Smoked Carnitas Taquitos
Figuring out what to do with leftover pulled pork has become a standard fall activity for me. Each summer I smoke extra pork butts for the express purpose of freezing and continuing to get my barbecue fix throughout the fall and winter when I'm less likely to be cooking up larger cuts due to Meatwave dormancy. This past summer I did something a bit different though—instead of making my standard pulled pork recipe, I gave my smoked butts a carnitas-influenced seasoning to delicious results. Now, having a few bags of this sitting in my freezer, my brain has been wandering into Mexican and Tex-Mex inspired uses, which got me to these fantastic smoked carnitas taquitos.
Switching up from the usual pulled pork to smoked carnitas kind of reinvigorated my love for this smoked meat standard. So much so that, of the four bags I froze, I already ate two over the summer because I couldn't wait to have more of that earthy and smoky meat with hints of sweet citrus. So being down to just two bags, I wanted to make those leftovers count and began cataloging ideas for uses, with taquitos rising to the top.
Originally I was just going to defrost and roll the meat into tortillas, but then I paused for a second and thought, why not make them even better with some additions. The pork was so flavorful that I'm sure it would have stood on its own as a filler, but I decided to add in both pepper jack cheese for a bit a heat and creaminess, along with cilantro for freshness.
Once I had the cheese grated, cilantro chopped, and pork defrosted, I combined them all in a large bowl. I instantly realized that I had a ton of filling, and taquitos are usually minimally stuffed, so either I was in store for making a ton of these fried rolled tacos, or was going to be left with more leftover carnitas to continue to use...I was already thinking about enchiladas for the next day.
I like to buy these super soft corn tortillas, which come out of the bag already pretty pliable, so I started making my first couple taquitos without the normal warming step. While they rolled fine, the tortillas quickly began to fall apart, so before proceeding with the remainder, I did wrap my tortillas in foil and put them in a warm oven to heat throughly.
Then, working with just four or five tortillas at a time, keeping the remaining covered and warm, I started the assembly. Taquitos require only a little filling—overstuffing them would render them flautas instead—so I only put about a quarter cup of filling in each tortilla, arranging it in a line that was a little off center.
Next, I rolled each tortilla up, starting with the side closer to the filling and keeping the tortilla tight so it would be the right, thin taquito size in the end. I then secured the tortillas closed with a toothpick and dropped them in oil I had heated to 375°F.
I found the sooner the taquitos went into the oil after assembly, the more likely they would keep their ideal shape. I cooked them until they were golden brown all over, which took about four minutes per batch, flipping them occasionally for even cooking.
Once done, I transferred the taquitos to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain, seasoned them with salt, and then continued on with the next batch until they were all finished. I ended up cooking them all—my four cups of leftover pulled pork was the right amount to fill the 24 tortillas that came in the package.
You can top your taquitos however you desire, but I gave mine my favorite accompaniments—salsa verde, sour cream, onions, cilantro, and thinly sliced radishes. For me, that mixture of tart and creamy toppers was a great pairing with the flavors of the taquitos, which breathed new life into already delicious smoky meat that now had the bonus of some spicy cheese and crunchy, toasty tortillas. The texture of the filling was also something to note, with the edges of the taquito having crispy, caramelized meat while the center was tender and juicy, delivering the full carnitas experience. These were incredible and I was super happy with how they turned out, but they also now left me with a sole bag of pulled pork left, so now I have to figure how how to use it in a way that is as satisfying as these taquitos were.
Smoked Carnitas Taquitos
- Yield 6 to 8 servings
- Prep 20 Minutes
- Cook 5 Minutes
- Total 25 Minutes
- 4 cups smoked carnitas
- 8oz pepper jack cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 24 corn tortillas
- 2 to 3 cups canola oil
- 2/3 cup sour cream
- 1 cup tomatillo salsa
- 4 radishes, washed and thinly sliced
- Kosher salt, to taste
- In a large bowl, mix together carnitas, cheese, and cilantro. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and place in oven until warmed throughout and pliable, about 5 minutes. Remove tortillas from oven.
- Place oil in a large cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or wok and heat to 375°F. Remove 5 to 6 tortillas from foil, keeping remaining tortillas wrapped. Place roughly 1/4 cup of carnitas mixture in a line on each tortilla. Roll up each tortilla tightly and secure closed with a toothpick. Transfer rolled tortillas to oil and cook, flipping occasionally, until golden brown all over, about 3 to 5 minutes total. Transfer tortillas to a paper-towel lined baking sheet and season with salt to taste. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling, continuing to work in batches of 5 to 6 at a time.
- Remove toothpicks from taquitos and place 3 to 4 on each plate. Spoon on tomatillo salsa and a dollop of sour cream. Garnish with radish slices and serve immediately.