Cuban Street Tacos

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Ok, I’ll confess, I’ve never actually eaten a street taco. Not a one. Not a Mexican street taco, not a Cuban street taco. We just don’t get a lot of street tacos where I live smack dab in the middle of Wisconsin. I wish we did. But we certainly don’t. (Now Brat Barns? That’s a different story entirely.) Clearly I need to leave my home state a tad more often in order to experience life to the fullest and finally eat a street taco.

However, this recipe for Cuban Street Tacos appealed to me on so many levels, even though I’ve never had an authentic street taco before. First, there is something about slow cooked pork, shredded and smothered in the flavorful, reduced cooking juices that just gets me. Kind of like this recipe. Heaven on earth. Plus, I wanted to make this recipe for its simplicity (don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you off).

I’m sure I blasted off any trace of authenticity by a) using a slow cooker, b) not broiling the meat to crispiness after cooking, and c) eating the tacos in flour tortillas instead of corn. But hey, like I said, it isn’t like I’ve had a real schooling in street taco authenticity in these parts. And anyway, I like to eat food the way I like to eat it.

The pork transcends deliciousness by soaking up the flavors of the smoky spices and gentle heat of the jalapeno. Oranges and a hint of lime give wonderful touches of fresh lightness to the tacos. Eaten in tacos one day and transformed into quesadillas the next, this meal was an absolute home run.

Cuban Street Tacos

What To ServeSteamed vegetable or this Vegetable Saute with Simple Cream Sauce
Guacamole Salad and baked tortilla chips
Fresh fruit

One Year Ago: Slow Cooker Hot Fudge Peanut Butter Pudding Cake
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Three Years Ago: Vanilla Pudding Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cuban Street Tacos

Yield: Serves 8

Cuban Street Tacos


    Shredded Pork:
  • 4-pound boneless pork butt or boneless pork top loin roast, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 medium orange, halved and juice, rinds reserved
  • Tortillas & Garnishes:
  • 8 small corn or flour tortillas
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Sour cream/avocados, if desired
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges


  1. Rub the pieces of pork all over with salt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, until the oil is shimmering and hot. Add the pork and sear each piece on all sides, working in batches, if needed. Once browned, remove the pork to the slow cooker. Into the same pot used to sear the pork, pour in the water and chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged spatula or wooden spoon to get up all the delicious brown bits from the bottom. Add pepper, cumin, chili powder, oregano, bay leaves, garlic, jalapenos, onion, lime juice, orange juice and orange rinds and bring to a simmer. Pour the mixture over the pork in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until the pork is very tender.
  3. Remove the bay leaves, onion and orange rinds from the pot and discard. Remove the pork and place in a bowl and set aside. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a pot on the stove and over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Let the mixture boil until it reduces to about 1 cup and is thickened slightly, about 10 -15 minutes.
  4. Shred the pork and place on a large patter. Spoon the sauce over the pork. Serve in tortillas garnished with onions, cilantro, cheese, sour cream, avocado and additional lime wedges, if desired.

Recipe Source: adapted from Sweet Peas Kitchen, originally from Cook’s Illustrated June 2008

53 Responses to Cuban Street Tacos

  1. Jbeanst says:

    Cuba doesn’t have street taco vendors… or generally eat tacos.

  2. Lauren says:

    I live in Milwaukee, WI and there are plenty of street tacos!!!

  3. Jennifer K. says:

    Just wondering if you have tried this in the insta pot yet? If you have or would, would you do the first step on the stove or in the insta pot? Thanks.

    • Mel says:

      Hey Jennifer, yes you could definitely do the first step in the instant pot (on saute function) and then if the meat is cut into 2-inch pieces, I’d set it for 25 minutes in the InstantPot. Hope that helps!

  4. Jamie says:

    Hi mel! I LOVED this pork and my family did too. I still have a few cups of it leftover and wondered if this would be good in an enchilada? We have already done quesadillas with the leftovers but still have more I’d love to use in something baked. If so, what type of enchilada sauce would you use? A green or red? Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Yum, I think this would be delicious in enchiladas! I’d probably go with green enchilada sauce on this one but I think either would probably work.

  5. Brenna says:

    I made the pork this weekend and it was delicious. I wanted to try to make a Cuban sandwich with it so I put Dijon mustard on a roll from the bulk section of the grocery bakery and layered on swiss cheese, sliced dill pickles, ham, this pork and some more swiss, then cooked it like a panini (I don’t have a press so I used my cast iron and a heavy pot). I don’t know how authentic it was but it was delicious! Thanks for the fantastic recipe.

