“Carnitas” literally means “little meats,” but there’s nothing little about the flavor of this richly seasoned shredded pork. Typically used as a filling for tacos, burritos, and enchiladas, carnitas is a hearty protein that slips comfortably into just about any Mexican dish.

San Francisco Bay Area chef/restaurateur Traci Des Jardins shares the recipe for one of her favorite Mexican party dishes, plus recipes for her salsa verde and guacamole! Serve these tacos at your next Taco Tuesday, Super Bowl party, or just as a simple weeknight meal.

Tracy Des Jardins’ carnitas tacos

Makes 12-18 tacos


For the tacos:

  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder with fat
  • 1/4 cup lard, duck fat, or vegetable oil
  • 1 Negra Modela beer
  • 2 tangerines, quartered
  • 1 ounce piloncillo or brown sugar, roughly crushed
  • 1 dried chipotle chile
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12-18 small corn tortillas
  • 1 bag tortillas chips, preferably homemade

For the salsa verde:

  • 1 pound tomatillos
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 1 white onion, peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro, thoroughly washed
  • Salt

For the guacamole:

  • 2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled and de-seeded
  • 1/2 remaining cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 white onion, finely minced
  • Juice of 4 Key limes or 2 regular limes
  • 1/4 finely minced serrano chile
  • Salt to taste, about 1 1/2 teaspoons

To garnish:

  • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly cut
  • 1/4 serrano chile, finely minced
  • 5 Key limes, halved, or 2 regular limes, quartered


For the tacos:

  1. Remove the outside fat from the meat and cut the fat into strips 1 inch x 1/4 inch × 1/4 inch.
  2. Cut the meat into approximately 3 × 3 × 3-inch chunks.
  3. Place the lard or oil into a sauté pan and heat over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the fat pieces and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium to medium-high heat. (They should be at a slow sizzle.) Allow to brown slowly, over a 7-10 minute period. The oil should not be smoking hot.
  4. Using a slotted spoon or spider, remove the fat from the pan when it is golden brown and crispy. Place on a paper towel to drain and season with salt.
  5. Thoroughly salt the pork pieces and place into the hot fat. Cook over medium-high heat and brown on all sides until a deep golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  6. When deep golden brown on all sides, turn the pan off and wait 5 minutes. Add the beer to the pan. Add the tangerines, piloncillo, and chipotle chile. Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook at a low simmer on the stovetop or in a 250°F (120°C) oven for about 2 hours or until falling apart.

For the salsa verde:

  1. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and discard. Wash the tomatillos in warm water to remove the film on them. Roughly chop 1/2 of the serrano chile, reserving the other half for the guacamole. Roughly chop 1/4 of the white onion. Cut 2 inches of the stem off of the cilantro and discard. Then cut the bunch in half. Reserve the leaves for garnish.
  2. Place the tomatillos in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the onion, serrano, and the stem half of the cilantro and blend to smooth. Add salt to taste, about 1 1/2 tablespoons. Place into a bowl.

For the guacamole:

  1. Place the avocados in a mortar or a mixing bowl. Crush with a pestle or a pastry cutter or potato masher or a fork. Add the lemon juice and salt and mix well, add the onion and cilantro. Taste and re-season, if desired.