Citrus-Braised Pork Tacos

Citrus-Braised Pork Tacos

If you've traveled to Mexico, you may have enjoyed cochinita pibil, a dish that's made by rubbing a whole suckling pig with warm spices and juice from bitter oranges, then wrapping it in banana leaves and slowly pit-roasting it until it is tender.

Since we won't be roasting a whole pig, a well-marbled pork butt roast (often labeled Boston butt) will work and, instead of a pit, go with a moderate oven.

To give the pork its distinctive flavor, use frozen orange juice concentrate, tomato paste for color and depth and bay leaves for herbal flavor.

A quick habanero sauce, made with a traditional cooked-carrot base, and pickled red onions balanced out the rich meat. If you want a spicier sauce, add the remaining habanero. If spicy is not your thing, go with a less-spicy jalapeno.

Citrus-Braised Pork Tacos

Makes 6 servings.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped fine

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

⅓ cup tomato paste

1½ cups water

¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

5 bay leaves

Salt and pepper

1 (2½-to-3 pound) boneless pork butt roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks

Pickled Red Onions:

1 red onion, halved and sliced thin

1 cup distilled white vinegar

⅓ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

Habanero Sauce:

1 cup water

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 vine-ripened tomato, cored and chopped

¼ cup chopped onion

½ habanero chile, stemmed

1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

1½ teaspoons lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving

18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed

1. For the pork: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 F. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in garlic, cumin, oregano, allspice and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until paste begins to darken, about 45 seconds. Stir in water, orange juice concentrate, 2 tablespoons vinegar, Worcestershire, bay leaves, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, scraping up any browned bits.

2. Add pork and bring to boil. Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered, until pork is tender, about 2 hours, stirring once halfway through cooking.

3. For the pickled red onions: Meanwhile, place onion in medium bowl. Bring vinegar, sugar, and salt to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Pour over onions and cover loosely. Let onions cool completely, about 30 minutes. (Onions can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

4. For the habanero sauce: Combine water, carrot, tomato, onion, habanero, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt in now-empty saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat and cook until carrot is tender, about 10 minutes. Off heat, let carrot mixture cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer carrot mixture to blender, add vinegar and lime juice, and process until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste; set aside. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

5. Remove pot from oven; discard bay leaves. Using potato masher, mash pork until finely shredded. Bring to simmer over medium-high heat and cook until most of liquid has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve pork on tortillas with pickled red onions, habanero sauce and lime wedges.