Carnitas, which means "little meats" in Spanish, are seasoned, pork-filled tacos. They make an easy meal.


A lot of people eschew leftovers. Savvy cooks embrace them. Today's recipe is one that came about because I had a cooked pork loin roast tucked away in the freezer as well as ingredients typically used in Mexican cooking: cilantro, corn tortillas, white onions and jalapeño.

What came to mind was to make carnitas, or pork tacos.

Carnitas, which means "little meats" in Spanish, are seasoned, fried pork-filled tacos. They are typically served with soft corn tortillas topped with salsa.

This recipe is short on labor and high on flavor. You can prepare a lot of the ingredients in advance and bring them together at the last minute.

I reheated the pork loin in the oven, covered, just enough so it was easy to pull apart. I beefed up the flavor with some good quality ancho chile powder. And instead of salsa, I used the other leftover ingredients to make a simple pico de gallo.

Similar to a salsa, pico de gallo (PEE-koh day GI-yoh) is a relish that can be made with a variety of finely chopped ingredients. You can use bell peppers, chile peppers and jicama for crunch, onions and cilantro.

I typically season my pico with salt, pepper and a few pinches of sugar. A few dribbles of white vinegar, oil and lime juice bring it all together.

These tacos are the real deal. So serve them on soft or fried corn tortillas. Top them with condiments such as shredded or chopped radish, cilantro or diced avocado.

If you want to top them with cheese, try asadero (Munster is a good substitute), Chihuahua (similar to cheddar) or queso fresco, a somewhat salty crumbly cheese that's similar to feta.

Pork Tacos with Pico de Gallo

Serves: 4

Pico de gallo

• 2 teaspoons canola oil

• 1/2 cup finely chopped white onions

• 2 plum tomatoes, cored, diced

• 1 clove garlic, peeled, minced

• 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

• 1 tablespoon lime juice plus lime wedges for garnish

• 2 teaspoons white vinegar

• 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

• 1/2 teaspoon sugar

• Salt and black pepper to taste


• 2 teaspoons canola oil

• 2 1/2 cups cooked leftover shredded or cubed plain or lightly seasoned pork loin roast or chicken

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

• 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder

• 8 corn or flour tortillas, heated (see below)

• 1 cup shredded cabbage

To make the Pico de Gallo: In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients (canola oil through cilantro). Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

To make the pork: In a medium skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Season the shredded leftover pork (or chicken) lightly with salt, pepper and chili powder.

Add pork to the skillet, sauté it to heat through.

Divide the pork among the tortillas and serve topped with shredded cabbage for crunch and Pico de Gallo. Garnish with lime wedges.

To heat tortillas, wrap them in slightly damp paper towels and place on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. You can also fry the corn tortillas in oil. Here's a method adapted from the September issue of Everyday Food: Heat 1 1/2 cups of oil in a heavy skillet to 350 degrees. When hot, add corn tortilla and fry about 15 seconds per side. Using tongs, fold the tortilla in half - it should still be pliable - pressing it to the bottom of the skillet, and fry 25 to 30 seconds. Turn over and repeat on other side.

Analysis per 2 tacos: 278 calories (42 percent from fat), 13 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 22 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, 354 mg sodium, 46 mg cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.

From and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.