Red Chile Braised Pork Tacos

© 2012

This dish is the net out of a beautifully chile braised pork shoulder and poor memory. The flavors are big and bold, just like you would expect and the aromatics while it was braising wafted throughout the house. It’s a wonderful fall meal.

I probably should thank the Baby Lady for the inspiration for this dish, if I remembered it was her idea. 😮 You see, we had a 2.5 lb pork roast I had thawed out and Quickstep was coming over for dinner. She had recommended I do what her mother did and make a red chile paste and braise it. Being off in my own little world, I dismissed it without another thought and quickly forgot about it. We had been on one of our chile streaks of late and I needed a change of pace. I was thinking of something more traditionally “Fall like” and with our fresh little pomegranates, to boot. Yep, that was the ticket. Then I got to looking at various recipes searching for ideas and something that would truly be inspirational. As I was pondering reality and the Higgs-Boson I stumbled upon a recipe that for some reason struck my fancy, Chile Braised Pork Tacos. I don’t know why it is that Southwestern/Mexican cuisine always catches my attention but it does. I’m helpless about it. I see it, I like it and want to cook it. Also, I had recently purchased some beautiful ancho chiles at the market, Quickstep was coming over for dinner and he loves Mexican food, particularly tacos. Of course, Quickstep likes food period, any food, but he does particularly like Mexican food. So with this in mind, I set upon the appointed task of making my version of chile braised pork tacos with a variety of different red chiles because of the greater depth of flavor and character you get from multiple chiles. Of course, when Baby Lady realized what I was doing, she asked “So you decided to take my advice after all and do what my mom used to do – make a paste out of red chiles and roast the pork?” And my obvious and oblivious response was “no, I’m braising the pork in a red chile paste.” This then started the discussion of whose idea it was to make a red chile paste for the pork roast and how to cook it, along with another discussion of how my memory is slipping. Hmmmm…Regardless of whose idea this was and whether my memory is slipping, this is a wonderful preparation. Next time you’re in the mood for a taco, give this a try.


  • 4 large ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and toasted
  • 2 large pasilla negro chiles, stemmed, seeded and toasted
  • 3 cascabels, stemmed, seeded and toasted
  • 2 guajillo chile, stemmed, seeded and toasted
  • 3 chipotle chiles, stemmed, seeded and toasted
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 boneless pork shoulder, roughly 2.5 lbs
  • 2 Tbsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp lard
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 20  6″ corn tortillas
  • radishes, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • lettuce, chiffonade
  • tomatoes, seeded and diced


Stem, seed and lightly toast chiles. Place chiles in a medium bowl. Add enough boiling water to cover, and set a small plate or bowl on chiles to keep submerged.

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Let soak until softened, about 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the liquid.

Place chiles in a blender.

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Add honey, lime juice, and 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid.

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Purée chile mixture to form a smooth paste. Add more liquid as needed.

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Season pork shoulder generously with salt, roughly 2 Tbsp will do the trick.

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Generously spread the chile paste all over the pork shoulder.

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Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat. Melt lard and add onion, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, coriander, cumin, and allspice.

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Sweat onions until soft, roughly 8 minutes. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil and add pork shoulder.

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Cover and transfer to 350 F preheated oven.

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Braise pork for roughly 2-1/2 hours, until very tender, basting occasionally with pan juices.

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When done, transfer pork to a large plate and shred with 2 forks. Return shredded meat to pot and mix with remaining juices. Pour into a serving vessel.

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Meanwhile, heat tortillas  and wrap to keep warm. Chiffonade lettuce, seed and dice tomatoes, slice radishes, serve & enjoy!

