American favourites: Wail, no burritos in Brighton (so I had to make them myself): Carnitas (braised pork) Burritos

Recently I’ve been hankering after burritos. Like I mean I’ve been downright craving them. The problem is, when you want a burrito on the run Brighton doesn’t really throw up any viable options. We have El Taco which certainly does a job in a bind, but the microwave is in full force and the resulting burritos leave a lot to be desired if truth be told. If you want a decent taco on the fly in Brighton I’m afraid you are really shit out of luck.

This wouldn’t be such a bitter pill to swallow if I didn’t know that elsewhere excellent Mexican food is readily available to those with neither the time or inclination to go for a sit-down meal. In LA the “taco truck” is a city-wide phenomenon, with mobile catering units serving top-notch Mexican food at constantly changing spots across the city. When I lived in Santa Barbara, instead of gorging on kebabs at the end of a night out, we would all trek to freebirds, which (although college-central) served amazing burritos that I still think about 7 years later. But you don’t even have to travel so far to experience a decent over the counter Mexican. Daddy Donkey and Luardos are doing the burrito van thang in markets across London, and they are thriving. So why oh why can’t I get a decent burrito in Brighton?

Fed up of going without my heart’s desire and inspired by a recent braised pork burrito from Tortilla, I decided to whip up my own carnitas burritos. Carnitas is a type of Mexican slow-cooked braised pork using the shoulder. The ingredients may startle you, but bear with me. This recipe is compiled from a number of sources, including David Lebowitz, It’s For Dinner and some collaboration with Carla of Can Be Bribed With Food over twitter.

Mexican carnitas burritos

  • 1kg pork shoulder, cut into large chunks of about 5 inches each
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • A large wodge of lard, as much as you can bear (I used about 1/3 of a pack… sssshhh!)
  • Water
  • Coca-cola (honest to God!)
  • Orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp cumin, freshly toasted and ground if you can be bothered
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced

First, if you have time and you’re organised enough, the night before you plan to eat the carnitas generously season the pork with sea salt and massage into the flesh. Set aside in the fridge and leave to sit overnight. If you don’t have time then not to worry, but still make sure to salt the pork liberally before you cook it (this is the gospel of David Lebowitz).

The next day, preheat the oven to 180C. Then melt your lard in a saucepan (I used my Le Cruesset, but you can use a roasting pan or any other heavy bottomed oven-ready pan you like) and brown your pork pieces until they are nice and brown. Don’t move them around too much as you want some caramelised meaty residue to build up on the pan (which you will deglaze later). Flip them over and brown the other side.

When they are browned, remove from the pan and put aside for a moment. Then splash in a little bit of coke to deglaze the brown meaty bits from the bottom of the pan. Pop the meat back in and then pour in equal measures of coca-cola, orange juice and water until your pork pieces are almost completely submerged. Look, don’t fight me on the coke thing. You don’t need to know why it works (apparently replacement for some kind of Mexican rock sugar, but I like to think that the bubbles help destabilise the meat making it more tender), it just works.

Next, toast and grind your cumin if you are going to (otherwise just use already ground) and add to the pan along with the chilli powder, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and the sliced garlic.

Then cover and put in the oven for about 3 hours, turning the pork pieces every now and again. After this time most of the liquid should have evaporated and the meat should be almost falling apart to the touch.

Remove to another oven dish and shred using two forks.

Spoon over some of the liquor from the pan over the shredded pork and return to the oven to crisp up. You can if you’re getting impatient pop on the grill which should speed up the process. The finished carnitas will look a little something like the below porky meaty goodness.

Meanwhile, prepare your other burrito ingredients. I served my burritos with lime and coriander rice…

…black beans…


…and salsa.

On the table were some jalapenos and soured cream. The finished article looked a little something like this. And you know what, they were some of the best burritos I’d ever had in my life. OK, so it’s not exactly fast food, but it’s totally worth the wait and it will just have to do until we get a decent alternative in Brighton.

