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Pork Tacos

Pork Tacos

Travel anywhere in the USA, and you’ll find different styles of pork tacos at food trucks, rest stops, chain restaurants, and multi-generational family kitchens.

In Mexico, pulled pork is known as carnitas, but you’ll find BBQ versions of this classic in the South, the West, and the North.

The beauty of pulled pork tacos is in their simplicity. The flavors and texture of the meat and tortilla can carry the dish by themselves. However, tacos are also a canvas for condiments, spices, and all sorts of toppings—the only limit is your imagination.

Let’s walk through a few variations of our pork taco recipe.

Making Pulled Pork

Most of the heavy lifting in this pork recipe comes during meat preparation, but we have different techniques perfect for any tool.

Planning is key to mastering pulled pork, so think ahead. Whether you buy smoked pork online or make it yourself, map out your porcine game plan.

Remember, cooked pulled pork can reduce in size between 30 and 40%, meaning you should buy double the intended volume to feed everyone at your event.

The average adult will eat 1/4 to 1/3 pounds of pulled pork in taco form, provided you have plenty of sides and snacks available. Cover your bases with condiments and extras so everyone is satisfied!

With all that said, let’s talk pulled pork.

On the Smoker or Grill

This is the way we make pulled pork, whether we’ve got a bone-in pork shoulder or butt available. Avoid using pork tenderloin because it doesn’t have enough intramuscular fat to create the moist flavors you’ll need. 

The pork should be trimmed of excess fat, heavily seasoned, and brushed with barbeque sauce before exposure to smoke and heat.

Follow our pulled pork recipe to get it right the first time, and wait to personalize it for future attempts.

In the Kitchen (Oven or Stove Top)

Not everyone has the time or the tools to smoke pork all day. We won’t hold it against you for making pulled pork in the oven or on the stove with a Dutch oven.

You have to work with what you have. The good news is you can achieve tender, juicy pulled pork in your kitchen when you follow our recipe with BBQ rubs and sauces.

Crockpot or Slow Cooker

This is the “set-and-forget” method for making pulled pork at home. It’s ideal for anyone working or running around all day.

With just a 20 minute prep time, you can set pork in an Instant Pot or crockpot with all the ingredients, then let it cook slowly for up to ten hours.

When you return at the end of the day, use two forks to separate the meat, and you’ve got tons of delicious shredded pork ready to go.

What’s In These Pork Tacos?

While the recipe itself is simple, the ingredients you use make all the difference. 

The Pork

To create a deep, smoky flavor and crispy exterior bark, we prefer to use one of three options for our pulled pork. Some home chefs add liquid smoke or other products to recreate the experience, but the imitation can’t live up to reality. 

First, you can purchase Lillie’s Q pulled pork straight from us, so you’re guaranteed to have the perfect, delicious bite. 

If you’d rather do it yourself, we have two pulled pork recipes for you to look at: Smoked Carolina Pulled Pork and Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.  

Tortillas

A warm corn tortilla is key to a strong taco that won’t break apart.

Prepare a family-sized pile of tortillas by stacking five at once and doing multiple rounds in the microwave. You may want to pan-fry corn tortillas in a skillet to give them a bit of extra crunch. 

For pork tacos, we like durable corn tortillas, but smaller flour tortillas can also work.

Coleslaw

While coleslaw may not immediately come to mind when you think of tacos, it’s a necessary component to complement the pulled pork. 

The crunch of the cabbage contrasts nicely with the softness of the pork and the tortilla, giving you additional texture in the mouth. The bright, vinegary flavor of the coleslaw also provides a sharp contrast to the sweet fattiness of the pork, lightening up each bite and making it more even-keeled. 

You can make standard coleslaw using chopped cabbage with mayo, vinegar, and some spices, or use our zesty, spicy Szechuan peppercorn coleslaw recipe to heat things up. The zing of the peppercorns contrasts beautifully with the pork’s smoky sweetness and the ingredients’ different textures and temperatures.

Top With Sauces and Serve

One sauce isn’t enough when it comes to pork tacos.

We like to add a heaping tablespoon of our Hot Smoky Barbeque Sauce directly on top of the filling, plus a generous spoonful of fresh salsa verde and a sprinkle of cilantro for color.

Serve these Instagram-ready tacos, and provide plenty of napkins.

Our Favorite Pork Taco Toppings

There are many ways to dress up your pork tacos with different sauces, spices, and extras. You can use everything from sour cream to black beans

Guacamole or Avocado

The cool, creamy texture of avocado pairs nicely with the deep and smoky flavors of pulled pork.

Thin slices of avocado are a simple and effective topping for a taco, or you can make guacamole with ingredients like tomato, onion, cumin, and lime juice.

Chopped Veggies

We’ve given you a great coleslaw recipe to work with, but straight-up chopped onions, peppers, lettuce, and cabbage also add a crunch.

Pickled Veggies

Once you discover the simple pickling process, you’ll have affordable gourmet ingredients for a lifetime.

Start with an easy recipe for pickled red onions, then progress to veggies of different shapes, sizes, and spice levels. Combining crunchiness, coolness, and tangy acidity, these are great additions to the smoky, juicy meat in a pork taco. You can even pickle jalapeno peppers for extra spice.

Sauces

Even if you follow the two-sauce rule for pork tacos, you can still create unique combos. You’ll have at least two tacos in a sitting, so make each special with distinctive toppings and sauces.

Try something new with a traditional Alabama White Sauce like Lillie’s Q Ivory Sauce, a mayo-based creation with a little kick of cayenne. You can also stick with the classics like this ENC (Eastern North Carolina) Barbeque Sauce loaded with tangy vinegar and spices.

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Microwave tortilla in a damp paper towel for 15 sec to make soft and pliable.
  2. Add your pork and coleslaw.
  3. Drizzle with the two sauces and ENJOY!

Taco Night Revamped

When it comes to pork tacos, we don’t make the rules. You do.

We’ve laid out several ways to make pulled pork at home, regardless of your setup. We’ve also given you all the sauces and toppings you need for a memorable taco night with friends and family.

The big lesson here is creativity—you’re the one calling the shots when it comes to protein and toppings. There’s no way to test all your wild ideas in one go, so make pork tacos a regular thing from here on out.

 

Sources:

Intramuscular Fat - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics 

Liquid Smoke: The History Behind a Divisive Culinary Shortcut | Eater 

Health Benefits of Jalapeños | WebMD 

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