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Coke-Braised Pork Carnitas Recipe

Coke-Braised Pork Carnitas Recipe


  • 4 pounds pork butt or pork shoulder (preferably Berkshire pork), trimmed, cut into 3x3-inch chunks
  • 10 1/4 cups peanut oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups cola-flavored soda, divided

Recipe Preparation

  • Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Heat 1/4 cup peanut oil in heavy 8-quart pot over high heat. Working in batches, add pork to pot and sauté until browned on all sides, about 7 minutes per batch. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to large bowl.

  • Pour remaining 10 cups peanut oil into same pot. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of pot; heat over medium heat until thermometer registers 280°F. Add pork to oil in pot (temperature of oil will drop to between 180°F and 200°F). Cook pork over medium heat until brown and tender, adjusting heat as necessary to maintain temperature of oil between 200°F and 220°F, about 1 1/2 hours. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to another large pot. Add orange juice and 2 cups cola to pork and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer until pork is very tender, about 35 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup cola and stir over medium heat until meat falls apart and liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes longer. Season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Recipe by Edward Mendoza of Kitchen 1924 in Dallas TX,Photos by Nils Juul HansenReviews Section

Coke-braised pork tacos (Tacos de carnitas in Coca-Cola) from Casa Marcela: Recipes and Food Stories of My Life in the Californias (page 15) by Marcela Valladolid

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  • bay leaves
  • garlic powder
  • tarragon
  • thyme
  • pork shoulder
  • corn tortillas
  • Coca-Cola

Always check the publication for a full list of ingredients. An Eat Your Books index lists the main ingredients and does not include 'store-cupboard ingredients' (salt, pepper, oil, flour, etc.) - unless called for in significant quantity.

How to Cook With Soda

The first time I stopped into Jestine’s in Charleston—a homestyle family restaurant famous for fried whiting and a line that winds around the block, I was told dessert is mandatory.

After a spread of dense chicken and limas and buttery biscuits, a Coca Cola cake sounded joltingly weird enough to get me back on my feet—or maybe just push me over the edge in full-on food coma. Long a fixture in vintage cookbooks, sodas like cola and root beer have found a variety of uses in cooking. It's also not completely outlandish to see cakes made with orange or lemon-lime soda—get experimental with the sodas you try.

Root beer's flavor ranges from anise to sassafras, and it makes a great addition to savory cooking (especially barbecue). Cola packs in a similarly tough-to-describe flavor, with traces of vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus.

If you're avoiding high fructose corn syrup, there are plenty of alternative artisanal sodas that use cane sugar instead. It's the carbonation and flavoring you want from sodas like root beer or cola—the syrupy body isn't necessary.

Soda belongs in your cooking, folks, and we’ve got some ideas on how to make it really pop.

Cola's high acidity and caramel flavor makes a surprisingly good meat tenderizer. Cola typically has a pH of about 2.7—for comparison, lemon juice has a pH of 2—making it acidic enough to break down some proteins without dissolving your meat. Soda acts as great tenderizer—you could get a tender cut of meat grill-ready in less than a half-hour. Cola-tenderizing for 24 hours yields a meat dish that practically melts, like this Atlanta brisket.

Atlanta Brisket

Try braising with cola, like you would with wine. Some carnitas would be excellent with the tang of cola and orange juice, and with only a 40-minute marinade, you could even pull it off on a weeknight.

Coke-Braised Pork Carnitas

Make a barbecue-friendly glaze with cherry soda, (a good use for leftover liter bottles from a party). Reduce the liquid by three-quarters, then add cherry jam, vinegar, soy sauce, and mustard. Cook that down for about another hour, and you have a rich, fruit-forward sauce for barbecue ribs. You can use a similar approach to make a cola sauce with cooked onions and jarred chili sauce.

Boost your next batch of baked beans and add root beer with cider vinegar, tomato paste, and chili powder before baking the beans.

Root Beer Baked Beans

In the same way that it tenderizes brisket or pork ribs, soda contributes a little tenderness to a chocolate cake’s batter. A Coca Cola sheet cake like the one I had at Jestine's doesn’t even need sugar in the batter. If you want to take it the traditional route, fluff it up with marshmallows in the batter and a crunchy crumble of pecans on top.

How does this work? The carbonation of the soda releases bubbles that get trapped in the batter, working just like a baking soda without the metallic taste. You'll still need a little baking soda in a cola cake, but soda works as a extra push of leavening, with a tart taste.

Chocolate Cherry Cola Cake

There’s no question of whether root beer works in creamy applications for dessert—hello root beer floats—but it also bubbles up dramatically with baking soda for a tender cake.

If you really want to take soda love to a sweet place, bring root beer to a boil with milk to make a pudding that replicates a root beer float.

