Recipe: cochinita pibil tacos from La Carnita

Recipe: cochinita pibil tacos from La Carnita

Toronto Life Cookbook Recipe 2012: Cochinita Pibil Tacos

By Jonathan Hamilton and Andrew Richmond
La Carnita

PREP TIME: 1 hour
COOK TIME: 32 minutes
Serves 5 to 10


100 g achiote paste
10 garlic cloves, chopped
1½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
8 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp sea salt
4 lbs shoulder pork or Boston butt roast
5 dried guajillo chilies, opened, stems removed
2 white onions, cut ½ inch thick
5 Roma tomatoes, cut ½ inch thick
½ lb banana leaves or foil
2 homemade or store-bought roasted sweet peppers, cut into strips
1¼ cups guacamole or refried black beans
20 small corn tortillas


4 oranges, segmented
1 medium jicama, peeled and diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp salt

Remove each orange segment from its membrane and mix with other ingredients in a bowl. Let the salsa sit for at least 30 minutes. Drain before serving.


1 lb red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1 tsp each cracked black pepper, chopped cumin seeds and dried oregano leaves
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1½ tsp salt
1 beet, trimmed, peeled and cut into 8 wedges

Cover onions with water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Strain and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add onions. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Transfer mixture to a container. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 day. Onions will keep for up to 1 week. Drain before serving.

1. Mash achiote paste, garlic, herbs, spices and orange and lime juices with a fork in a medium bowl. Trim skin and debone pork, then cut into 3-inch pieces. Pour achiote marinade overtop pork in a large dish. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

2. Partially fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add guajillo chilies. Cover and let stand for 20 to 25 minutes until softened. Set a large, dry cast iron skillet over high heat. Add onion. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, turning occasionally until blackened. Remove and add tomatoes. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, turning occasionally, until charred. Set onions and tomatoes aside.

3. When pork has finished marinating, preheat oven to 300º F. If you’re using banana leaves, cut and trim so they can line and cover a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place leaves on a rack in preheated oven for about 1 minute until softened. Line the baking dish with a layer of banana leaves or foil and top with an even layer of pork pieces. Drain chilies and slice. Top pork with onions, tomatoes, chilies and peppers. Pour marinade overtop. Cover with more banana leaves and wrap the dish tightly in foil. Set baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips.

4. Roast pork for 2½ hours until tender and moist. Remove from the oven, let stand for 10 minutes and then unwrap. When pork is cool enough to handle, remove and place on a cutting board. Using two forks, shred pork into bite-size pieces. Move the pieces into a bowl along with tomatoes, onion and peppers. Stir in pan juices until pork and vegetables are moistened. Warm up the tortillas and heat the beans, if you’re using them. Place warm tortillas on a work surface and top each with guacamole or beans. Add a small amount of pork mixture overtop. Serve topped with orange salsa (see recipe), pickled red onions (see recipe), queso and fresh cilantro. Alternatively, serve all taco ingredients individually and let guests assemble their own wraps.

Toronto Life Cookbook Recipe 2012: Cochinita Pibil Tacos
Look for achiote paste—made from the seed of the annatto tree—at a Latin American grocer like La Perola (247 Aug­usta Ave., 416-593-9728).

Toronto Life Cookbook Recipe 2012: Cochinita Pibil TacosJONATHAN HAMILTON AND ANDREW RICHMOND

Andrew Richmond transitioned from a taco-loving graphic designer to chef-owner of La Carnita, ­Toronto’s hottest new taqueria, within the span of a year. An avid home cook with no restaurant experience, Richmond convinced his boss at the design firm One Method to open a pop-up art and taco shop in 2011. Spurred by frenzied foodie tweets and ­YouTube clips—Richmond researched new recipes and techniques through video tutorials—La Carnita now has a permanent home on College Street in a graffiti-scrawled, gangsta rap–blaring taco den. But the pioneering pop-up spirit remains: Richmond and co-chef Jonathan Hamilton crank up the kitchen stereo a couple of afternoons a week and experi­­ment with new flavours and ingredients. Naturally, they post the results on Twitter.

Recipes developed by Victoria Walsh. Recipe photography by Ryan Szulc. Portrait photography by Raina and Wilson. Illustrations by Aleksandar Janicijevic. Interviews by Denise Balkissoon, Ariel Brewster, Andrew D’Cruz, Jennifer Goldberg, Matthew Hague, Claire Hastings, Bronwen Jervis and Simone Olivero.