Carnitas are a Mexican dish that is traditionally made with pork shoulder and cooked in lard.
The result is tender, juicy meat that has a slightly crisp exterior and can be served in tacos, burritos, or as an entree.
While carnitas taste great on their own, they can become even more flavorful when paired with the right sauce.
From salsa verde to guacamole to chimichurri sauce, there are many delicious options to choose from.
In this article, I’ll share my top 7 favorite sauces for carnitas – all of which will take your meal to the next level!
Why Pair A Sauce with Carnitas?
Carnitas, a Mexican dish of braised pork, is often served with a sauce to enhance its flavor.
Here are three reasons why pairing a sauce with carnitas is beneficial:
- To add moisture and richness: Carnitas can be quite dry due to the cooking method used, so adding a flavorful sauce helps to moisten it up and make it more enjoyable. Sauces like salsa verde or mole also add an extra layer of richness that complements the pork nicely.
- To balance out flavors: The combination of spices used in carnitas can be quite intense, so having something acidic or sweet on the side helps to cut through this intensity and bring out different notes in the dish. For example, tomatillo salsa adds brightness while guajillo chile sauce brings sweetness and smokiness.
- To customize your meal: Having sauces available allows you to customize your carnitas according to your own tastes and preferences – whether you want something spicy or milder; tangy or sweet; creamy or chunky – there’s sure to be a sauce that fits the bill!
The 7 Best Sauces for Carnitas
Carnitas is a delicious Mexican dish, but it can be made even better with the right sauce.
Here are seven sauces that will take your carnitas to the next level:
1. Tex-Mex Sauce
Tex-Mex sauce is a creamy, spicy condiment made from sour cream, hot sauce, lime juice, chili powder, and mayonnaise.
It’s a popular accompaniment to Mexican dishes such as tacos and burritos.
- To Make It: To make the sauce, combine 1 cup of sour cream with 2 tablespoons of hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Cholula), 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 1 teaspoon of chili powder (or more to taste), and 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise in a bowl. Mix until all ingredients are well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Substitutions: If you don’t have any sour cream on hand, you can substitute plain Greek yogurt for an equally delicious result. You can also use other types of hot sauces such as Sriracha or jalapeno peppers for added heat. For those who prefer a milder flavor profile, try using mild salsa instead of hot sauce.
- Common Uses: This Tex-Mex Sauce is great served alongside carnitas tacos or burritos but it can also be used as a dip for chips or vegetables like carrots and celery sticks. It’s also delicious when used as a topping for nachos or baked potatoes!
2. Cilantro Lime Sauce
Cilantro lime sauce is a creamy, tangy condiment made with cilantro, lime juice, and mayonnaise.
It has a bright flavor that pairs well with Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and carnitas.
- To Make It: To make cilantro lime sauce at home you will need the following ingredients: 1 cup of mayonnaise; 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice; 1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro leaves; 1 clove of garlic (minced); 1 teaspoon of honey or agave nectar; salt and pepper to taste. Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
- Substitutions: If you don’t have access to fresh cilantro leaves, you can substitute dried cilantro flakes for an equally delicious result. You can also use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise for a lighter version of the sauce.
- Common Uses: Cilantro lime sauce is most commonly used as a dip or condiment for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas and other Mexican dishes such as carnitas. It’s also great on grilled meats like chicken or fish and makes an excellent topping for salads or sandwiches.
3. Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Roasted tomatillo salsa verde is a Mexican condiment made from roasted tomatillos, jalapeños, garlic, onion, cilantro, and lime juice.
It has a bright green color and a tangy flavor that pairs well with many dishes.
- To Make It: To make roasted tomatillo salsa verde, start by roasting the tomatillos in the oven until they are lightly charred. Then add them to a blender along with jalapeños (seeds removed for less heat), garlic cloves, onion slices, cilantro leaves and stems, and lime juice. Blend until smooth and season with salt to taste.
- Substitutions: If you don’t have access to fresh tomatillos or jalapeños for your salsa verde recipe you can substitute canned diced tomatoes or canned diced green chiles instead. You can also use other types of peppers such as serrano or habanero if you prefer more heat in your salsa verde.
- Common Uses: Roasted tomatillo salsa verde is commonly served as an accompaniment to tacos, burritos, enchiladas or carnitas but it can also be used as a dip for chips or vegetables or even as a topping on eggs or nachos!
4. Chipotle Crema
Chipotle crema is a Mexican condiment made from sour cream, mayonnaise, and chipotle peppers.
It has a creamy texture and smoky flavor that pairs well with tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and other Mexican dishes.
