I feel so stupid for not doing this sooner.
But y'all, pork shoulder is actually the quick-cooking protein your grilling life needs. It takes on char beautifully, has the meaty bite of steak, and has plenty of fat and marbling to give intense porky flavor and not dry out. The only caveat is that it needs to be chopped small after grilling for maximum tenderness.
Which makes grilled pork shoulder the perfect filling for a taco. I've written on my Instagram about this before, but tacos should be the official food of COVID-19. They're fun, and sunny, and remind you of sipping margaritas with your toes in the sand instead sitting in your house for the 100th day in a row. And now, as our nation grapples with the long-term effects of systemic racism, implicit bias, and police brutality on BIPOC communities, a sunny, but nutritious dinner feels like a privilege. Because it is a privilege - the ability to sit down, and have a home-cooked dinner with my children is a privilege George Floyd's mother will never have again. Or Breonna Taylor's mother. Or so, so many other mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and friends. So when we sit down, I recognize how I'm not just lucky - I'm PRIVILEGED. My children, and my husband are safe, and unlikely to die in the hands of the police. So it's hard to write about tacos when the world is on fire.
And yet here I am. So here I go. Make these tacos - the grilled pork shoulder sits on top of a dead-simple (only 3 ingredients!) lime slaw, gets wrapped up in a toasty corn tortilla, and is drenched with a creamy-spicy avocado salsa and crumbly queso fresco. It's really just 3 components to prep - slaw, meat, sauce - so it's actually very weeknight friendly. And it's impossible to pick a favorite bit.
The meat is an obvious star, like I mentioned above - pork shoulder is a sturdy cut of meat, and can handle high heat and strong spices. We opted for a rub here in place of a marinade to keep the flavor high but the effort low - no need to marinate for hours, or really even plan ahead at all. In fact, I like to make a double batch of the rub and keep in the cabinet so that next time I make tacos, the first step is taken care of.
While the meat grills, we toss a couple jalapeno peppers on with it to char and prep the rest. The slaw is insanely easy - just lime juice, and olive oil, and salt massaged on some shredded cabbage - but gives the tacos a vegetal crunch and limey kick that balances out the fatty grilled meat so perfectly.
But if I had to pick a favorite part - the thing that keeps me coming back for more, time and time again- it's the avocado salsa. It's the creamy, spicy lovechild of a hot sauce and guacamole, ready to slather on your tacos, and grilled chicken sandwiches, and pizza, and...anything! Made from cilantro, a charred jalapeno, and avocado, it really just hits all the right notes to make this taco sing.
Now get out there and get grilling!
grilled pork tacos with avocado salsa
- 2 lb pork shoulder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp chile powder
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 tsp granulated onion
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ½ small head purple cabbage
- ½ lime
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium avocados
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup water
- 2 limes
- 1 cup cilantro leaves, packed
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- 1 poblano chile
- 1 clove garlic
- 4 oz queso fresco crumbled
- 12 6-inch corn tortillas
- lime wedges
- If using a gas grill: set all burners on your gas grill to "high" and let preheat 15 min. If using charcoal grill: light one chimney of coals until glowing red and ash begins to cover the top coals, approx 15 minutes. When coals are hot, distribute them evenly in the center of your grill.
- Slice pork shoulder across grain into ½ to ¾ inch steaks. Place in a large bowl. Wash cutting board and knife.
- combine rub ingredients (salt, paprika, chili powder, granulated garlic, granulated onion, cumin, black pepper, and brown sugar) in a small bowl.
- Sprinkle rub on pork shoulder steaks. Massage spices into the meat with your hands. Set aside to marinate.
- Make slaw: using a sharp knife, slice the cabbage half into 4 equal wedges. With a flat edge of the wedge on the cutting board, slice core away from leaves. Thinly shred leaves by slicing each wedge into thin ribbons. You should have 4-5 cups of cabbage. Set in a medium bowl. Squeeze ½ lime over cabbage, then add 2 Tbsp olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Massage oil and lime into cabbage with your hands - you will feel it start to break down pretty quickly and wilt. Set aside.
- Make salsa: Char chiles by placing them on the hottest part of your grill. Using tongs, turn chiles every 2-3 minutes until blackened all over. Remove stems from chiles (and seeds if you prefer a milder salsa) then place in the pitcher of your blender. Top with the flesh from 2 avocados, olive oil, water, the juice of 2 limes, cilantro, and garlic. Blend on medium until combined, and then turn to high until mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Grill pork: Using tongs, place pork steaks on the hottest part of your grill. Grill, covered, until well charred, 6-8 minutes per side. The more blackened bits here, the better! Since it is a fatty cut of meat, flare-ups are possible. If they happen, just close the grill and they should subside quickly. When meat is well-charred, remove from grill to a clean board. Let rest 5 minutes.
- While meat rests, warm tortillas: spread tortillas along the hot grill to warm. You will know it is time to turn them when they begin to bubble and puff. As they come off the grill, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel to keep warm.
- When pork is done resting, cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Assemble tacos by layering slaw, meat, and salsa on a tortilla. Top with crumbled queso fresco and serve with lime wedges and a margarita.