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NOTE: You will have approximately 1 to 1-1/2 cups of paste remaining. Do not throw this out as it makes a wonderful red sauce for enchiladas but that is a recipe for a future post. 🙂

28 thoughts on “Red Chile Braised Pork Tacos”

    1. Please, do. Keep the remaining paste because I’m going to do a red sauce with it for a cheese enchilada dish. As a sneak peak and to make it easier so you don’t lose any of the paste, when you have smeared enough chile paste onto your pork (you will use about half), add 2-1/2 to 3 cups of chicken broth (preferably homemade) to the blender. Add 4 cloves garlic, peeled, 1/3 of an onion (preferably white Spanish); 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander and 1 Tbsp salt. It will have an edge to it from the lime juice. If you want to take the edge off, add a piece of bread to it and blend it for 1 minute. The bread will cook out and cause it to thicken so you may need additional water. This will give you a very nice red sauce. The rest will come later. 🙂

        1. A crock pot sounds like a great idea for this, especially since I burned my sauce right around the 2 hour mark (used a cast iron dutch oven). 😦 I couldn’t get the right peppers, and I got fresh ones (poblano, jalapeno, a small round orange one and chipotles in adobo sauce. Not sure if you used fresh or dried!) I broiled ’em, threw ’em the blender and forgot that you soaked yours in water! I got a bone-in pork shoulder and the end result tasted pretty good, though I would have loved to follow your recipe to the letter. I did save some of the sauce and hope it will work in your forthcoming enchilada recipe. 🙂

        1. You get an entirely different flavor and texture from fresh chiles. A fresh poblano has some fruity flavors, yet still a green taste, with moderate heat. Being fresh, it also has more water and a outer skin like cellophane. The orange chile, if it looks like lantern, was either a scotch bonnet or an habanero. 😮 Spicy, spicy, spicy! Because these were fresh chiles, you will have an almost impossible time to produce a chile paste, which explains why it burned at the 2 hour mark. Nevertheless, I am sure it had wonderful flavor. Ancho chiles, being ripened, dried poblanos, amplify the fruitiness and provide some undertones, like dark red fruits, prunes, and even hints of chocolate. The guajillo chile is thinner skinned chile and is a dried Mirasol Chile with green tea flavor and berry overtones. The cascabel is a small round chile that is called cascabel because it means rattle in Spanish. It looks and sounds like a baby rattle. Cascabels have a rustic, nutty flavor. Because these chiles are dried, you have to soak them to rehydrate them and make them tender. Once rehydrated and tender, you put them in a blender and puree them. Depending upon your blender, you may have to strain them to remove the tough, cellophane like skin. In this application you rehydrate them and make a paste which is then applied to the pork. Although this paste is harder to burn than fresh chiles, they can still burn. Covered and braised, however, it is difficult to get this to burn. If you cannot find these chiles in NY state, you may need to buy them online. We keep them in large plastic containers. If you keep them otherwise, they are known to attract insects of all kinds! 😮 While I love ristas (strung dried chiles) and they look beautiful, we will not have them in the house because they are such an insect magnet.

        2. I think I would have to special order them unless I can find a specialty food store. The orange one was a habanero, I used only 1 and left out 1 jalapeno. I had a tiny, tiny cut on the web between my thumb and index, and it burned for HOURS! Couldn’t even see the cut but boy, did I feel it! Well, it was a good experience to try another new dish, always looking forward to your recipes! 🙂

        3. Our youngest son lives in Portland, Me. He is able to find Ancho and chipotle chiles there but not the guajillo. Find out where the hispanic folks shop and I bet you will find the ancho chiles.

  1. Although I love ’em, I’m not one for making tacos that frequently. They’re just not a one-man dinner and usually result in plenty of the fixin’s left over. I could, however, definitely see myself cooking this roast for pulled pork sandwiches. Add some slaw and I’d be in heaven. 🙂

  2. I find that the quality of chili used is central to getting good flavor. Accept no imitations, New Mexico Chile Rules! If you want to try some of the best, which actually comes from a small valley in New Mexico, get some Capsicum Annum Chimayo.

    1. Thanks for dropping by and your comment. I agree with you that quality chile is critical to a recipe like this. I also love New Mexico chiles; however, there are so many different varieties of chiles, many of which are not grown in New Mexico. I used the blend of chiles selected in this recipe because each one had unique flavor characteristics that complimented each other very nicely. There are other chiles you could use but these brought to the table the characteristics that I wanted. Thanks, again.

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