Smoked Pork Belly Carnitas Tacos Recipe

The San Diego Padres's front office called last week and were like, "Hey Food Republic, it's almost Cinco De Mayo. Want to know how we make our pork belly carnitas tacos?" And having been to San Diego, where basically all tacos are better, we were like, "Yeah." So, here goes...

William Todd, executive chef for Delaware North Companies Sportservice at the Padres' PETCO Park, says of his smoked pork belly carnitas taco (and ballpark fare in general):

"We really try to emphasize the taste of San Diego, not only in terms of flavor, but also by using locally sourced product. The smoked pork belly carnitas taco is one of my favorite examples of a dish we serve at PETCO Park that truly celebrates Southern California's fare. In fact, the notion of locally inspired food is something that Delaware North Companies Sportservice brings to each of its 10 MLB ballparks. But for me personally, it's all about the Padres and making sure my favorite ballpark has the best in class for its fans."

Smoked Pork Belly Carnitas Tacos Recipe
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Prep Time
Cook Time
to 8
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 pounds pork belly
  • 1 cup cantaloupe
  • 1 cup honeydew
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces orange juice
  • 1/2 ounce agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1/2 head green cabbage
  • 1/2 head purple cabbage
  • 2 pounds roma tomatoes
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons dry oregano
  • 1/2 pound cotija cheese
  • 1 16-ounce container sour cream
  • 24 corn tortillas
  1. Combine a mixture of half the amount of salt and all of the brown sugar.
  2. Rub mixture generously on pork belly and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Rinse off with cold water.
  4. Place in smoker at 280 degrees for six hours, basting every hour with tequila glaze.
  5. Remove, cool and dice.
  6. Heat a medium sauce pot over medium heat, add the melons and cook, stirring frequently for 1-2 minutes. 
  7. Pour in tequila and burn off alcohol.
  8. Add orange juice, reduce by half and allow to cool completely.
  9. Add agave nectar and transfer mixture to a blender. Blend until smooth, then season with salt and pepper.
  10. Combine salt and granulated sugar with bay leaf in a stock pot; add enough hot water to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  11. Cool mixture down with ice or cold water.
  12. Cover pork shoulders with mixture and refrigerate overnight.
  13. Take pork shoulders out of brine and pat dry.
  14. Put pork into roasting pan coated with oil and slow roast pork at 250 degrees for approximately four hours or until very tender. It depends on size of pork shoulder; to speed up the process, cut shoulder into smaller pieces.
  15. Remove from oven, cool and pull apart with hands.
  16. Combined sliced cabbage with diced tomato.
  17. Season with lime juice, salt, pepper and dry oregano.
  18. Mix cotija cheese and sour cream.
  19. Heat tortilla on flat griddle.
  20. Add pulled pork shoulder (carnitas) and diced pork belly.
  21. Top with Mexican slaw and cotija cream.
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