- To Make It: To make chipotle crema at home, combine 1/2 cup of sour cream or Greek yogurt with 1/4 cup of mayonnaise in a bowl. Add 2-3 finely chopped chipotle peppers (canned in adobo sauce) to the mixture and stir until combined. Taste the mixture for desired spiciness and add more peppers if needed. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Substitutions: If you don’t have access to chipotle peppers or don’t like spicy food, you can substitute jalapenos or poblano peppers instead. You can also use plain yogurt instead of sour cream or Greek yogurt if desired.
- Common Uses: Chipotle crema is commonly used as a topping for tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos and other Mexican dishes such as carnitas (shredded pork). It’s also great on grilled meats such as steak or chicken and can be used as a dip for chips or vegetables.
5. Salsa Verde
Salsa verde is a type of Mexican sauce made from tomatillos, jalapeños, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice.
It is usually served as a condiment for tacos or other Mexican dishes.
The name salsa verde literally translates to “green sauce” in Spanish due to its bright green color.
- To Make It: To make salsa verde, the tomatillos are boiled until soft and then blended with the jalapeños, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice. The ingredients can be adjusted according to taste; some recipes call for adding onion or additional spices such as oregano or cumin.
- Substitutions: If you don’t have access to tomatillos or jalapeños, you can substitute them with green tomatoes and serrano peppers respectively. You can also use fresh parsley instead of cilantro if desired.
- Common Uses: Salsa verde is commonly used as a condiment for tacos and burritos but it can also be used as a dip for chips or vegetables. It’s also great on eggs or added to soups and stews for extra flavor.
6. Red Mole Sauce
Red mole sauce, also known as rojo or coloradito, is a traditional Mexican sauce made from chiles, spices, and chocolate.
It is usually served with pork dishes such as carnitas and tamales.
The name comes from the Nahuatl word molli which means ‘sauce’ or ‘concoction.’
- To Make It: To make red mole sauce, dried chiles are toasted in a pan until they become fragrant. Then they are soaked in hot water for about 30 minutes before being blended with garlic, onion, tomatoes, almonds, sesame seeds, raisins and spices like cumin and cinnamon. Finally, it is finished off with some dark chocolate to give it a rich flavor.
- Substitutions: If you don’t have all of the ingredients needed to make red mole sauce at home you can substitute them for other ingredients that will still give you a similar flavor profile. For example, instead of using dried chiles you can use canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce or even smoked paprika if you want something milder. You can also substitute the almonds for peanuts or cashews if desired.
- Common Uses: Red mole sauce is most commonly used as an accompaniment to pork dishes such as carnitas and tamales but it can also be used as an enchilada sauce or even as a marinade for chicken or beef. It can also be used to make tacos, quesadillas, enfrijoladas and even as a topping for nachos.
7. Aji Verde (Spicy Peruvian Green Sauce)
Green Sauce is a creamy, tangy sauce made from Parmesan cheese, lime juice, garlic, mayonnaise and sea salt.
It’s often used as a condiment for tacos or burritos but can also be used to top salads or sandwiches.
- To Make It: To make green sauce, combine 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese with the juice of one lime in a bowl. Add two cloves of minced garlic and 1/4 cup of mayonnaise and mix until combined. Season with sea salt to taste.
- Substitutions: If you don’t have Parmesan cheese on hand, you can substitute it with another hard cheese such as Asiago or Pecorino Romano. You can also use sour cream instead of mayonnaise if desired.
- Common Uses: Green sauce is commonly served alongside carnitas (Mexican-style pulled pork) tacos or burritos but it can also be used as a topping for salads or sandwiches. It’s also great as a dip for chips and vegetables!
In conclusion, carnitas is a delicious and versatile dish that can be enhanced by a variety of sauces.
The best sauces for carnitas are Tex-Mex sauce, cilantro lime sauce, cilantro tomatillo sauce, chipotle crema, salsa verde, red mole sauce, and green sauce.
Each of these sauces offers a unique flavor profile and can be used to add extra depth and complexity to the dish.
By experimenting with different sauces, you can find the perfect combination for your carnitas and create a delicious meal that your whole family will love.
The 7 Best Sauces for Carnitas
- Tex-Mex Sauce
- Cilantro Lime Sauce
- Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde
- Chipotle Crema
- Salsa Verde
- Red Mole Sauce
- Aji Verde (Spicy Peruvian Green Sauce)
- Select your favorite recipe.
- Organize all the required ingredients.
- Prep a sauce recipe in 30 minutes or less!
Jenny has always been passionate about cooking, and she uses her platform to share her joy of food with others. Her recipes are easy to follow, and she loves giving tips and tricks to help others create their own unique culinary creations.