Carnitas Egg Rolls With Salsa Verde

December 10, 2021
4 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 24 hours 20 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours
  • makes 20 egg rolls
Author Notes

I believe egg rolls to be the perfect vessel for a lot of foods. Growing up, I remember going to the chicken spot in my neighborhood and getting “pizza rolls.” Pretty much it was cheese, tomato sauce and sometimes pepperoni encased in egg roll wrappers. I know, you're probably thinking: "Why are pizza rolls served at a fried chicken spot?" And I don't have the answer. But they were delicious nonetheless. Ever since, I've been determined to put my own spin on this childhood favorite.

When I was thinking of what to put in my own egg rolls, two things came to mind: carnitas, and the cheeseburger egg rolls at Cheesecake Factory (have you ever had these? No? Then you're not living your best life.) Inspiration hits you in the strangest ways, am I right?

Carnitas is a Mexican pork dish literally meaning "little meat," referring to its shredded and crispy bits. The recipe consists of Boston butt, pork shoulder, or picnic ham, slow cooked in lard with seasonings and spices over a long period of time, until it breaks down and becomes tender and delicious. It’s usually served with rice and beans, tacos or burritos, and even tamales—but it equally belongs in an egg roll.

Salty, citrusy, and fatty, it's a perfect combo with gooey cheese inside and a crispy exterior. But what's an egg roll without a sauce to accompany it? A fresh, bright salsa verde to cut all that unctuous-ness of the egg roll does the trick!

This whole recipe encapsulates comfort to me—it warms my soul and fills my belly. It also brings back that fun and excitement I had as a kid eating those “pizza rolls," and sometimes we all need food to do that for us. I hope you all enjoy it! —Romel Bruno

What You'll Need
  • Marinated Pork
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 1 navel orange); peel thick slices of the rind and reserve
  • 2 large garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Curtido
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 head (10 ounces) large green cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1 jalapeño, halved and thinly sliced into half-moons
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • Braising Liquid
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup lemon-lime soda (such as Sprite)
  • 4 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
  • 1 white onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 dried or fresh bay leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Salsa Verde
  • 1/2 pound tomatillos (about 6), cleaned and halved
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 medium-size ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • 1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Egg Roll Assembly & Frying
  • 20 egg roll wrappers (1 package)
  • 3/4 cup (180 grams) shredded sharp cheddar
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • Sour cream, for serving
  1. Marinate the pork: In a large zip-top bag or airtight container, add all of the ingredients for the marinade and mix well. Place the cut pork in the bag, remove air and seal, and shake the bag or massage the pork into the marinade so the it's well distributed. Place in the fridge and let marinate for 6 hours minimum and up to 24.
  2. Make the curtido: Place cabbage in a large bowl and pour boiling water over it. Let sit for about 35 seconds, drain and run cold water over it until cooled completely. In a large bowl mix together cabbage, carrot, onion, jalapeno, oregano, salt and vinegar. Place in a large mason jar and let marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 24.
  3. Braise the pork: Heat 3 tablespoons canola oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. Working in batches to ensure browning instead of steaming, place pork into the oil and sear on one side for about 2 minutes. Flip over and let cook on the other side for another 2 minutes. Transfer the pork to a large plate and repeat with the remaining meat until you've seared all of the pork. Deglaze the pan with soda and chicken stock, scraping up the browned bits. Add back the reserved seared pork, onion, and bay leaves, lower heat to low, and cover. Braise for 2 hours, checking and stirring occasionally, until pork is fork-tender and starts to fall apart with ease.
  4. Meanwhile, make the salsa verde: In the bowl of a large food processor, place tomatillos, garlic, avocado, and olive oil, and pulse until smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl, and add chopped onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic salt, onion powder, and salt to taste. Transfer to a jar and let chill in the refrigerator so the flavors meld.
  5. Once the pork is done braising, remove the meat from the braising liquid using a spider or slotted spoon. Place in a bowl, let cool slightly, and with two forks start to pull the pork apart until coarsely shredded. Taste the pork and season with salt as needed. Save the braising liquid for another batch if you like; it will keep in the fridge for two days and in the freezer for about a month.
  6. Prep and fry the egg rolls: In a large Dutch oven, preheat canola oil to 350°F. Prepare a paper towel-lined plate or cooling rack set over a baking sheet. While the oil is heating, begin assembling the egg rolls. Lay one sheet of egg roll wrapper out on a cutting board like a diamond, with a pointy side facing you. To the center of the wrapper, add 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of cheese, 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of carnitas, and 1 tablespoon (18 grams) of curtido in a heaping log shape, making sure you steer clear of the edges of the wrapper. Dip your finger into some warm water and run it across the edges of the egg roll wrapper. Fold the left side of the wrapper onto itself so it covers about half of the filling, then fold the right side to meet the left side and overlap it slightly. Next, take the top side of the wrapper and fold down onto the center, then roll this mass downwards so it meets the bottom edge of the wrapper. Continue this process you've run out of your filling ingredients.
  7. Fry the egg rolls in batches of 2 to 3 at a time, frying on one side for about a minute, then turning and fry on the other side for a minute more. The exterior should be golden brown and crispy. Once fried, place the egg rolls on the cooling rack or paper towel-lined plate and repeat the process with the rest of the egg rolls.
  8. Cut each egg roll in half at an angle and serve with sour cream and salsa verde for dipping!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • Darian
  • Lamegs

3 Reviews

Darian October 21, 2022
These were a bit time consuming but most of it was hands-off. The carnitas on their own were delicious (yes, if serving outside of the eggroll I would also brown per another reviewer). I ended up with way more salsa than needed, but it will be good with other dishes or just with tortilla chips as a snack. I also have leftover pork which I am freezing and will use for another meal in the future. The curtido was very good but for personal preference I think next time I would add more jalapeno.
Lamegs December 24, 2021
I'm not sure how I feel about the cheese in the egg roll. All the separate components are pretty good, but something about frying the pork, cheese, and curtido together creates a strange flavor. The salsa verde saves them by making the flavor a bit.

The curtido on its own is amazing.
Smaug December 15, 2021
Any other issues aside, it is absolutely essential for carnitas that it is browned after it is cooked- it's really the main defining characteristic of the dish.