spicy pork tacos in tomato sauce (tinga)

The last time I wrote in this thing was a year and a half ago, and I had foolishly thought I’d be able to get through all of November writing a post a day. Like many a resolution, it failed after one day. But I’ve been thinking about food and cooking a lot lately, and decided to start updating this with more recipes, links, and other thoughts.

I’ll start with a recipe that I originally got from the excellent Cook’s Illustrated. Tinga is one of my favorite dishes to make on the weekend; it’s a delicious, inexpensive meal that’s great for entertaining, but it also gives you really good leftovers to use during the week. It can be easily doubled, and you can use leftover shredded pork in burritos, enchiladas, nachos, or even fried rice.

Since we're talking about shredded foods...

With tinga (as with many other slow-cooked foods), you use an inexpensive cut of meat and cook it for a long time to coax lots of flavor out of it. You can’t get the same results if you use pork loin. Here, we use pork shoulder, which is sometimes also labelled as Boston Butt or pork butt. Don’t be afraid to ask the butcher if you don’t see it, or if you only see bone-in or large packages. In my experience, even the surliest grocery store butcher will be happy to cut down packages and de-bone roasts for you. All in all, 2 pounds of pork shoulder should cost you less than $6.

I don’t have a picture to go with this, so here is the one from Cook’s Illustrated:

The crispy tostada (fried tortilla) is totally optional -- these are great served as tacos, too.

Spicy Pork Tacos in Tomato Sauce (Tinga)

serves 4-6


  • 2 lbs boneless pork butt (also known as pork shoulder or Bostonbutt), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 medium onions, 1 quartered and 1 chopped fine
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, 3 peeled and smashed and 2 minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
  • 114.5 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp ground chipotle powder, or 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped up fine
  • corn tortillas
  • garnishes (use any or all): salsa, guacamole or avocado, chopped red onion, sour cream, lime wedges, chopped cilantro, thinly sliced cabbage


Bring pork, quartered onion, smashed garlic, thyme, 1 tsp salt, and 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, skimming off any foam. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and cook until pork is tender, 75 – 90 minutes. Drain pork, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Discard onion, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. Remove pork to a bowl and let it cool, then shred with your fingers or two forks.
Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it is shimmering. Add shredded pork, chopped onion, and oregano; cook, stirring often, until pork is well browned and crisp, 7-10 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomato sauce, chipotle powder or chiles, reserved cooking liquid, and bay leaves, simmer until almost all liquid has evaporated, 5-7 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Heat the corn tortillas, either by microwaving for 10-15 seconds or by toasting in a hot skillet over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds per side. Serve tinga with corn tortillas and optional garnishes.


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