{Cinco de Mayo} pork & cabbage taco recipe

pork cabbage taquitos

My friend Claudia is always the hit of any gathering.  She is from Guadalajara, Mexico, and she can cook.  She walks into the party, school function, etc with a bundle of these wrapped up in foil and a freshly cooked salsa then let the swarming begin.  You’d better get there early, because they disappear in seconds.  She tells me that these rolled tacos, or taquitos as they are referred to in local restaurants, are called “tacos” where she is from.  Far be it from me to question lest she not share.

When I was 14 years old, I went to Mexico with my Spanish class.  We visited Mexico City, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta.  I never saw anything that resembled a taco.  While, in Mexico City, I survived on Coca-cola, jugo de naranja and pan tostado (toast).  I had never been away from home before, let alone another country, unless you count Canada, which you shouldn’t.  I was ignorant and childish.  We ate in traditional, middle class restaurants with traditional foods.  It was so different from the casseroles and ground beef this and that I was accustomed to, I lost quite a bit of weight.  Unfortunately, today I eat almost anything.

After we had left the smelliest place on earth, that was my 14 year old impression of Mexico City, we went to Guadalajara where we were split up amongst local families to live.  I lucked out, really.  My family were the owners of an English school.  He was from England, she Spain.  They had three children, a beautiful house and it was a fun, but comforting.  We ate hotdogs, steak, potato chips, pancakes, milk blended with bananas and helados (ice cream)! Also they spoke English, which was good, since my Spanish was not.

Claudia usually uses rotisserie chicken, but I made them with pork carnitas and cabbage.  Back home, in Mexico, I am sure that goat is probably a popular version.  My version of this recipe is probably not traditional.  The addition of the cabbage and the sprouted corn tortillas make it so, I believe, but they are always a hit with kids and adults alike!

: pork and cabbage taco recipe

: Cinco de Mayo is calling and so are these crunchy tacos


  • 1 dozen sprouted corn tortillas, use your favorite but I love the sprouted corn variety :)
  • 1/2 pound cooked pork carnitas, shredded
  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced on the diagonal, optional
  • 12 toothpicks
  • peanut oil or other oil suitable for pan-frying


  1. Have all ingredients prepped and ready to go.
  2. In a large dry cast-iron pan, or over a burner, if you are daring, heat a tortilla just until hot and pliable. Lay on cutting board and lay in a portion of the shredded meat. You do not want too much. Top with a strip or two of cabbage, onion and jalapeno slices.
  3. Roll the tortilla up and secure with toothpick. Set aside under a damp kitchen towel.
  4. Repeat until all tortillas are used up. If you get into a groove, you can have one tortilla heating up while you are filling another. Be very careful that you do not catch them on fire if you are using the flame method. That could be disastrous.
  5. Pour oil into large pan so that it comes 1/2-inch up the sides of the pan and heat over medium-high, I use a 12-inch cast-iron pan (*see note).
  6. Once oil is hot, carefully, with tongs, lower a few tacos into the oil. If you have a splatter screen, this is the time to use it! Do not over crowd the pan, I find that 4-5 can cook in the same batch. Once the bottom is golden, turn, do this until it is crisp all the way around. The whole cooking time should be about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from the pan to drain on a paper grocery bag or paper towels.
  8. Once the tacos have cooled enough to touch, be sure to remove the toothpicks before serving to your guests, for obvious reasons.
  9. Serve with a big bowl of salsa, guacamole and an icy margarita. The sun god’s will be happy!
knowing if the oil is the right temperature can be tricky. If the oil is too hot your food burns but not hot enough is a bigger issue.  Greasy fried food comes from cooking in oil that is not hot enough.  You know when the oil is hot enough by dropping a cube of bread into the pan and little bubbles spring from it quickly and violently. It should be browned in one minute. If it happens sooner, your oil is too hot, if it takes longer then it is not hot enough yet.

Pork carnitas is usually slow-cooked (braised or roasted) pork shoulder, then crisped in a pan before serving.  What is not to love crispy pork bites? I used a recipe for pressure-cooker carnitas from Bilet and Myhrvold (of Modernist Cuisine fame) that was printed in the May 2011 issue of Food and Wine Magazine.

Don’t want to make your own carnitas? Use left-over rotisserie chicken, pot roast, etc. You can also buy cooked carnitas at your favorite local Mexican food joint. To make it vegetarian, I use black beans.

Number of servings (yield): 6

Culinary tradition: Mexican

Other recipes you might like for Cinco de Mayo: Shrimp with Mojo


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

nancy@skinnykitchen.com May 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm

These tacos look great and sound delicious!
BTW your photos are beautiful…


Kristen May 4, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Thank you Nancy, That is so kind of you. Happy Cinco de Mayo :)


Charles G Thompson May 4, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Great story, Kristen. Really enjoyed your tales of Mexico. You sound like any average American kid. These tacos/taquitos look great, sound even better. Happy Cinco de Mayo!


Kristen May 4, 2011 at 9:36 pm

So true, the average American kid! I’ve come a long way. Wishing you a fabulous Cinco de Mayo Charles.


Cindy May 4, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Mmmmmm…now get the chicken and cashew recipe…


Kristen May 4, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I’ll see what I can do! Please share what fun things you are doing for Cinco de Mayo, I am sure it will include Guacamole ;-)


Sophie May 5, 2011 at 6:39 am

Hello girl! How are you?

These filled taco’s look so tasty & well flavoured too! I hope all is well!
What is 5 de mayo??

Many sunny greets from Brussels! :)


Kristen May 5, 2011 at 9:48 am

Hey Sophie, here in the US the 5th of May is a day to celebrate Mexican culture (namely food & drink). In Mexico it is to celebrate their army’s surprising victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Have yourself a cerveza (bier) to join in the celebration!


kellypea May 5, 2011 at 10:25 am

My mouth’s watering, and the scrambled egg with green salsa I just finished pales in comparison. I remember the ladies who used to shop around their homemade tamales and meat & potato burritos at one of the places I used to work at. I’d call my husband and say, “I’ve got dinner!” Great food memories. I keep forgetting you used to live in San Diego.


tasteofbeirut May 6, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I am a big taco fan and these look and sound delicious and so original! Love the sprouted corn idea, wish I could taste it!


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