Welcome to Cookbook Week on Macheesmo! I’ll be posting recipes from five cookbooks this week and giving away copies! All winners will be announced next Friday (11/14).

Carnitas, crisp little fried bits of pork, are probably at the top of my list when it comes to traditional taco toppings. I assume I’m not alone here.

One problem though: Real pork carnitas takes a full work day to really do correctly. I make them occasionally (Grilled pork carnitas) and they are a delicious and fun food project. Not something you make on a whim though.

This recipe for Pork Tinga is from this other category of Mexican fillings called tinga. It’s an all encompassing word that basically means shredded meat. Generally though tinga is used for fillings (empanadas, etc.) because while it’s very flavorful, it doesn’t have a lot of texture to it.

This genius recipe though, from the new Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book, fixes the issue by using Pork Tinga (which takes about two hours instead of 10) and then crisps it up in a skillet.

Those Cook’s Illustrated people are smart. We knew this.

Pork Tinga Tostadas

3.07 from 61 votes
Author: Nick Evans
Servings: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Pork Tinga simmered and crisped and served on tostadas with great toppings, packed with Tex-Mex flavor. From the Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book.


  • 2-3 pounds pork butt, cubed
  • 2 onions, 1 quartered and 1 chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • Dried arbol peppers, opt.
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
  • 2 bay leaves


  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 12 corn tortillas


  • Queso fresco
  • Avocado
  • Hot sauce
  • Cilantro
  • Lime wedges


  • For tinga:
  • Cube pork and add to a large pot with quartered onion, smashed garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, dried peppers, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 6-7 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until pork is tender, 75-90 minutes. Skim off any fat as it cooks.
  • Drain pork, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Discard the add-ins. Shred pork into shreds using fingers or fork.
  • When ready to serve, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shredded pork, diced onion, and dried oregano. Cook until pork is crispy and well-browned, 7-10 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
  • Add tomato sauce, chile powder, bay leaves, and 1 cup of reserved cooking liquid. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 6 minutes. Remove bay leaves and season with salt to taste.
  • For tostadas, heat a good drizzle of vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Poke a few holes in a corn tortilla with a fork and add to skillet. Use something like a potato masher to hold tortilla and keep it submerged in oil. Fry until it’s lightly browned and crispy, 45-60 seconds. Drain on a paper towel.
  • You can fry the tostadas and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to eat. They are fine at room temp also.
  • Top fried tostadas with pork tinga and toppings!


Serving: 2Tostadas | Calories: 538kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 91mg | Sodium: 146mg | Potassium: 706mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 435IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 86mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Tex-Mex

Did you make this recipe?

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Pork Tinga

Cooking The Pork

When you make carnitas, it usually involves roasting a whole pork butt slowly for hours and hours which creates a delicious crispy crust on the pork.

This method skips all of that. Instead, it focuses on cooking the pork relatively quickly and infusing it with lots of flavor.

You start by just cubing up about three pounds of pork butt. I recommend cutting off any large pieces of fat.

Cubing pork for Pork Tinga
No need to measure here.

Add these a pot with a quartered onion, some smashed garlic cloves, a few thyme sprigs, and some dried chiles. The dried chiles weren’t in the original recipe, but I figured they couldn’t hurt and I always suck at following recipes perfectly.

Hard for me to follow a recipe...
Hard for me to follow a recipe…

Bring this all to a simmer and simmer it over medium-low heat for about 90 minutes until the pork is really tender.

You know there’s a lot of flavor in a pot like this.

Nice simmer - Pork Tinga
Nice simmer.

Strain the liquid and save it. That stuff is seriously gold. You’ll want to use some of it later in this Pork Tinga recipe (about a cup) but you can freeze the rest and basically have a delicious pork stock for soups or any tex-mex base.

Then shred that pork into good-sized shreds.

Shredded Pork Tinga.
Super shredded.

Finishing the Pork Tinga

The genius part of this recipe is that you don’t just serve the pork like this. Instead, shred it all and add it back to a skillet with some oil over medium-high heat. Add in some diced onion as well and the pork will crisp up in the hot oil.

Then add the tomato sauce and about a cup of reserved cooking liquid. Season the mix with some dried oregano, chipotle chile powder, and salt to taste.

Once most of the liquid has evaporated you’re ready to go.

Crisping pork tinga.
Crisped up in a pan!

Tostada Time

I make tostadas like this a lot. Just add some oil to a skillet and then add in a small corn tortilla. Poke it with a fork a few times to let out the steam and cook it until it’s crispy. It should only take a minute or two to make one.

Then let it drain on a paper towel and keep pumping them out until you have enough to serve.

Tostadas for Pork Tinga
Love making these.

Pile some Pork Tinga on the tostada with all the necessary toppings: queso fresco? Avocado? Cilantro? Hot sauce? Lettuce? Limes? All of the above?

Two or three of these bad boys makes a really delicious meal. It’s also the perfect game day dish.

Tinga is a thinga!

Traditional Pork Tinga simmered with spices and served shredded on tostadas with lots of classic toppings. From the Cook's Illustrated Meat book via Macheesmo.