Mexican-Style Pulled Pork Tacos

I’m not a huge fan of tacos. I’m a big believer in the idea of volumetrics—the idea that if you bulk up your meal with healthy ingredients like veggies, it’s going to be more filling and satisfying, even if you aren’t necessarily eating more calories. It’s why I love bowl-style meals, because you can keep adding and mixing things in. Now, all that being said, these tacos are the exception. The sauce is so rich and flavorful that you want to eat slowly, savoring every bite, so by the time you finish to taco number three, you’ve had more than enough.

This recipe comes from the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook One Pan Wonders, a wonderful book I’ve discussed before on this blog. Here’s the recipe from the book:

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The pork cooks in the slow cooker, with options to cook for 9 to 10 hours or 6 to 7, so you can start it up first thing in the morning or around lunchtime. After making it a time or two, this recipe quickly found its way into our rotation, for two main reasons. One, obviously, is that it’s delicious. The other is that the first step is just adding all the sauce ingredients and the pork to the slow cooker. No sauteing, microwaving or any of that. Just toss it in and turn it on!

Every time we make this recipe, I’m amazed at the flavor of the sauce, mainly because it only has 6 ingredients. Tomato sauce provides a base, raisins add the sweetness often present in a Mexican sauce like this, chili powder and chipotles in adobo provide spice and cumin and garlic add body. Volume-wise, it doesn’t seem like there is going to be enough sauce; don’t worry about that (more on this later). So first, I put all the sauce ingredients in the slow cooker:

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Then I cut the pork into a few pieces, add it to the slow cooker, and cover with the sauce. The recipe calls for a pork butt, but we frequently use a tenderloin. It doesn’t require as much trimming and streamlines the prep even more.

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Then you let it go! This particular time, I cooked for the 6 to 7 hours on high, but I’ve done 9 to 10 hours on low in the past. It comes out delicious both ways. When dinnertime arrives, there are just three steps remaining: shred the pork, blend the sauce, and mix them back together. Here’s what the pork looks like after hours of cooking:

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To shred the pork, you need to remove it to a bowl. To do so, I suggest using tongs or a large spoon; if you try to stab the pieces with a fork and lift them out, they will fall apart (as they should). Once you take the pork out, you need to blend the sauce. In the past, we have done this step by pouring the sauce into a blender, processing it, then putting it back in the slow cooker, as the recipe suggests. However, this time, I used one of my new kitchen appliances, the immersion blender! I was pretty excited about this, mainly because it meant that we wouldn’t have to dirty the blender, and it actually worked great. There were no splatters and the raisins broke down easily. Here’s the before and after:

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Once the sauce is smooth, I add lime juice. Jeff doesn’t like cilantro, so we skip it here. Then I shred the pork in a bowl and return it to the slow cooker.

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This is one of the steps where you know America’s Test Kitchen really did their homework. I mentioned earlier how it doesn’t seem like there’s a ton of sauce in this recipe, and that’s correct. One of the reasons I’m not a huge fan of tacos is that they can be really messy to eat, especially if there are sauces and toppings dripping out of the taco. This sauce does not drip. There is enough to coat the pork, which is the perfect amount to provide flavor without making the eating process messier.

To serve, I stick some corn tortillas on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven to warm them up. Our oven goes pretty low, so I usually do this on about 175°F. That way they get warm and pliable without getting hard and cracking during eating.

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A note: I took these out of the package and they were all mysteriously torn on one side. I did not do this. You don’t need to either.

While the tortillas are warming, we take out the toppings. I’ve never actually made the guacamole recipe that accompanies the pork; we usually just use our favorite Trader Joe’s guacamole. We love onions, so chopped onions go on there as well. This time we also tried jarred jalapenos and a new Blue Top Brand Lime Jalapeno creamy hot sauce.

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Now all that’s left was to put the tacos together and enjoy! This recipe says that it serves 4. We typically have three tacos each, have them again the next day, and then there’s still a little more pork left over.

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Yum!

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