Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos

Hola, amigos and amigas! It’s been pretty steamy here in San Diego over the past few weeks, so I’ve been getting creative about how to still do some cooking without making my house approximately 8,000 degrees. While not heat-free, using a slow cooker doesn’t heat up the place as much as the stove and oven do. Enter slow cooker pork carnitas, which I found on the cool blog theKitchn. The result — super tender, slightly spicy, slightly citrusy pork that I made the centerpiece of some pretty delicious tacos. The best part — it’s so easy, you practically don’t have to do anything except shred the pork. Ah, the beauty of the slow cooker.

The funny thing is that I VERY rarely eat pork. And VERY rarely will I cook this big a piece of meat. Not because I don’t like it, just because…well, I don’t know why! The carnitas was incredibly tasty in these tacos — this is the type of meal I could eat for lunch and dinner for four straight days, which is basically what I did. And you can totally switch up the flavors by using different toppings — cheese or no cheese, salsa or no, onion or no. Endless possibilities, friends. I set this up as a sort of taco buffet — take your tortilla, fill with carnitas, add whatever toppings suit your fancy. Supplement with some fresh tortilla chips — I recommend the ones from El Indio in Mission Hills.

TW’s Tips

  • While shredding the pork is all you have to do, it isn’t easy, especially if you are picky about fat, which I am. I don’t want any in my carnitas, so it takes a little longer to make sure you’re picking it out. It’s worth the effort.
  • I took the almost-falling-apart chipotle peppers and garlic cloves from the slow cooker and shredded them up with the pork for more flavor.
  • This makes a lot of meat, so I froze some of it up in small portions so I can defrost it in one day for a meal that night.
  • I used corn tortillas, but when I ran out and used flour, I actually liked them better. Call me crazy.
  • I didn’t have a full cup of orange juice so I supplemented with grapefruit.
  • I used diced tomatoes instead of tomato juice since I had them on hand.
  • Must haves: avocado, hot sauce, cilantro. Fresh salsa from a Mexican market. Mmm.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

  • 1 (6-8 pound) pork butt, also called pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 8 whole cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4 chipotle peppers (canned or dried)
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • For tacos, add: corn tortillas, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, lime, onion

Trim excess fat from the meat and discard. Place all ingredients in the slow-cooker. Set to cook on LOW for 8 hours. Meat is done when it literally falls off the bone. When cool enough to handle, lift the meat from the juices and place in a large bowl. Remove the bone, then shred the meat.

Skim the fat from the juices and keep as a medium for re-heating the meat.

For carnitas tacos, reheat the meat and serve in corn tortillas with sour cream, cilantro, chopped red onion and lime wedges.

Fish Tacos with Jalapeno/Mango Chutney Black Beans

Don’t be scared of fish tacos.

I’d never had a fish taco until I moved to San Diego in 2004. In New Hampshire where I’m from, Mexican food didn’t involve seafood. In fact, Mexican food didn’t include much “Mexican” in general. So my first thought when I heard of fish tacos was, “Weird.”

San Diego is known for its fish tacos — it’s one of our culinary claims to fame — so it wasn’t long before I made the leap and tried one. From then on, I was a believer. For those unfamiliar with fish tacos, they can take many forms — the fish can be grilled, fried or roasted. Tortillas can be corn or flour, hard or soft. The fish is often mahi or wahoo, but can be swordfish or shark, or take a turn for shrimp, lobster, calamari and oyster. Traditional toppings are a cabbage slaw with a tangy white sauce, and lots of hot sauce. But there’s cheese, lettuce, avocado and beans…the combinations are endless. But the overall theme is “delicious.”

A few weeks ago I made this fish taco recipe from Rachael Ray for my friends Mark and Katie. They’re a fun twist on traditional fish tacos. The fish is super simple — just sprinkled with grill seasoning and lime zest and roasted. But kicker #1 is the awesome  decision to use both soft and hard taco shells. And kicker #2 is the awesome-r decision to “glue” the two different taco shells together with a black bean “mash” that includes minced jalapenos, mango chutney, red onion and garlic. You just spread the soft tortilla with a layer of the beans and wrap up the hard shell. Throw in the fish and a delicious cabbage slaw with onion and cilantro and dressed with honey, hot sauce and lime juice, and top with creme fraiche. Absolutely delicious! 

Each bite gives you a great crunch, spice and some sweetness from the beans, tender fish and more crunch from the cabbage, plus the bit of richness and tang from the creme fraiche. It’s a winner.

TW’s Tips

  • Double (or even triple) the bean/jalapeno/chutney filling — I didn’t have enough and had to make another batch for leftovers
  • Any white fish will work for this — I used tilapia but you could do snapper, halibut, mahi, haddock…
  • Mango chutney can be challenging to find. It’s usually either in the Indian food/ethnic section or with the jellies. But I couldn’t find it after hitting a couple of stores so I opted instead for apricot preserves. Whole Foods won’t fail you.
  • Roasting the fish is easy — just make sure you don’t overcook. Take it out and test it periodically.
If you come to San Diego you must have a legit fish taco. The best ones are at South Beach in OB.

My-oh-Mahi! That’s a Good Fish Taco


  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small or medium red onion, 1/4 finely chopped, the remainder thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/3 palmful
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup mango chutney
  • 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • A handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 medium head of red cabbage, shredded
  • 4 mahi mahi fillets, 6 ounces each
  • 1 tablespoon grill seasoning, such as McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 8 corn tortilla taco shells (hard shell)
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup creme fraiche


Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the jalapeno, finely chopped red onion, and garlic. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, then add the beans and cumin and mash together. Season the beans with salt and pepper and fold in the chutney. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm, stirring now and then to keep them from burning. If the beans dry out before you are ready to use them add a splash of water.

Zest one of the limes and set aside. Combine the juice of both limes, the hot sauce, honey, 2 tablespoons of the canola oil, salt, and pepper with the sliced onions, cilantro and shredded cabbage. Toss to combine.

Heat an outdoor grill to medium or preheat the broiler. Season the fish with the remaining tablespoon of oil, 2 teaspoons of lime zest and the grill seasoning. Cook the fish on the grill with the lid closed or under the broiler for 8 minutes total, until cooked through, turning once.

Crisp the taco shells and blister the tortillas on the grill or in the oven. Glue the softened flour tortillas onto the crisp taco shells with a few spoonfuls of mashed black beans. Fill each tortilla-wrapped taco shell with half a piece of fish, flaked, and top with some cabbage slaw and creme fraiche. Serve 2 tortilla-wrapped tacos per person.