In less than hour, you can have these Smoky Mezcal Pulled Pork Tacos out of the pressure cooker and onto your plates for a crowd-pleasing weeknight meal.
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Smoky Mezcal Pulled Pork Tacos
This recipe is a long time coming.
Tacos are my favorite weeknight meal. Sometimes I’m not even sure why I bother making anything else, until I remember I run this blog and likely should provide more variety than an endless parade of taco recipes (although I’m sure some wouldn’t mind). While I love chicken, fish, and beef tacos, pulled pork on soft corn tortillas is always my number one.
Getting an Instant Pot has been a game changer on this front, because I can now have delicious pulled pork on my plate in less than hour any night of the week. A splash of mezcal to the pressure cooker adds a wonderful smokiness to the pork shoulder, which is crisped up in the oven for a perfect caramelized crunch. Topped with fresh tomato and mango salsa and sprinkling of cotija cheese, these pulled pork tacos are sure to become one of your favorite dinner staples too.Jump to Recipe
Mezcal vs. Tequila
It’s interesting to note that all tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas. Mezcal is a broad term for any agave-based liquor, whereas tequila is made from one specific type of agave – blue agave (agave tequilana, appropriately enough). Both are typically made in different regions of Mexico, with different distilling techniques as well. The signature smoky flavor of traditional Mezcal comes from cooking the agave in underground pits lined with lava rocks and filled with wood and charcoal. The liquor is then distilled in clay pots.
I find I prefer the smokiness of mezcal in cooking, as it really comes through in the flavor profile. That being said, feel free to use your favorite bottle of tequila in this recipe if you prefer.
Toasting Soft Taco Shells
The key to the perfect soft corn tortilla is in the toasting. Too many times I’ve ordered these at a restaurant, to find them untoasted and falling apart under the weight of their own filling. To avoid this sad plight, heat a dry, non-stick pan over medium heat and toast the tortillas for a minute or two on each side. They should form a few little charred spots, but still be completely flexible. I can usually fit two or three in a regular sized frying pan. Doing this not only avoids a soggy taco shell, it also just tastes delicious!
Instant Pot Smoky Mezcal Pulled Pork Tacos
- 4 pound boneless pork butt or shoulder, quartered
- 2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
- 2 jalapenos, sliced thin
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ cup Mezcal, or good tequila
- ½ cup lime juice
- 1 cup broth
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Grape Tomato & Mango Salsa
- 1 ½ cups grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 fresh mango, diced
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, or 1 tablespoon dried cilantro
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
Other Toppings & Ingredients
- Soft corn tortillas, toasted
- Cotija or Queso Fresco, crumbled
- Avocado, sliced
- Candied jalapenos
Whisk together the dry seasoning mix. Rub the pork butt down with the seasoning.
Select ‘saute’ on the Instant Pot and add the olive oil to the pot insert. Roast the pork on all sides, in batches as necessary, for approximately 4 minutes each side to get a nice brown sear.
Remove the meat and set aside on a plate. Deglaze the pot insert with the Mezcal, scraping up the browned bits. Add the remainder of the cooking liquid to the pot, and turn off saute mode.
Set the trivet into the bottom of the pot and layer the pieces of pork on top. Nestle the bell pepper and jalapenos slices around the meat.
Seal the Instant Pot and pressure cook for 30 minutes. Let the carnitas naturally vent for 10 minutes, and then manually vent the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with heavy duty foil. While the pork is cooking, prepare the salsa and stir together in a bowl. Set aside.
When the pressure cooker has fully vented, remove the pork from and shred it (I like to use these awesome bear claws). Return the pulled pork to the liquid in the pot and stir, coating the meat. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the pulled pork to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes until the edges are crispy and caramelized.
Divide the pulled pork among the tortillas, top with your favorite ingredients, and serve immediately. Left over pork can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. To reheat, spread out on a baking sheet as above and cook under the broiler to about 5 minutes.
Toast Those Tortillas!
If using soft corn tortillas, it is highly recommended that you heat them in a pan before using. Toasting them in a dry pan for a couple minutes will give them a bit of char and a nice texture, allowing them to hold up better to the toppings. No one likes a soggy tortilla!
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