Main dish Tex-Mex

Coca-Cola braised carnitas

Coca-Cola braised carnitas | Homesick Texan

A few years ago, a Texas reader asked me for a carnitas recipe. I shared mine and she said that while they looked good, she was looking for one that used Coca-Cola and milk instead. She explained that she’d had them that way at a local restaurant and they were outstanding. With good intentions, I told her I’d look into it. But I became busy with other projects and sadly forgot about helping her find a recipe as well as the place where she had eaten them.

As is my tradition, each year I like to honor the teams that are playing in the Super Bowl with a timely and fun dish. Since the game is in Houston this year, I figured if I didn’t like either of the teams playing, I would celebrate my hometown. Then the Atlanta Falcons secured a slot in the game. Ordinarily, I’m not a Falcons fan but they did beat Green Bay, a team I was annoyed with since they narrowly edged out the Cowboys. Plus, the Falcons are from the South and I also have a few friends who live there, so deciding to cheer for them was an easy decision.

Coca-Cola braised carnitas | Homesick Texan

Now, when I think of Atlanta cuisine, two things immediately come to mind—peaches and Coca-Cola. While peaches are best served in the summer when they’re in season, there are lots of fun things you can do with Coca-Cola any time of year. And while I was pondering recipes, I remembered that carnitas request from long ago. A quick search lead me to a book called Houston Classic Mexican Recipes, which included a Coca-Cola carnitas attributed to Santos—The Taste of Mexico, which is no longer open. While I had no idea if it was the same restaurant that woman had hers, I figured it would be a good starting point in coming up with my own.

The book’s recipe called for Coke, of course. It didn’t specify Mexican Coke, but using this cane sugar version of the drink seemed like a good idea. I kept the cinnamon and milk, but swapped fresh garlic for powder and ground allspice for clove. To brighten it up, I also splashed in freshly squeezed orange juice and lime juice, and threw in some chipotle chile powder for heat and smoke.

When it came to cooking the carnitas, the book had you stirring and adding ingredients throughout the process, but I prefer my tried-and-true method, which requires little interaction. So, I threw everything into the pot at the beginning, placed it at a low simmer, and then walked away for a couple of hours. After the meat was tender, I turned up the heat to reduce the liquid, and after a few stirs, I had crisp, succulent bites of pork.

If you’re a fan of my other carnitas recipe, you may be wondering how these are different. Well, there is a more pronounced sweetness, from the Coca-Cola but also from the addition of warm spices such as cinnamon and allspice. Though that sweetness paired with the smokiness of the chipotle gives these carnitas a slight hint of bacon, which is never a bad thing at all.

Coca-Cola braised carnitas | Homesick Texan

These are a rich dish, which makes them perfect for winter. They’re also versatile, as you can throw them on top of nachos, spoon them into queso, or nestle them into tortillas along with guacamole and sour cream for excellent tacos. No matter how you enjoy them, however, everyone wins.

Coca-Cola braised carnitas | Homesick Texan
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Coca-Cola braised carnitas

Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup Mexican Coca-Cola
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Water
  • Warm tortillas, for serving
  • Guacamole, for serving
  • Sour cream, for serving

Instructions

  1. Place the pork in a Dutch oven, then season with the salt and pepper. Pour in the Mexican Coca-Cola, orange juice, milk, and lime juice then stir in the chipotle chile powder, cinnamon, allspice, garlic and bay leaf. Add enough water to the pot to just reach the top of the pork, then turn the heat up to high and bring the pot to a boil.


  2. Once the pot is at a boil, turn the heat down to low and then simmer uncovered without stirring for about two hours or until the pork is tender. At this time, turn the heat up to medium and then while occasionally stirring, cook until most of the liquid has reduced, most of the fat has rendered, and the pork has browned, about 30-45 minutes.


  3. Remove from the pot and serve warm with tortillas, guacamole, and sour cream.


  1. I just made your other carnitas recipe for the first time and loved them!

  2. Ellen–I'm so glad you liked them! These are also good, but a bit different as they're more sweet.

  3. Are we talking about pork shoulder all as one clod, or is it cubed to some size or another?

  4. I am going to make this low and slow in my crockpot for 12-16 hours. Thanks!

  5. Sounds wonderful and easy! Is the pork shoulder cooked whole or cut into pieces? In the photo, it looks like stew hunks.

  6. Anonymous

    Reading from the UK, what is Mexican Coca Cola?

  7. F. Samuel Marchbanks–It's cut into 1-inch pieces.

  8. Arlene–I've never cooked it in my slow cooker–please let us know how it turns out for you!

  9. Joyce–It's cut into 1-inch pieces

  10. Anon–Mexican Coca-Cola is Coke produced in Mexico that is made with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, as it's done in the US. If you don't have access to Mexican, any Coke would do.

  11. I'll do these Sous Vide at 140 for about 8 hours. Toss them into a waterbath on the way to work, they'll be done when i get home. If I vacuum pack it and toss the whole bag in, it's sterile and can sit in the fridge for a week.

  12. Senojjones–Sounds like a plan!

  13. Can't wait to try this classic treasure! Thanks!!

  14. I absolutely love your carnitas recipe! I make it often and it's requested more than that. I will definitely give this a try! Thanks!

  15. I made this for the super bowl – best carnitas I've ever had. As a homesick Texan myself, I can't thank you enough for this absolutely delicious recipe. Just make sure you do cook out almost all the liquid – amazing gravy! Love love love!

  16. Darren–So pleased you enjoyed them!

  17. Anonymous

    Just wondering…does the addition of the citrus juices to the milk cause curdling?

  18. These were amazing!! Even though my cable and internet was out for the whole event forcing us to miss all of the Super Bowl, my guests were happy with the delicious food and good company. Thanks for the recipe!! 🙂

  19. Carolyn–That's a bummer your cable was out for the game but I'm so glad y'all enjoyed the carnitas!

  20. I didn't think I'd ever deviate from my favorite carnitas recipe, but tried this last night and it was fabulous! My husband couldn't stop raving about it!

  21. Has anyone tried this in a slow cooker? Any suggestions for cooking time?

  22. Glory! I saved this recipe back when you posted it, and just now got around to making it. They are delicious!

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