Carnitas Salad with Buttermilk Cilantro-Lime Dressing

Carnitas Salad

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy-medium
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  • 2 lbs pork shoulder roast
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 small onion, cut in large chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, trimmed and halved
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • Salad
  • 8 cups green leaf lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 avocado, cut into slices
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn, browned in a dry pan
  • Dressing
  • 1/4 c. buttermilk
  • 1/4 mayonnaise
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, diced fined
  • 1 Tbsp green onion, cut fine
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp paprika


The carnitas can be made in an instant pot or slow cooker. Either way, place the shoulder in the pot, rub down with the spices, covering as much of the surface as possible, letting the rest fall to the bottom of the pot. Add the onions and garlic, then pour in the juice. If cooking in the slow cooker, cook on low for 8 hours. If cooking in the instant pot, cook on the “meat” setting for 55 minutes, ensuring the pot is sealed for pressure cooking. Once the meat is cooked, let it cool for a bit, then tear it roughly into chunks. Reserve the liquid and add the meat to a frying pan at medium to high heat to crisp up the meat. Once the meat is starting to brown, slowly add the liquid, then allow it to cook down until the liquid has cooked into the meat and the sugars from the liquid have caramelized the meat. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together. Assemble your salad, top with the crisped carnitas and drizzle with the dressing.

And now for the details…

A bit “healthier” then the first few posts, my husband and I are resetting our eating a bit after the rich foods we had taken in over the several months. We are reducing our simple carbohydrate intake (which, to be honest, was not too hard once we started cutting out treats throughout the day, afternoon snacks, and bread with every meal), and have been focusing on dinners that are filling, fresh and flavourful.

This meal is one of my favourites because it’s got the freshness from the greens and the cilantro dressing, while also bringing in the heartiness and umami-rich carnitas.

I might be a little loose in calling this recipe “carnitas”. Traditionally carnitas is pork cooked low and slow in lard, similar to a confit. Probably a better title for what I am making here would be “pan-fried, slow-cooked pork shoulder”, but that’s just not nearly as fun to say.

We start everything off preparing our pork shoulder, since it needs the longest time to prepare and cook. I have done this recipe before in two different ways: in our slow cooker and our instant pot. Both work, but to be honest, it turns out better in the slow cooker. For the photos today, I have done the recipe in the instant pot.

Start by mixing the carnitas spices together in a small bowl. Place your shoulder in the pot, and rub the spice mix all over the meat, trying to coat the entire surface area. Place the shallots and garlic in the pot with the shoulder, then pour the juice into the bottom of the pot.

When you place the lid on the instant pot, ensure the vent is set to “sealing”, since we are going to be pressure cooking our meat. Set the pot to the “meat” setting, and cook the shoulder for 55 minutes.

While the meat is cooking, we can prepare our salad toppings and dressing. Set a dry pan on the stove at medium- to high-heat. Place the frozen corn into the pan, and stir regularly, allowing the corn to char slightly. Be cautious! Even though it’s not popcorn, some of the kernels may actually “pop” out of the pan under the high heat.

Next, let’s make our dressing. I love buttermilk dressings. They’re creamy and tangy, offering a nice balance of flavours. I also feel they necessitate a decent amount of garlic, because what goes better with richness than a nice garlicky punch to the tastebuds? To really allow the garlic to suffuse the entire dressing, I use my garlic grate plate, which basically destroys the garlic and breaks it down into a fine mash, which then lends to tiny bits of garlic spreading throughout the entire dressing. My mom got me this garlic plate over a decade ago, and it is a staple in my kitchen.

Those little ridges are what break down the garlic. Using the plate is easy; just peel the garlic, hold it in your fingers and then grind it into the plate.

Start by mixing together your buttermilk and mayo. I used the full fat buttermilk, as well as Japanese mayo for my recipe. I wanted that added richness to the dressing, to help balance the acidity of the lime juice and the freshness of the cilantro. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients and mix together.

By about now, your pork is likely ready to come out of the pot. Take out the shoulder, reserve the liquid, and tear the meat into chunks. Place a large pan on medium-high heat and transfer the pork into the pan. Once the meat has browned a bit, add the juices and let them cook down until the liquid has boiled off and the meat is starting to caramelize.

Finally, assemble your salad with your toppings, leaving a little nest in the middle of the salad for your pork. Pile the pork in the middle, drizzle with the dressing, and enjoy!

Until next time, happy eating!

3 thoughts on “Carnitas Salad with Buttermilk Cilantro-Lime Dressing

  1. Chorney

    Umm – I have to try this – it looks yummy. And again I made it into your post – was it really that long ago I gave you that garlic scraper?

    Sent from my iPad



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