Weeknight Cooking

Citrus Pulled Pork Tacos

January 30, 2012

Citrus Pulled Pork Tacos

- Jenny

As I pulled my crock pot out to make Citrus Pulled Pork Tacos and noticed that the lid was covered with a thick layer of dust, I felt a tiny wave of shame. Here I am, ever on the hunt for a weeknight meal, and yet I have totally abandoned the working parent’s central tool toward fast and easy meals, one that does your cooking for you while you toil for the man. 

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This recipe is about as good as it gets, because the bang you get from the prep, while minimal,  is enormous, and really honestly your active time (a term I dislike because active is in the eye of the beholder; I consider wiping up all my spills, rooting around madly for my cumin and yelling, “WHO TOOK MY DANG CUMIN?” at no one in particular pretty active) is about ten minutes.

I put together this rub a few minutes before leaving the house. Yes, I finally bought onion powder, but I did not have “granulated garlic” so I just chopped a few cloves finely. I rubbed that roast all up, and put it in my pan of hot oil (olive, as my heat was not super high) and went to brush my teeth. 

I’m back! I turned it, and then spent the next few minutes making sure everyone else had brushed their teeth, then came downstairs to sear the ends while simultaneously supervising a backpack pack up. Are you seeing the multitasking possibilities here? 

I covered the meat as instructed with water; I somehow failed to put the cooker on high, and instead made this on the low setting for about 10 hours, arriving home to a slightly smoky, delicious smell. My husband felt this led to slightly dry meat; I found it tasty, well-seasoned, falling-apart carnita meat that made me pine for my Los Angeles taco truck. 

Delicious. But I haven’t gotten to the really good part yet! The slaw you put together for these tacos is so divine, you may find yourself spooning up the left over bits without any meat at all. 

To make it, I did buy already pre-cut slaw, keeping in the weeknight spirit of things, and used a little less ginger than the recipe called for, all mixed up in under five minutes. The lime served as a perfect acid dominatrix to the surrendering pork, and the bit of crunch gave a texture compliment as well.

I tried corn and flour tortillas with this; corn is much better.

Friends, let’s recap: minimal prep, almost no clean up, limes exciting the hell out of you in the middle of the winter, tacos!

After you’re done, I suggest some ice cream straight from the pint. 

Citrus Pulled Pork Tacos by Erin Powell

Serves 6

Citrus Rubbed Pulled Pork:

2 pounds boneless pork roast
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 limes, zested
2 tablespoons oil

Citrus Slaw:

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
8 ounces raw cole slaw mix (or make your own)
12 corn tortillas

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.

Photo by James Ransom

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Written by: Jestei

The ratio of people to cake is too big.


joeys February 28, 2012
i would recommend using a pork shoulder which could also be called butt, boston butt, or the whole thing would be called a picnic roast. you could use tenderloin or something else. The benefits of shoulder/butt is the end product will be more tender, juicier, and much more flavorful. In addition as it slow cook,s the fat and collagen renders down to a thicker juice that gives great mouthfeel--like a good stock will do. Also keep in mind that the cost of the shoulder will be less than a quarter of the price of tenderloin.
p.s. make 2x what you think you'll need. Freeze leftovers or use for breakfast burritos, nachos, or pizza toppings. YUM.
kriscooks February 11, 2012
This was delicious! However, I did the same recipe in my dutch oven on 300 for the same cooking time. I know, I could't seem to get the dust off of my slow cooker either! My family votes this recipe to be a keeper in the family cookbook!
mcs3000 January 31, 2012
Love carnitas tacos. I'll fess up - got a crock pot a few years and used it once. Will dust it off and try it.
Jestei February 6, 2012
hope you like it
gingerlover4ever January 31, 2012
try substituting ginger liqueur for fresh ginger - you'll love the way it cooks off. I prefer Domaine de Canton.
Jestei January 31, 2012
what a great idea. i love that stuff.
Diane M. January 31, 2012
This looks amazing! Simple, tasty and endless possibilities. I bet the house smells great when it's in the crockpot too. Thanks for sharing. Cannot wait to try it.
onlinepizza January 31, 2012
Thank you so much for wonderful recipe.
greenchilemaven January 30, 2012
This does sound really good. But I'm wondering what cut of pork you suggest using?
Jestei January 31, 2012
the recipe calls for shoulder but i think tenderloins would be fine but the meat experts should weigh in here
gt9 January 30, 2012

No slow cooker but, as usual, you are pretty persuasive, ok, really persuasive,
on going out to get one.