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Filed under Chillies, Main courses, Pork, Recipes, Rice, Spices

22 responses to “American favourites: Wail, no burritos in Brighton (so I had to make them myself): Carnitas (braised pork) Burritos

  1. Sven Edmondson

    Genuinely out of this world, one of the best dishes I’ve experienced during the 8 months of enjoying the gastronomic delights served up for Feed Et Gastro!

  2. Joe W

    we probably need to have a chat about when these beauties are next on the menu

  3. Amy

    Wow. You must have really really been craving a good burrito because that looks like a lot of work. But your pictures make it clear that all the effort was worth it. Looks good!

  4. You are right no decent burrito in Brighton…until now – at your house! I’m coming over!

  5. Mum

    I’ve been educated! Never hankered for a burrito in my life, but I guess there’s still time… I admire your dedication for your art… 🙂

  6. That looks incredible! Right, I’m going to have to have people over to try this. Only I wonder what I could substitute for the vegetarians who will sadly (or not so sadly to them) miss out on the porky goodness.

  7. Wow, I’m so glad I had a bacon butty before reading this otherwise it would have been game over and straight out the door to get food. That looks amazing Becci!

  8. I definitely just dribbled.

  9. Joe W: You’ll be the first to know mon amie.

    Amy: There are no lengths that I won’t go to in pursuit of a good burrito!

    Graphic foodie: Ssshh, keep it on the down low; I don’t want the whole of Brighton queuing up for pulled pork 😉

    Becca: Bloomin’ veggies. I think you’ll have to five them a black bean burrito – or refried beans (I have a really good, but as yet unblogged recipe)

    Paul: Thanks bud. Everytime I see the pic my mouth fills with saliva (I’m so modest, aren’t I?!?). I want it again.

    The Shed: It’s very droolsome, so don’t worry. Just mop up your keyboard after you’re done 🙂

  10. Brock Hall Farm

    Fabulously tasty and inspiring recipe! Must try this very soon and so crisply presented. Thank you!

  11. Julia Faiers

    After reading your recipe and seeing those droolworthy photos, it’s definitely time to dine on the swine.

  12. Brock Hall Farm: Thanks very much. I’m glad you like it. The pics were hurriedly snapped before we scoffed it all down. It took much restraint to wait even that long 😉

    Julia: ‘dine on the swine’ – love it.

  13. Julia Boswell

    Interested in the black beans. I like Mexican food but have generally found refried beans a bit unappetising.

    • Refried beans are amazing. I have a recipe that my friend gave me which is heaven. Must post it sometime. In any case, with the black beans I just soaked them overnight and then boiled then for 45mins or so (maybe longer actually), then stirred through some coriander. However, I’m sure you can do more with them – have a look on t’internet and other blogs for more inspiring recipes. xx

  14. Julia Boswell

    You’ve definitely made me fancy a burrito (or two)!

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  16. Bojangles

    glad i found your blog, love this recipe! gotta try this.
    one Q, the 1kg of pork, typically how many would this serve??

  17. Bojangles

    cooked it last nite, was gr8, but used too much salt! not quite ruined but spoiled.

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  19. carla

    I just got back from the US and havent stopped talking about them!! Now I can make them myself thanks to your recipe..mmmmmm!!!!!

  20. I just gave these burritos a go and I must say they’re nothing short of exceptional. That coca-cola… I’ve never had a nicer smell in my house. I used your recipe for the pulled pork, Thomasina Miers’ recipes for guacamole and salsa, also a BBC recipe for simple refried beans. Threw some lettuce leaves, sour cream, and some Cholula hot sauce in. Also, I added my own ingredient, Red Chillies en Adobo, which I rubbed into the pork along with the salt to begin with. Gives it a nice tang. Thanks for this recipe, I’ve made six extra large burritos out of everything which will keep me content throughout my lunchtimes this week.

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