Chilorio resides in the long list of glorious things you can do with a pork butt. It is a cut of meat treasured for it’s ribbons of fat and succulent nature when cooked long and slow. Mexicans for centuries have done glorious things with this large muscle covering a pig’s rump and Chilorio is no exception.
This slow-braised pork dish hails from the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Aside from Banda music and El Chapo, Chilorio is probably the most popular thing to come out of this narrow strip of Mexico. It is simmered with orange juice and a puree of chiles, onion, and spices. It is similar to carnitas in that it is normally cooked until the sauce has mostly evaporated and it is left to fry a bit in its own fat. This here is a much easier version that can be made while you are busy doing life. If you do love those crispy bits however, you can stick the shredded meat under the broiler for a few minutes to fry up before serving it.
Chilorio was all but a mystery to until a couple friends were regaling us with stories of bringing contraband canned Chilorio back from Mexico. Aside from tuna I have not had much desire to eat canned meat so I thought this stuff must be some kind of magic to risk having to deal with drug-sniffing dogs just to eat it on the other side of the border.
After some investigating I didn’t really see what the hubbub over the canned stuff was about when you could so easily make it yourself. Maybe it’s like the craving for Kraft mac-n-cheese or some other packaged food that of course doesn’t taste better than the real thing but nothing satisfies the urge for the store-bought version either (not that I crave squishy powdered cheese pasta, brownies from a box, or frozen pizza….like, ever). I was told by my friend after he had a taste of my version that the canned is much fattier, by a lot, so I guess we can call this healthy Chilorio?
Research tells me this dish is traditionally made with dried Ancho chiles so if you want a truly authentic version you can use those. I made it with a mixture of dried chiles and really enjoyed the different layers of flavor. I used dried chipotles, moritos, arbol, guajillo, and cascabel chiles; heavy on the guajillos.
Because it is made in the slow cooker there will be a lot of sauce. The easiest thing to do would be to remove the pork from the sauce when it is nice and tender, shred it and mix a cup or so of the sauce back in with the pork. A little more labor intensive would be to remove the pork and shred it. Transfer the sauce to a large pot and bring to a simmer. Keep simmering until it is reduced and thick then mix that in with the pork.
In Sinaloa flour tortillas are king and Chilorio is most typically served with a thick stack of warm flour tortillas but of course you could use corn tortillas and make it into tacos or serve with steamed rice some hunks of avocado, and a slaw or salad on top.
If you are a part of the cult Chilorio following I’d love to hear what you think of this recipe. Give it a try and let me know!
Recipe adapted from Pati's Mexican Table by Pati Jinich
This makes enough to feed a crowd. Cut the recipe in half if you are feeding less people or freeze half for a later meal.
Ancho chiles are most authentic for this recipe but I like to use a combination. Dried chipotles add smokiness, guajillo a tinge of sweet, arbol a kick of spice. You can play around with the recipe and see which ones you like best.
Freezer option: Chilorio freezes beautifully. Let cool completely then transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator then reheat on the stove or in the microwave. Make sure to freeze some sauce too; then pour the sauce over the meat when you reheat.
- 6 pounds boneless pork butt, cut in 2-inch pieces
- 2 1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice (about 7 oranges)
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 4 ounces dried chiles (ancho, guajillo, arbol, morito, etc.), stemmed, seeded, and rinsed
- 1 cup chopped white onion (about 1/2 large onion)
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- Warm tortillas or rice for serving
- Combine pork, orange juice, and salt in the slow cooker. Set on low and cover.
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add chiles. Press down to submerge in the water and let soak 15 minutes.
- Remove chiles from water and place in a blender along with the remaining ingredients and 1/2 cup of the chile soaking liquid. Remove the lid and hold a towel you don't mind getting dirty over the top of the blender. Blend on high until smooth.
- Pour chile mixture into slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 or until pork is tender and falling apart.
- At this point you can remove pork from the sauce and shred then mix a bit of the sauce back into the pork. If you want to take an additional step you can turn the broiler to high and place the shredded meat onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under the broiler until the edges are crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Mix with about a cup or two of the sauce and serve.