Leftover Pulled Pork Recipes – Smoked Pork Tacos
If you enjoy smoking and grilling meats, there's a good chance that you tend to get carried away, ending up with more than you really need. Don't worry—we've all been there! Fortunately, this is an easy problem to solve, especially when we're talking about a versatile ingredient like pulled pork. Even when you've had your fill of barbecued pork sandwiches with a side of slaw, you can repurpose that smoky, juicy goodness into a batch of smoked pork tacos.
If your experience with tacos has been limited to those supermarket-aisle kits with ground beef and lettuce, now is the perfect time to start expanding your repertoire. Tacos rank high on my hit parade for many reasons—they're easy to make, high in protein, and consistently delicious. Best of all, they allow you to get creative with your ingredients—you could eat a different type of taco every night for a week without getting bored. By the end of this tutorial, you'll be able to turn out an expert array of smoked pork tacos that are sure to leave your crowd begging for more.
Materials For Tacos
- Leftover pulled pork (at least 1/2 cup per person, depending on how much meat everyone likes)
- Corn tortillas (plan on 3 per person)
- Two large, heavy skillets—one stainless steel or nonstick, one cast-iron
- Tortilla warmer or aluminum foil
- Shredded red cabbage
- Diced tomatoes
- Minced cilantro
- Chopped avocado
- Wedges of lime
- Barbecue sauce or apple cider vinegar, for reheating (if needed)
- Sour cream or Mexican crema (optional)
- Your favorite salsa or hot sauce (optional)
While the toppings listed above will make a fantastic taco, feel free to get creative. Here are a few suggestions for replacing or adding to the basic template:
- Charred peppers and onions
- Crumbled feta or queso fresco
- Finely diced fried potato
- Refried beans
- Sweet Thai chili sauce
Pro Tip: Invest in a set of taco holders. Not only will they make assembly easier, they have great visual appeal.
Smoked Pork Tacos: A Step-by-Step Tutorial
Step 1: Heat your filling
Use the stainless steel or nonstick pan to reheat the pork. If the meat has become too dry (a common problem if the meat has been previously frozen), add a little water or barbecue sauce (or vinegar, if you like a tangier flavor) to the pan for moisture.
Step 2: Prepare the toppings
If you haven't already gotten your chopping and dicing out of the way, it's a great way to pass the time while you're waiting for your meat to warm up. If you're allowing everyone to build their own, make sure you use attractive dishes for serving. A lazy susan would also come in handy here.
Pro Tip: Try to maintain a good blend of flavors and textures when it comes to toppings. Since the meat will hit the spot when it comes to smoky and savory flavor, you'll want some sweet and/or spicy notes thrown in to keep things lively. Similarly, a chewy tortilla calls for something crunchy to balance out the texture.
Step 3: Warm the tortillas
Heat the cast-iron skillet over medium heat. You'll know it's ready when you can barely stand to hold your palm a half-inch or so from the surface. Warm each tortilla for about 10-15 seconds per side, adjusting the heat if they begin to scorch. Keep each heated tortilla warm in aluminum foil or tortilla warmer while you prepare the rest.
Alternately, you can wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil, and warm them in a 325-degree oven. This method gains points for being hands-off, but be careful—some tortillas will stick together in the oven, especially if they're the cheaper store-bought variety.
Whatever you do, don't forget to heat the tortillas. A cold corn tortilla will not be pliable enough, and will crumble when you try to fold it. While it's perfectly acceptable for a taco meal to be somewhat messy (see below), you don't want all of the toppings to go flying on the first bite.
Pro Tip: Ensure the quality of your tacos by making your own corn tortillas. The recipe is simple: masa harina (a finely ground cornmeal, available in specialty markets), warm water, and a bit of salt. The process takes some trial and error, but the results will be well worth it.
Step 4: Assemble the tacos
Add a few generous tablespoons of pork to each tortilla. Don't worry if the filling spills out or if it doesn't cover the entire surface—when it comes to eating tacos, the messiness is all part of the fun.
To assemble the ideal taco, add the bulkier ingredients (like cabbage and tomato) on top of the pork, following with the finely minced or crumbled ingredients (like cilantro or cheese) and finishing off with whatever sauces you prefer. Plan on about 3 tacos per person. You might want to add a little "flair" to the plate by making each taco slightly different. This will allow everyone to experiment with a range of flavor combinations.
Pro Tip: Try a taco with a wedge of fresh lime squeezed over the top, then sample one without lime. You'll be surprised at the difference one humble fruit can make—and never again question why lime is such an important ingredient in Mexican cuisine.
Did you enjoy our tutorial on how to make your own smoked pork tacos? If so, be sure to let us know in the comments section below. As dedicated grillers and smokers, we're always glad to introduce new recipes to the uninitiated—and to make sure those precious leftovers don't go to waste! Once you've tasted these scrumptious tacos for yourself, you may find that you don't need to use leftovers as an excuse—you'll be heading to the butcher to buy enough pork butt for another batch before you know it. If you have any tips or suggestions that you'd like to share with us, feel free to add those to the comments section as well—and don't forget to share the article with your like-minded friends. We look forward to hearing from you!
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can you keep cooked pulled pork in the fridge?
Properly stored pulled pork will last about 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. It’s always best to let the pork cool uncovered, but once it is cooled you should store it in airtight containers for maximum shelf life.
Can you freeze leftover pulled pork?
Pulled pork freezes exceptionally well! Make sure to shred it before freezing it, as it will be easier to reheat if it’s already shredded. Let the pork cool fully before packing it into freezer-safe bags, leaving an inch of headspace at the top. Squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Freeze the bags flat and consume it within 2 to 3 months of freezing.
How do you reheat pulled pork?
You can reheat pulled pork in the microwave, or you can cook it on the stovetop in a stainless steel or nonstick pan. If the pork is dry as you’re reheating it, you can add a little water or barbecue sauce. Frozen pork can be thawed in the microwave or in the refrigerator overnight before reheating using one of these methods.
What can you do with leftover pulled pork?
There is no shortage of ideas for using leftover pulled pork! Our favorite way to use up pork is following this recipe for tacos, but you can also create sandwiches, casseroles, quesadillas, nachos, stuffed baked potatoes, and more.
How do you pull pork apart?
It’s easiest to shred pork while it’s still warm. After removing your pork shoulder from the oven, slow cooker, or smoker, let it cool for 15 minutes before attempting to shred it. Then, using a pair of kitchen forks, tongs, or two meat claws, pierce the pork and pull in opposite directions to create long shreds of meat.