Elevate Your Pork Carnitas Tacos with Creative Toppings

Pork carnitas tacos are a tasty Tex-Mex favorite, with tender, flavorful pork nestled in a warm corn or flour tortilla. While the classic toppings of cilantro, onions, and lime juice are always delicious, exploring creative new toppings can take your carnitas tacos to the next level. In this article, we’ll discuss over 15 exciting topping ideas to inspire your inner taco artist!

The Basics: Pork Carnitas

Let’s start with the star of the show – the carnitas! True carnitas are made by slow-cooking well-marbled pork in lard or oil until ultra tender and crispy on the edges. The pork shoulder or butt is the best cut to use.

To make carnitas, rub chunks of pork with a blend of cumin, oregano, garlic, pepper, and orange juice. Slow cook the pork for 8-10 hours on low, until fall-apart tender. Shred the pork with two forks, then broil for 5-10 minutes to get crispy edges. That’s it – easy, authentic carnitas ready for your tacos!

The Classic Toppings

No pork carnitas taco is complete without the classic toppings:


A sprinkling of freshly chopped cilantro adds a bright citrusy flavor. The cooling quality of cilantro balances the rich pork perfectly.


Diced raw white or red onions lend a sharp, pungent bite. For a tangy twist, use quick pickled onions instead. Simply soak sliced onions in vinegar and sugar for 1 hour.

Lime Wedges

A squeeze of tangy, tart lime juice cuts through the richness of the pork beautifully. Let guests squeeze on their own for maximum flavor.

Cheese Please!

An extra sprinkle of melted cheese takes these tacos over the top. Some delicious options include

  • Queso fresco – Soft, milky, and slightly salty, this crumbles beautifully.

  • Cotija – Sharp, salty, and granular, this is similar to feta.

  • Monterey Jack – Mild and creamy, this melts oh so nicely.

  • Oaxaca – Stretchy and soft like mozzarella, with tangy notes.

  • Cheddar – Sharp or mild, cheddar adds a classic melty goodness.

Spice It Up

For some heat, spice up your pork carnitas tacos with:

  • Chopped jalapeños – Fresh or pickled, jalapeños bring a nice crunch.

  • Hot sauce – From Cholula to Tapatio, give a splash of heat.

  • Chili powder – Add a pinch directly to the carnitas while cooking.

  • Spicy salsa – Pico de gallo, salsa verde, whatever you fancy!

Creamy Coolness

Rich, creamy toppings help balance the seasoning in carnitas. Try:

  • Guacamole – With ripe avocados, onion, garlic, lime, and cilantro.

  • Sour cream – On its own, or mixed into a chipotle crema.

  • Mexican crema – Tangy cultured cream, sort of like crème fraiche.

  • Greek yogurt – Plain yogurt turns silky when drizzled with olive oil and lemon.

Pickled & Tangy

Bright, tangy pickles cut through the decadence of pork carnitas. Some tasty options:

  • Pickled red onions – Soak sliced onions in a vinegar mixture for 1 hour.

  • Pickled jalapeños – Spicy and tangy, an awesome combo.

  • Pickled carrots – Shredded carrots pickled in vinegar and spices.

  • Sauerkraut – Tart, fermented cabbage sprinkled on top.

  • Kimchi – Spicy and sour Korean fermented veggies.

Fresh Veggie Crunch

Don’t forget your veggies! Good veggie toppings include:

  • Diced tomatoes – Cherry or grape tomatoes add a juicy pop.

  • Shredded lettuce – Cool lettuce provides crunch.

  • Thinly sliced radishes – Mild spice and crispness.

  • Shaved cabbage – Green or purple for color and texture.

  • Julienned jicama – Water chestnut-like crunch.

  • Grilled veggies – Like zucchini, eggplant, onions, or mushrooms.

Fruit Fusion

Believe it or not, a touch of fruit makes carnitas pop! Try these combos:

  • Pineapple salsa – Grilled pineapple, red onion, cilantro, lime, and chili powder.

  • Mango salsa – Diced mango with red onion, tomato, jalapeño, and cilantro.

  • Watermelon radish – Thinly sliced for a floral, citrusy flavor.

  • Apple – Thinly sliced Granny Smiths for tart crunch.

Global Inspiration

Ethnic flavors from around the world also pair well with carnitas. Some examples:

  • Kimchi – As mentioned above, Korean spicy fermented cabbage.

  • Jicama slaw – With a squeeze of lime, this is refreshing.

  • Mango chutney – Sweet, spicy Indian condiment with raisins.

  • Zhoug sauce – A spicy cilantro & parsley Yemeni hot sauce.

  • Harissa – Smoky and chili-based North African paste.

Vegetarian Options

For plant-based eaters, here are some delicious veggie-based options:

  • Refried beans – Well-seasoned, creamy pinto beans.

  • Roasted veggies – Like mushrooms, peppers, or squash.

  • Grilled avocado – Smoky and rich slices.

  • Hummus – Chickpea spread flavored with tahini and lemon.

  • Black bean salsa – With corn, red onion, lime juice and cilantro.

DIY Topping Bar

For a fun twist, set up a DIY taco topping bar and let guests build their own! Provide all the ingredients and let everyone customize to their preferences. You can include bowls of:

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Shredded cheese
  • Diced onion
  • Lime wedges
  • Cilantro
  • Salsas
  • Sauces like crema and guacamole
  • Pickled veggies

Lay it all out with tongs, spoons, and small plates. Then assemble away! It’s a great interactive party activity.

Mix and Match!

The possibilities for creative carnitas taco toppings are endless! Feel free to mix and match flavors: spicy, sweet, herby, tangy, creamy, and crunchy. The key is balancing rich and cooling flavors. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box to liven up Taco Tuesday! With an array of fun new toppings, your pork carnitas tacos will be talked about for weeks.

The Easiest and Most Delicious CARNITAS & TOMATILLO SALSA You Can Make at Home!


What do you eat with pulled pork tacos?

The best side dishes to serve with pulled pork tacos are coleslaw, salsa, french fries, guacamole, pico de gallo, lazy enchiladas, tostilocos, cheese dip, tabasco sauce, black beans, mexican rice, refried beans, pineapple salsa, roasted sweet potatoes, chicken fajitas, and zucchini fritters.

What do you put on carnitas for a party?

You can go crazy with the toppings or keep it simple. I made this for a dinner party for a group of 8 so I went the extra mile but the pork is so good, just a simple green salsa (store bought is fine), onions, and cilantro are more than enough. 2 dozen corn tortillas, heated before serving.

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