Friday, July 20, 2012

Recipe: Sopes de Carnitas

Sopes are one of the Mexican foods I'd never heard of before I went to México as an LDS missionary.[1] They are often served as antojitos (literally "little whims" but technically best translated as "appetizers") but I often had them as a meal by themselves. They are thick tortillas that are slightly cup-shaped. The cup is filled with toppings. I didn't want to make my own sope tortillas, so I just bought some pre-formed ones and fried them. So, instead, I made a popular topping: carnitas. Carnitas are the Mexican version of pulled pork. Besides in sopes, carnitas can be served with tacos, tortas, etc.


  • 3.5 lb. pork shoulder (also called Boston butt or picnic ham)
  • 2 oranges, juiced (save the juice) and the peel cut into quarters
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into eighths
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 c. beef broth
  • lard or vegetable oil [2]
  • pre-formed sope tortillas
Rub: [3]
  • 1½ t. salt
  • ½ t. cumin
  • ¼ t. oregano
  • 1½ t. chili powder
  • ½ t. pepper
  • ¼ t. coriander
  • ½ t. paprika
  • ⅛ t. cayenne
  • Limes, cut into eighths
  • Chopped onion
  • Minced cilantro
  • Chopped lettuce or cabbage
  • Crumbled cotija cheese 
  • Grated Oaxaca cheese
  • crema (Mexican table cream)
  • Red salsa
  • Green salsa
  • Chopped avocado
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Refried beans

Wash the pork shoulder, dry with paper towels, and air dry for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the salt, cumin, oregano, chili powder, black pepper, coriander, paprika, and cayenne.

Rub the spices into the meat on all sides except the skin side (it won't stick to the skin anyway).

Melt some lard or heat some vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat.[4] Pan sear the meat on all sides (except the skin side), about 2 minutes per side.

Place the pork shoulder in a slow cooker with the skin side up.[5] Place the onions, garlic, bay leaves, and orange peels in the slow cooker around the pork. Dump in the beef broth and orange juice.[6] Cook on High for four hours and then on Low for an additional four hours.

Remove the meat and allow it to cool for 20–30 minutes. Shred the meat. At this point you have two options: you can spread the shredded meat on a cookie sheet and broil until it starts to crisp (left) or you can throw it into lard melted at medium heat for ~ 2 minutes and then remove using a slotted spoon (right).

Fry the pre-formed sope tortillas in vegetable oil or lard for 30 to 60 seconds (left) and then place on a paper towel to drain. I also fried some regular corn tortillas and made some taquitos (right).

Besides the carnitas, a sope must have chopped onion and cilantro. You can also add any of the other garnishes you like: refried beans, chopped cabbage or chopped lettuce, chopped onions, minced cilantro, chopped tomato, crumbled cotija cheese or shredded Oaxaca cheese, crema (Mexican table cream), fresh red salsa or fresh green salsa [7], chopped avocados, and/or lime juice.


[1] For those who are unsure why Latter-day Saints (Mormons) go on missions, I recommend you visit here and here, where you can learn more about LDS beliefs concerning sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have more questions, ask and maybe I'll do a full post on the topic.

[2] For this to be an authentic dish, you would cook the pork for several hours in lard with the spices added. However, lard is more expensive than vegetable oil and a slow cooker requires less tending.

[3] I also added ⅛ t. cinnamon, but didn't like the outcome, so I recommend you leave it out.

[4] For this step I actually used some bacon fat we had saved in the fridge.

[5] There is a lot of fat under the skin that will melt during the slow cooking and trickle down through the rest of the meat, flavoring it.

[6] Some recipes also call for 1 c. of a cola drink, but I decided not to.

[7] This salsa should be almost a purée, not chunky.


  1. Looks interesting but I'm not sure I'm willing to put in the work to make it.

  2. Thanks for the recipe, and the quote at the top. I thought I recognized the background image. Never been on your site before. It came up in a carnitas sopes search.