Hands down one of our favorite family recipes, this Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef has it all. Flavor, as much or as little heat as you want, and a lot of versatility. Make Tacos, Flautas, Tostadas, or Burritos, just to get started. Best of all, Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef is super easy; braise it in the oven or use the slow cooker.
I mentioned this is a family favorite. I’ve been making it for literally decades for the fam and have taken it to potlucks or food days at work. Check out this recipe card. It’s a good thing I pretty much have it memorized, lol! There are five little stars in the upper left corner. That’s how I rate what recipes everyone loves that I know I’ll make a lot. I explain a little bit more about how I use my rating system in Menu Planning 101.
About Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef:
But back to the Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef. You can make this recipe with chuck, brisket or pork shoulder and it’s just as good whether it is made with beef or pork. And this recipe really is jumping with flavor. You’ll notice right away that this has five different kinds of peppers in it! Don’t let that scare you away, this isn’t overly hot, just flavorful. Know that you can adjust heat upfront by reducing (or increasing) the amount of each kind of pepper, but peppers are flavor. For the deepest range of flavor, it would be better to use less of each than to omit any single pepper.
But once the beef or pork shoulder has been browned and all the ingredients dumped over it, and it’s been braised in the oven or the slow cooker, a dark almost jammy sauce is formed. You’re going to find the beef or pork is beautifully flavored with subtle nuance, but the heat lies in that sauce.
So you can adjust the final heat of your Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef by adding a little or lot of that jammy sauce to your shredded protein and pass the rest. The rest of that sauce makes a kind of salsa to top of your finished product, whether it’s tacos, burritos, tostadas or whatever strikes your fancy. (Did I just say that? How OLD am I, lol…strikes your fancy…indeed.) Any toppings you want to use with your Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef are a variable. Whatever you want. Cheese, sour cream, tomato, lettuce, etc., but IMHO, lime is a must-have condiment…it brightens the whole dish.
Making Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef:
This recipe follows a pretty standard format. Brown the protein, remove, add the onions, then the garlic, then toast the spices in the onion mixture before dumping everything else, along with the browned meat, back in. Then toss it in the oven to slowly braise or transfer to the slow cooker. Easy peasy.
I love making this in the oven and getting those roasted darkened bits that mix in with the tender, shredded meat, but you can’t beat the slow cooker for a hands-off meal. If you do use the slow cooker, you’ll find that the sauce is thinner. You can transfer it to a pot to simmer and cook down a bit if you want that gorgeous jammy salsa you see in the photo. And if you’re going to take this somewhere, it’s best to finish the dish and then transfer it to the slow cooker to keep warm at your function.
When your Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef is finished cooking, allow a little extra time to rest & shred the meat and defat the sauce. The sauce can all be defatted by spooning off any excess fat or scraped up and put in the freezer so the fat hardens right on top and is easily removed. Then mix the sauce in with the shredded meat and/or pass the sauce as a condiment.
Saving Money on Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef:
I don’t know about you guys, but when I make a dish like this that revolves around a lot of meat, I try to do a couple of things to stretch it and make it more frugal and lighten it up a bit. Mostly because my family tends to just pig out on anything like this!
- When your Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef is finished and before it’s served, since this is such a large roast, portion & freeze some. People will eat less if they see a smaller dish of something.
- Serve with sides and use smaller corn tortillas. Tostadas are ideal; they don’t hold as much, take longer to eat than a big old burrito (not that this isn’t fantastic in a big ol’ honkin’ burrito – see below) and that gives your body enough time to signal fullness.
- I think about the “heaviness” of the dish and rather than serving up other sides (refried beans, rice, chips, and guacamole) that have a ton of calories, I go heavy on the vegetables and find lighter sides, like this Avocado, Orange and Red Onion Salad.
- Consider lighter cheese options – and by this, I don’t mean “light” cheese (yuck) but I might spend a bit more and grab a Mexican cheese or substitute a little feta…a little bit of a very flavorful cheese packs a lot of flavor for fewer calories and you’ll use less.
If you wish to make huge Chipotle like burritos, that’s a different story: Use a larger roast! This isn’t a copycat Chipotle Carnitas or Barbacoa recipe (Chipotle wishes theirs was this good) but you can use my Cilantro Lime Rice Instant Pot or Stovetop Recipe, my Spicy Pintos in the Instant Pot or Not or Instant Pot Frijoles Charros & finish it with my Copycat Chipotle’s Pico de Gallo.
Mexican Shredded Pork or Beef
- 1 three to three 1/2 pound pork or beef roast, shoulder or chuck is best, go larger if you wish *
- 1 – 2 tablespoons oil (plus extra for your tortillas)
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 15 – 16 ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice, broken up
- 1 small can green chiles, diced
- 1 – 3 jalapenos, seeded and diced (I like to use two, depending on size)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons chile pequin (or red chile flakes)
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- water as needed for pan
In a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven, brown meat on all sides in 1 tablespoon of oil, remove meat from pan. Add onions to pan with a little more oil if necessary. When translucent, add garlic and spices and cook for a moment longer until fragrant, stirring often.
Add the tomatoes and juice, and green chilis, stir well, scraping up from the bottom, then add the roast (and any drippings) back to the pan. Spoon the sauce over the roast, cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil and bake at 325 degrees for about two and a half to three and half hours. The roast is done when it’s fork tender and easily shredded.
During the cooking process, check at about two hours and again around three to make certain there is still enough moisture in the pan, and add a little water if necessary. All those goodies in the bottom of the pan are going to make your sauce, and depending on how big your pan is and how much fat content there is in the roast, the amount of liquid can vary.
When the roast is done, remove it from the pan, pour the sauce into a container and skim off any fat. You may need to add a bit of water to the drippings to make them a loose, jammy consistency. Shred the roast and add some of the sauce if you wish and toss with the meat, saving some sauce to pass on the side for serving.
Slow Cooker Instructions:
This can be made in a slow cooker. Prepare as above, but to cook, transfer to a slow cooker and cook on high four to five hours or low for about seven to 10 hours or overnight. The sauce will not be as thick as oven braising. After defatting simmer, if desired, for a few minutes to reduce sauce to a loose, jammy consistency.
Makes about four to five cups of shredded meat and about 1 1/2 cups sauce.
The easiest way I’ve found to get a good crunchy tortilla for a Tostada is to fry quickly in a small amount of hot oil in a nonstick pan that’s just a bit larger than the tortilla. I add the oil to a layer of about 1/4 inch, heat, lay in a tortilla, turn it over right away. As soon as one side is nearly golden brown, turn it back over and cook the other side for a bit longer.
They’ll darken a bit more and crisp when you take them out. Personally, I don’t like them hard all the way through, but like a little crisp with a touch of chewiness. Drain well and shake off the excess oil when you remove it from the pan. This can be done a bit ahead but is the best right before serving.