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Pork Carnitas with Spicy Tomatillo Sauce

Posted on February 17, 2013.


Carnitas literally means "little meats" in Spanish and is a type of braised or roasted pork in Mexican cuisine. Pork carnitas are traditionally made using the heavily marbled, rich ´boston butt´ or ´picnic ham´ cuts of pork and are usually cut down to a workable size and seasoned heavily before slow braising or deep frying. At this stage, the collagen in the meat has broken down sufficiently to allow it to be pulled apart by hand or fork or chopped with a cleaver.

This dish was inspired by Jeff Smedstad, an amazing chef we discovered in Sedona, Arizona at his restaurant, The Elote Cafe. This dish can be prepared in one large dutch oven with a lid for the braising. Carnitas are best served with a spicy sauce. In this version we prepare a Spicy Tomatillo Sauce.


For the Carnitas:
4-5 pounds of pork butt, cut into 4" x 4" chucks
1 jalapeño pepper sliced thin
1 serano pepper sliced thin
12 oz Coca-Cola
12 oz orange juice
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons hot paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder

For the Spicy Tomatillo Sauce:
6 poblano peppers diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
6-8 tomatillos, husks removed, diced
1/2 cup of sauce reserved from the Carnitas
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Hand rub the pork on all sides with the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.

In a preheated pan or dutch oven on high heat, add the olive oil and thoroughly brown the pork on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium and add the peppers and cook until softened, then add the orange juice, cola, and milk.

Place the pork in the sauce and add chicken broth until the pork is almost completely covered.

Cover and place in over for 4-5 hours. 

Check for doneness by removing one piece of pork and pulling it apart with a fork.  It should shred easily. Remove pork and set aside to rest.

Skim off the excess great from the pan sauce.

Prepare Spicy Tomatillo Pepper Sauce as follows:

In a preheated pan on medium to high heat, add the the olive oil and cook the poblano peppers, tomatillos and garlic until softened.

Place Tomatillo mixture in the pan with the Carnita sauce.  

Using a stick blender, thoroughly puree the Tomatilla mixture into the sauce.  Add chicken broth as necessary.  Note: Be very careful when using a stick blender over a stove or with hot liquids!

Cook until slightly reduced (about 4-5 minutes).  Salt and Pepper to taste.

Set the oven to broil.

Place the pork chunks under the broiler to crisp on each side.

Serve with the Spicy Tomatilla Pepper Sauce.


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Posted By: Chief Foodie Officer