Mexican Torta de Carnitas

Mexican torta

The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 65 mins
Total: 80 mins
Servings: 4 tortas
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
2594 Calories
225g Fat
75g Carbs
66g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 2594
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 225g 288%
Saturated Fat 86g 430%
Cholesterol 367mg 122%
Sodium 3179mg 138%
Total Carbohydrate 75g 27%
Dietary Fiber 7g 24%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 66g
Vitamin C 92mg 460%
Calcium 163mg 13%
Iron 7mg 41%
Potassium 1314mg 28%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

What is a Mexican Torta?

"Mexican torta" is an umbrella term to describe a wide variety of sandwiches that you may find while walking the streets in Mexico. Tortas are made with a crusty roll called a bolillo or a telera. Bolillo rolls can be compared to a kaiser roll or a French baguette and in fact, if you can’t find a bolillo, feel free to use either of these—the taste and texture will be almost identical. Telera rolls are a little softer and have a round or slightly oblong shape with two indentations running the length of the roll. 

What is Typically in a Torta?

There is great variety in the world of tortas. There's the torta Cubana, an "everything torta" with beans, cheese, fried beef or pork cutlet, sausage, Spanish ham, egg, and toppings; torta milanesa features a fried meat cutlet, beans, cheese, and toppings; and a torta ahogada is "drowned" in a thin, spicy sauce.

What’s more, the kind of torta you’ll encounter most depends on the region you’re traveling—in Mexico City, it’s the pambazo, in Guadalajara, it’s the torta ahogada, and in the Yucatán, it’s the torta de cochinita pibil (suckling pig marinated achiote and sour orange and cooked wrapped in banana leaves). 

Tortas de carnitas are seen throughout Mexico and are, of course, incredibly delicious. The main trick to this recipe is to slow-cook the pork in its own lard, or manteca, until very tender and deeply browned.  

How to Top Your Torta

Once you have the carnitas prepared, you can assemble your torta in just about any way that fits your fancy. That said, typical toppings include sliced onion, avocado, tomato, and salsa, which you can make spicy or mild.

Recipe Tips

  • When cooking the carnitas, don't rush the process. The meat should cook at a very slow simmer in order to cook and become crisp on the outside and tender, not dry, on the inside.
  • Blackening the tomatoes in the skillet not only adds a subtle smokiness to the finished salsa, it also takes the raw edge off the tomatoes, deepening their flavor.
  • The lard from making the carnitas can be saved and reused to make more carnitas, or use it in refried beans, cornbread, or anywhere you want a rich pork flavor. Allow the lard to cool slightly until no longer hot but still liquid. Strain it through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove any particles. Then transfer the lard to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month or freeze for up to 6 months.


For the Carnitas

  • 1 1/2 pounds lard

  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder

  • 3 whole valencia oranges

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fine salt

For the Salsa

  • 3 Roma tomatoes

  • 10 chiles de árbol

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste

For Assembly and Toppings

  • 4 bolillo or telera rolls, sliced in half

  • 1 avocado, sliced

  • 1 medium onion, diced

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Carnitas

  1. Gather the Ingredients.

    ingredients to make carnitas

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  2. Place the lard in a deep pot over medium-high heat. Do not put a lid on the pot, as this can cause condensation to accumulate and fall into the lard, causing it to pop and sizzle and possibly burn you.

    melted lard in a saucepan

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  3. While the lard is heating up, cut the pork into 2-inch cubes.

    cubed pork on a cutting board

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  4. When all the lard has melted, carefully slide the cubes of pork into the pot or use tongs to place the pork in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the pork cook for about 30 minutes, or until it begins to turn golden.

    cubed pork frying in lard

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  5. While the carnitas are cooking, juice the oranges.

    orange juice in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  6. Once the carnitas have begun to turn golden, add the orange juice and salt.

    cubed pork in lard

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  7. Let the carnitas cook for another 30 minutes, until very tender and well-browned.

    cooked pork in lard and orange juice

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  8. When the carnitas are done cooking, remove the pot from the heat and use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the carnitas to a metal colander to drain. If you don’t own a metal colander, place the carnitas on several layers of paper towel to help absorb the extra fat.

    carnitas draining in a colander

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

Prepare the Salsa

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    ingredients to make salsa

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  2. Place a comal or heavy skillet over medium heat. Place the 3 tomatoes whole onto the comal or skillet. Roast them, turning occasionally, until lightly blackened all over.

    whole tomatoes searing in a cast iron skillet

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  3. Meanwhile, separate the stems from the chiles, discarding the stems.

    roasted chili peppers on a cutting board

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  4. When the tomatoes are almost ready, add the chiles onto the comal or skillet. Toast both chiles and tomatoes to your preference, then remove them from the heat. Avoid blackening the chiles.

    tomatoes and chili peppers in a cast iron skillet

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  5. Place the chiles, tomatoes, garlic, and salt in a blender and blend, adding as much water as needed to blend the ingredients together but not enough to make the salsa watery. Add more salt to taste, if needed.

    blended salsa

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

Assemble the Tortas

  1. Gather the remaining ingredients.

    ingredients to make Mexican Tortas

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  2. Separate the carnitas into 4 portions, placing them onto one side of a sliced bolillo.

    carnitas on bolillo

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack

  3. Add avocado, onion, and cilantro as desired, finishing the torta with a drizzle of salsa. Place the tops of the bolillo rolls back on and cut the sandwich in half to serve.

    carnitas and salsa on bolillo

    The Spruce Eats/Cara Cormack


How to Store

Leftover carnitas can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To reheat them, spread them on a sheet pan and broil on the bottom rack of the oven. This will help crisp them up without burning. Alternatively, reheat them in an air fryer set to 375 F until heated through and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Leftover salsa can be refrigerated for up to 5 days in an airtight container.