Beer Braised Carnitas Tacos with Sweet Potato and Apple Relish

I had a great time with my parents this weekend – it is always so good to see them. We went out and had some delicious oysters and sushi on Friday night. My dad really wanted to go sing karaoke afterward, but their hotel was in SoHo and it is always so packed there on Friday nights that we decided to head home, instead. On Saturday morning, we had a lovely brunch at Colicchio & Sons, followed by some grocery shopping at Chelsea Market. I love going to the market with my dad because he is just as much into food as I am and gets excited whenever he sees something that catches his eye. We bought some Cinco de Mayo themed things for our dinner that evening (a post will follow, not to worry), as well as some nice wine and even more oysters! It was a lovely evening in on Saturday night, but I’m always sad to see my mom and dad leave! We decided to eat our feeling after they left, though, and made some s’mores using my creme brulee torch (at least that thing is good for something)!

Now, all fun weekends aside, this week is sure to be a good one because Cinco de Mayo is on Thursday! I love this holiday so much – you don’t have to worry about presents or anything like that. There’s just a lot of good food and drinks! Street tacos are my absolute favorite thing in the world. If I had to pick what my last meal would be, it would, without a doubt, be some sort of street tacos. These carnitas, in particular, were insanely delicious. I was so proud of these tacos that I would honestly be happy eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (I think Kramer and I did just this with the leftovers the next day). The pork is so tender and succulent, and the orange, brown sugar, and beer helped to caramelize it while it braised in the oven for a few hours. There’s nothing quite like these tacos, but I really wanted to take it to another level, so I caramelized some onions to put on top, as well as made a quick relish out of roasted sweet potatoes and apples drizzled in a little agave nectar. The crunchiness of the apples, the sweetness of the potatoes, and the savoriness of the onions help to transform a simple carnitas taco into something really special. If you want a great way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, these tacos are certainly it. Kramer and I highly recommend scrambling some eggs and topping the carnitas with them for an irresistible breakfast taco the next day, if you can scrape together any leftovers, that is.

Your rub ingredients.

Mince your garlic.

Mince your peppers.

Combine all of the rub ingredients.

Add the pork to the rub and let is sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight. I let mine go for about 6 hours.

Here is what you will be cooking your carnitas with.

Dice your bacon.

Heat your olive oil over medium-high heat and cook until crisp, about 8-10 minutes.

Remove the crisp bacon with a slotted spoon and let it drain on a paper towel.

Add the cubed pork to the pan and sear on all sides until golden, about 3 minutes per side.

Remove the pork from the pan and place on another plate or bowl for the time being.

Zest and juice your oranges and lime.

Add the in the beer, stock, orange zest, orange juice, and lime juice. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Add the pork and the crisp bacon back to the pot, cover, and braise at 350 degrees F for 3.5-4 hours, until tender.

When the pork is ready, remove it from the pot, place on another plate, cover tightly with foil, and set aside.

Heat the sauce over medium-high heat and bring to a light boil until reduced, about 30 minutes.

Now is a good time to melt your butter and start caramelizing your thinly sliced onions.

This is also a good time to start your relish.

Dice your sweet potatoes very small, then toss with the agave, salt, and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, until almost tender.

Dice your apple.

Toss the apples with the sweet potatoes and bake for another 10 minutes or so, until tender.

When the sauce has thickened, pour it into a bowl or container, then add the pork to the pan and shred with two forks over medium heat, to caramelize the carnitas a bit. I tossed a bit of my relish with the pork, but you can just sprinkle it over the top, too, so people can choose how much to add.

Beer Braised Carnitas Tacos with Sweet Potato and Apple Relish
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 8-10

Beer Braised Carnitas
  • 5 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, trimmed and cubed
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 habanero peppers, minced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon adobo chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 thick slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 12 ounce beer
  • 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • zest of 1 orange
  • juice of 2 oranges
  • juice of 1 lime
  • small corn or flour tortillas, for serving
Caramelized Onions
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
  • 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
Sweet Potato and Apple Relish
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
  • less than ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt (just enough for a light sprinkling)
  • less than ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper (again, just enough for a light sprinkling)
  • 1 large apple, peeled and diced

