carbohydrate 35 g
  • fiber 4 g
  • cholesterol 76 mg
  • iron 4 mg
  • sodium 593 mg
  • calcium 88 mg
  • sugars 4 g
  • Est. Added Sugars 1 g

How to Make It

  1. Preheat oven to 250°.

    Photo: Lee Harrelson
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 8 minutes or until skins are well charred, turning occasionally. Remove cloves from pan; cool 5 minutes, and discard skins. Combine garlic, rind, juice, achiote paste, and 2 teaspoons oil in a mini chopper; process until smooth.

  3. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt over pork. Brush achiote mixture evenly over pork. Place pork in a medium Dutch oven or ovenproof saucepan; cover and bake at 250° for 6 hours. Remove from oven, and let stand for 30 minutes.

  4. While pork cooks, place onion in a medium bowl. Combine 1/2 cup water, vinegar, agave, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring until salt dissolves. Pour vinegar mixture over onion; stir. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; cool to room temperature, rearranging as needed to keep onion submerged. Chill at least 1 hour.

  5. Place pork on a cutting board; shred with 2 forks. Discard fat.

  6. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 1 cup shredded pork to pan in an even layer; cook 3 minutes or until a crust develops, turning once. Place crisped pork on a platter. Repeat procedure with remaining shredded pork.

  7. Place 2 warm tortillas on each of 6 plates. Top each tortilla with 1 1/2 ounces crisped pork, 1 tablespoon Tomatillo Salsa, and 1 tablespoon pickled red onion.