From carnitas to pirata to al pastor, here are a few taco recipes for the home cooks out there

Tacos of Texas host Mando Rayo shares a few of his go-to recipes when cooking in his own home or backyard.

By Kristen CabreraJanuary 6, 2023 3:23 pm,

It’s understandable to have one’s stomach growl when talking or reading about food.

When Texas Standard airs a food segment, chances are listeners will hear it right before lunchtime. So to remedy that, Mando Rayo – taco journalist, 2022 James Beard Award Nominee and host of the “Tacos of Texas Podcast” – shared a few recipes with the show in hopes of celebrating the home cook.

On the grill

I’m always dabbling in the kitchen or in my backyard,” Rayo said. “I call myself a ‘grassroots cocinero.’ And so, yeah, I’m always experimenting, whether it’s with my asador or, you know, I might dig a hole in my backyard. Just don’t tell the city.”

Rayo said carnitas is one of his go-to recipes, but he recently cooked trompitos al pastor over coals. He also recommended a shortcut when it comes to marinades.

“So you can actually go to your butcher shop or your Mexican market and ask for some thinly cut pork butt or pork shoulder and then ask for it to be marinated there – if you have a local favorite that really does it well, whether it’s Poco Loco or La Michoacana. And then you get to work,” Rayo said.

Rancho Style Carnitas

From “Tacos of Texas”

2 pounds pork shoulder

1-2 teaspoons salt or to taste

2 cups Manteca (lard or oil)

1 cup water

3 bay leaves

2 tablespoons oregano

5 cloves garlic

1 orange (sliced)

½ red onion

2 teaspoon thyme

½ container of sweetened condensed milk

2 cinnamon sticks

Cut pork into 2 x 2-inch squares. Place Manteca in your cazo (pot, dutch oven), add water and bring to a boil. Add pork and sear to a golden brown. Reduce flame to a low to medium heat. Squeeze and add oranges with peels to pot and simmer for an hour. Stir every 15 minutes.

After the first hour, add remaining ingredients. Simmer for another hour and constantly stir so everything cooks evenly. In the last 15 minutes, increase heat and you’ll see the pork fry on its own fat until it’s crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. You may pour off excess fat as the pork cooks to prevent the carnitas from burning or sticking to the pan. Remove carnitas from cazo, place them in a large charola, bowl or cutting board to cool down until ready to chop.

Now you are ready for some rancho-style carnitas. In a warm and toasty tortilla, add the chopped or shredded carnitas and your favorite salsa and you’re ready to eat.

Tacos al pastor a la tuma

From “Tacos of Texas”

Pastor Marinade

10 ounces guajillo pepper

5 medium cloves garlic, peeled

2 medium-sized white onions

3 pounds medium-sized oranges

1 1/2 pounds medium-sized limes

1 1/2 medium-sized pineapple

1 two-pound bar of achiote spice, paste

10 ounces white vinegar

1 ounce cumin

2 ounces japonés pepper

2 tablespoons salt

Add water to a deep pot and boil the guajillo pepper, garlic and onions for about 30 minutes. Strain the guajillo, garlic and onions from the pot and put aside.

Peel the oranges, limes and pineapple and cut each into four pieces. (Save one piece of the pineapple to grill, slice and use for the garnish.)

Blend all the ingredients together, adding the paste, vinegar, salt, cumin and japonés pepper. Blend till smooth.

Al pastor a la tuma

10 pounds pork butt

Manchego cheese

Corn tortillas

Onion, chopped

Cilantro, chopped

Avocado, sliced


Slice the pork in medium slices and place in a plastic or metal container. Add the pastor marinade and cover completely with the marinade. Cover the container and let the meat marinate for 8 hours.

Cut thin slices of the marinated pork, approximately 12 ounces per serving/taco. In a medium skillet or flat top, fry pork in oil over high heat. Cook until a little char can be seen, approximately 8-12 minutes.

Serve on a tortilla. To make an a la tuma taco, sauté 1 ounce of manchego cheese on a flat top for about 1 minute and then place a corn tortilla on the cheese and let it cook and crisp into the tortilla. Garnish the taco with onion, cilantro, salsa, avocado and a slice of roasted pineapple.

In the kitchen

For listeners who would rather keep their cooking to the kitchen, Rayo recommends improving on well-known recipes – such as kicking beans up a notch by adding chorizo – as well as utilizing things you might have left over in the pantry.

So, if you make fajitas at home, you know, what I like to do is take it up a notch and make some piratas,” Rayo said. “So you get a flour tortilla, you get the fajitas – use your own special marinade if you like, or straight up just the salt and pepper – and some refried beans and yellow cheese. That’s an original Laredo-style pirata and that’s just so good.

And then definitely, if you’re trying to do something simple, if you have leftover chips there’s always migas. You know we always say, ‘don’t throw the chips away. Put them in your migas, guey.'”

Migas taco

From “Tacos of Texas”

Makes 1 taco

1⁄2 cup tortilla chips

1 tablespoon oil

1/4 cup tomato, diced

1/4 cup onion, diced

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

2 eggs

Salt and pepper

1 corn or flour tortilla

1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese

1 slice avocado

Set the pan on medium heat. Break the tortilla chips and add a little oil to the pan. Add the tomato, onion and cilantro to the chips. Beat the eggs, add to the chips and vegetables, mix together, and add a bit of salt and pepper. Cook until the eggs are fully cooked, but make sure the tortilla chips are not soggy. Place the mixture on your choice of warm tortilla, add cheese and a slice of avocado, and enjoy!

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