Thoughts on using one of those little pork tenderloins the sell out here.
Jestei January 31, 2012
I think it would work well actually
Savour January 31, 2012
Pork tenderloin is a LOT leaner than shoulder -- a long cook in a slow cooker could yield dryish meat. That said, I've made pork tenderloin dishes in the slow cooker and they turned out fine.
d_ribbens January 30, 2012
I am addicted to my slow cooker, so thank you for bringing this delicious-looking recipe to my attention! I am excited to try it!
Jestei January 30, 2012
what else do you like to make in your cooker?
d_ribbens January 31, 2012
Lots of stew, curry, and chili. I have recipes for a slow cooker roast chicken, an apple spice cake, risotto, spinach artichoke dip. When I get some time I will try and post some on here. :)
calendargirl January 30, 2012
This will help me make the transition from last week in San Antonio (oh, the food!) back to DC. Is there a good taco truck here, anyone know? As for the slow cooker, Liz is right about brisket -- it is heavenly done in a slow cooker. I recently discovered SLOW COOKER REVOLUTION by the Cooks Illustrated gang, quite helpful in getting me to think about how to use that appliance. I have a feeling the slow cooker is a bit like the processor: it changes the way you think about what is possible and enlarges your options. One caveat: I made the mistake of buying one which is too large for many purposes --- size is the kicker here. If I had the space (ah, space...) I would have a large one and a small one.
Jestei January 30, 2012
I heard about the CI thing. i should look that up.
sfmiller February 2, 2012
If you have a car, La Preferida truck in Takoma Park (New Hampshire Ave near East-West Highway) is pretty good. And there's a Little Mexico in Prince George's County along Kenilworth Avenue and Edmonston Road just west of East-West Highway with several good, inexpensive mom-and-pop tacquerias (I recommend Tres Reyes and La Placita) and an occasional truck.
calendargirl February 4, 2012
Thanks for the tips, sfmiller! I look forward to giving them a try.
mrslarkin January 30, 2012
so, i probably should not have given my crock pot to Goodwill. This sounds really good. Thank you Jenny for finding another weeknight dinner idea. And, is that a side??? I am duly impressed.
Jestei January 30, 2012
well, a garnish. but that's a start, right? also you can probably make this in a dutch oven.
AntoniaJames January 30, 2012
Wow, this looks right up our alley, so I've put it on my menu plan for next week. I'm always on the prowl for another excellent pork shoulder recipe. So glad you found, tried and reported on this! Thank you. ;o)
thirschfeld January 30, 2012
Antonia you are absolutely right it is a wonderful recipe. I have been craving tacos of late and I think I will make these too.
Jestei January 30, 2012
Hope you like it!!!
healthierkitchen January 30, 2012
I've been looking at this recipe for a while. New impetus to act on it and find my slow cooker.
Jestei January 30, 2012
its in that cabinet behind that thing.
healthierkitchen February 6, 2012
That is exactly where it is!
Lizthechef January 30, 2012
Ditto - why is it that using a slow cooker is somehow considered not "real" cooking? I threw a brisket in mine yesterday and we enjoyed a terrific meal after a busy day.
lastnightsdinner January 30, 2012
I agree - maybe we'll see a "Your Best Slow Cooker Dish" challenge in the near future? :)
thirschfeld January 30, 2012
Liz I jokingly made a comment on Twitter the other day about slow cookers because I have been thinking about them lately. While it was a slight I have never considered them not "real" cooking but actually just a piece of equipment you don't need. How is a slow cooker different from your oven on a low temperature? I often wrap brisket in foil and leave it to go all night waking to the most tender and juicy pulled beef imaginable. Does one use less power then the other, is a crock pot more safe then my oven? I ask, with sincerity, because I just don't see the draw to having another thing stuffed in my cabinets that I use occasionally. Really I am not against them I just don't get them. Can someone explain the attraction for me?
Jestei January 30, 2012
Generally I do not like to weigh in on technique debates because I am really nothing more than a home cook duffer. Crock pots are using moisture, while what you are talking about is really a different process in the oven. Further, and I can only speak for myself here, I would NOT be comfortable leaving my oven on while gone or sleeping. I have had a recent incident involving dog food and mice that I am unable to discuss without shuddering right now but it caused a fire in the back of the oven. So there is that.
thirschfeld January 30, 2012
I can see where you are coming from from the mouse issue, I have heard of that and fortunately have not had that problem, knock on wood.
Sagegreen January 30, 2012
You had me at minimal prep. I have decided to take on the challenge and pleasure of week night entertaining...deciding it was high time to reclaim that time back from " the man." Thanks, Jenny, for ferreting this recipe out!
Jestei January 30, 2012
i hope you give it a whirl.
sexyLAMBCHOPx January 30, 2012
I appreciate that you featured a slow cooker, a.k.a. crockpot recipe. It seems to get a bad rap because of the old school ingredients, like canned soup and other processed stuff. Nothing is better than coming home after a long day of work or skiing to the wonderful aroma of a hot cooked delicious meal.
Jestei January 30, 2012
totally. you just need the RIGHT recipes, and i do think it is important to sear first..