Beer Braised Carnitas
  1. Cut any excess fat off of your pork, then cut it into 4-inch sized cubes and place them in a large sealable bag or container. In a medium sized bowl, combine the minced garlic, habanero peppers, brown sugar, adobo chili powder, cumin, salt, ground black pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Add this mixture to the cubed pork and rub it in so that it penetrates the meat. Seal the bag and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight.
  2. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat your olive oil over medium-high heat, then add in the diced bacon. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy. Remove from the pot with a slotted utensil and place on paper towels to drain off some of the fat. Add the cubed pork to the pan and cook over high heat until the pieces all have a nice golden char on them – you will most likely need to work in batches – about 3 minutes on each side. Remove the pork from the pan when browned, place on another plate, and set aside. When the pork has been removed, add in the beer, stock, orange zest, orange juice, and lime juice. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. When the orange juice mixture is simmering, add the pork cubes and bacon to the pot and cover. Place in the oven and braise for 3.5-4 hours, until tender and falling apart. You can take the pork out and stir it once or twice during the braising process, to ensure even cooking.
  4. When the pork is ready, remove it from the cooking liquid, place on a clean plate or bowl, and cover with foil to keep warm. Place the sauce over medium-high heat and bring to a light boil. Reduce for 20-30 minutes, skimming the fat off of the top as you go.
  5. When the sauce is ready to go, pour it into a bowl and set aside. Put the pork back into the pot or pan and shred with two forks. Turn the heat to medium so that the carnitas caramelize a little bit. Add a little bit of sauce into the pork, until it is at the level that you prefer (I used about 2 cups of the sauce and saved the rest for later). Place on a warm tortilla and top with caramelized onions (recipe follows) and sweet potato and apple relish (recipe follows).
Caramelized Onions
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan or skillet over medium heat. Thinly slice an onion and add the slices to the melted butter. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until caramelized. Add another tablespoon of butter halfway through cooking time, if necessary. Serve over the carnitas warm or at room temperature.
Sweet Potato and Apple Relish
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (I recommend making this while the carnitas sauce simmers). Peel and dice your sweet potato into very small cubes, also known as a brunoise. Toss the sweet potatoes with the agave, salt, and pepper. Place on a greased and/or lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until almost tender. Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, add the brunoised apple, and toss so that the apple becomes slightly coated with some of the agave. Place back in the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Serve over the carnitas warm or at room temperature.


14 Responses

  1. Tina From Pa says:

    WOW ! Looks so good ! Now I know what I’ll be making ,thanks for sharing! Glad to hear you had fun this weekend!

    • Sydney says:

      @Tina: Thank you! :)

      @Lauren: Thank you very much!

      @Michelle: Thanks, and it definitely was!

      @Anthony: Mine too, they are just so good, I was having a hard time not eating straight out of the pan!

      @Allison: AGREED! La Superior is my favorite taco spot. I would go there every weekend if I had my way! I especially love the lengua tacos there – so good.

      @Stacy: You are too sweet, thank you!

  2. That sweet potato apple relish sounds amazing! Great looking meal!

  3. Wow, that looks like a fantastic meal! And it sounds like all that effort is well worth it :-)

  4. Anthony says:

    Carnitas are my favorite “Mexican meat,” but I’d never considered a relish made from sweet potatoes and apples before — though it makes sense, since they go well with pork in other cases. I’m looking forward to trying this!

  5. allison says:

    you know who has good tacos? La Superior in brooklyn.

  6. Stacy says:

    Oh my word…this looks divine! You have this incredible knack for taking such simple meals and giving them that little something that elevates them to incredible! I can’t wait to try this!

    Glad you had a great weekend with your parents!

  7. Amanda says:

    YUM! It’s marinating and I can’t wait to have this for Cinco de Mayo tomorrow… Thanks for another inspired dish!

  8. Amanda says:

    This carnitas recipe was incredible! The caramelized onions added the perfect amount of sweetness. We all loved this – thanks again!

  9. Irma says:

    Ok, I had to leave you a comment. I’ve pined on my “Iwant to cook” board 3 of your recipes in 10 minutes!
    Your recipes are awesome I can’t wait to try them!

  10. Carolyn hall says:

    Holy moly…yum. I also chopped up some red cabbage, carrot, parsley and tossed it with some blueberry vinegar, a tad of olive oil, salt and pepper to serve as a condiment.
    Really delicious.

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