Bored and Hungry: Recipe trial and error

I haven’t been very good about trying new recipes lately, so I decided to try a recipe delivery service. Plated delivered our first two meals two weeks ago, and another two today. I really love it – no shopping, no coming up with ideas about new things to cook, and great, fresh, home-cooked food. They deliver a box with all the ingredients except for salt, pepper and oil, with a recipe card that walks you step by step through the process. And within a half hour, you have protein, starch, and veggies ready to serve. I’m pretty much in love with the whole process.

I’m not going to be doing that EVERY day, though, so I’m still trying to come up with new, healthy things to try here and there. Last night was this Stir Fried Pork and Mixed Veggies. And it was a success – at least for the grown-ups in the house. C wasn’t a huge fan the pork was pretty spicy, and I served it over brown rice which he doesn’t love. But it came together quickly, which makes it great for a weeknight, and the sauce was very flavorful. I’ll definitely make it again.

A few weeks ago, I made these coke braised carnitas. YUM I loved these – they were sweet and tangy and made delicious tacos, but the meat was also good on its own, with a salad or vegetables on the side. It’s definitely not a quick recipe, and certainly not low calorie, but it was oh so tasty.

Hopefully I will find more good ones to share soon, but in the meantime, I will be enjoying my no-shopping, no thought required Plated meals!

Bored and Hungry: Recipe trial and error

I decided to try a couple of new recipes for the 4th, since I had Friday off and had time to shop. A new Wegmans just opened not too far from us, and I learned my lesson about shopping at a new grocery store the day before a holiday! But I got everything we needed for a good meal yesterday! I decided to make Coke-braised carnitas, which I’d tried once before and enjoyed, as well as this watermelon pico de gallo, everybody’s favorite guacamole, black beans, and strawberry cheesecake ice cream pie. In the sake of time, I cheated a little bit on the pie by buying a pre-made graham cracker crust – but the rest was from scratch.

The overall verdict on the meal was good – however, the watermelon pico was a little sweeter than we would generally like (especially with the sweetness of the coke-braised meat) so it was better as a side salad than on top of the tacos. Next time will add a little more sriracha so it’s a bit spicier, but I love the sweet/spicy flavor of the meat, especially with some queso fresco and a corn tortilla heated on the stove. We saved the pie for after fireworks, and it was delicious right out of the freezer with the warm strawberry topping. I’m going to enjoy the leftovers – until the pre-vacation diet begins on Thursday!

when deciding what’s for dinner, usually it comes down to one thing. how many of the ingredients do i have on hand? with only 5 ingredients for these carnitas, i was almost there and sans pork shoulder. a quick trip to the west side market and 7 bucks later – i was set. while it does take a few hours in the oven to braise, there is virtually no prep or hands on work, more time to watch all of the amazing (slash terrible) bachelor girls squirm.

coke braised carnitas (serves 3-4)

  • 2 pound pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3-4 cups Coke
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • zest of 1/2 lime (optional)
  • toppings: shredded red cabbage, onion, feta cheese, avocado, cilantro, lime wedges – go wild.

preheat oven to 325. put your olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat and brown pork shoulder on all side, should take around 8 minutes. add remaining ingredients (coke, soy sauce, hot sauce, optional lime zest) and bring to a boil. use enough coke so it is halfway up the pork. cover with the lid slightly askew and put into oven for 3-3.5 hours turning every 30-45 minutes. once the meat is falling apart, transfer pork to a large bowl and shred with two forks. if you’d like your meat a little saucier, add some of the liquid – not too much, its sweet! i didn’t find it necessary to add any.

to assemble tacos: heat tortillas directly on burners for about 15-20 seconds or until charred to your liking. garnish with whatever toppings make you smile and serve.

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Recipe Summary

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 16 (4-ounce) pieces small, thick, bone-in beef short ribs (about 4 pounds total)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 1 bottle (750 mL) dry red wine, such as Merlot
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, in puree

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place flour in a medium bowl season with salt and pepper. Toss ribs in flour mixture until well coated shake off excess.

In a 5- to 8-quart Dutch oven or heavy ovenproof pot, heat oil over medium-high. Cook ribs in two batches, turning until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch transfer to a plate.

Add carrots and onions to pot. Cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits, until vegetables are lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add wine, broth, thyme, and tomatoes (breaking them up). Arrange ribs in pot bring liquid to a boil. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook 1 hour. Reduce heat to 350 degrees cook until fork-tender (but not falling apart), about 1 hour more.

Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer ribs to a plate. Moisten with cooking liquid cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Strain remaining liquid through a fine-mesh sieve (discard solids) return to pot. Bring to a boil cook until sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to about 2 cups, 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve ribs with sauce. (Or return to pot, let cool slightly, cover, and refrigerator up to 1 day.)

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