  6. Jennifer G. says:

    Just pinned this recipe and was highly amused by the offense taken by a few posters about calling this “Cuban Tacos.” Mel didn’t write the recipe. It’s obviously popular since it’s made it’s way through multiple sources on the internet. Take it as a compliment. Holy cow some people need to relax. I had some Mexican Lasagna the other day which was a delightful meal that in no was was authentically Mexican nor Italian. It was still good food and I don’t believe the cultural identity of either Mexico or Italy was harmed by that recipe. The Cuban elements of pork, lime and orange combined with the Mexican elements of tortillas and spices sound like a good though non-traditional match to me.

  7. Raluca says:

    This recipe sounds delicious but wanted to know how spicy it is considering there is a jalapeno in it. I have two smaller kids and was thinking of maybe just putting in 1/2. I’m glad I found your blog.

    • Mel says:

      This isn’t spicy at all for our taste buds (my kids eat it just fine) but if you want to play it safe, using just half the jalapeno would be a good place to start.

  8. […] One Year Ago: Sweet Mustard Baked Chicken Two Years Ago: Pasta al Forno {Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella} Three Years Ago: Cuban Street Tacos […]

  9. Vanessa Cragun says:

    This is really similar to a recipe I used from The main difference is that after she puts the sauce on the meat she broils it on a jelly roll pan for a few minutes, flips, and broils again. It makes the meat kind of crispy and I think it’s a great addition to the recipe! You use foil so you don’t even dirty any more dishes 🙂 I think I will use your recipe because it has a few more spices but I would recommend that last step

  10. Aminah says:

    i DEFINITELY second what El Cubiche said. Its not a “fusion” because there is absolutely not one part of this recipe that takes from Cuban cuisine, unlesss one were to consider “pork” a cuban ingredient, which while it could very well be considered a very stereotypical ingredient, is not enough to consider any part of this recipe “cuban” “cuban fusion” or Cuban ANYTHING. and in fact i do know that there are MANY mexicans who even get annoyed at tacos being the first thing people mention as far as their food, and Chinese who get annoyed at our American Chinese food. While i’m 100% sure the poster of this recipe collage meant no harm, this is irked my nerves and was going to comment until i saw “El Cubiche”s comment but now i figured it needed more clarification after reading your comment. There are sooooo many wonderful dishe one could create as Cuban or Cuban Fusion even (Cuban Nachos are amazing made with thinly sliced fried plantains as chips and topped with picadillo or ropa vieja are delicious) but this IS generalization whether intended or not an it has NOTHING to do with Cuban food. Cuban food includes NO tortillas EVER (unless u mean a cuban omelette which is delicious to try it 🙂 ) and most Cubans that are actually from the Island, avoid spicy foods like the plague, so there is NO jalapenos or anything like that. ive seen people refuse black pepper. this recipe is probably great (subbing the oink for chicken lolbut its NOT ok to label this as Cuban food and mislead people of our beautiful culture and cuisine. i see why you may feel we are overly sensitive, but we arent because this is inulting in a very innocent way, but the insult remains none the less. take care 🙂

    • America Bateman says:

      I am of Cuban decent, and although I love Mel’s recipes, I was also offended. Cubans don’t eat tacos or anything like tacos. Black beans and rice, yes. Roasted pork, yes, but on Cuban bread, never on a tortilla. Mel, I’m hopeful that you’ll put your spin on an authentic Cuban recipe soon. I’d love to try it.

  11. Patrick says:

    El Cubiche, you wrote your comments long ago and probably won’t even see this, but I can’t help but respond to your post and am very sorry you feel this way. You are 100% correct that “this a complete gastronomical contrivance.” However, your continuation that it “creates the offensive illusion that the entire Spanish speaking world is nothing more than a different Mexican state” could not be any farther from the truth. We have the great pleasure of living in perhaps the greatest culinary fusion era of all time! This is not an offense; it is a joy! It is an HONORING of cultures and cuisines, not an offense toward them! One of my favorite recent discoveries is Irish nachos made with hand cut potatoes, Irish cheddar, etc. I was recently at a Mongolian barbecue establishment that offers the option of rotini in place of rice. (And it is an awesome option! Loved it!) I’ve even dined on schnitzel amazingly fused with kimchi in place of sauerkraut. I could provide hundreds of culinary fusion examples (some more refined than these “in your face” fusions) but no need to belabor the point. Suffice it to say, I am not offended as an Irishman that there is a nacho fusion, just as I am sure that there are no Italians, Mongolians, Germans, or Koreans offended by these other fusion examples.

    I invite you to join us in the global culinary adventure! You just might enjoy it! In a further celebration of fantastic Cuban culture and cuisine, I may just have to make masitas de puerco pizza tonight. (Hmmmmmm!! I might just be onto something!)

  12. Rachelle says:

    Thanks again for another fabulous recipe!! There was a bit of prep work and so i was hoping it would turn out. My husband raved about it, thanks so much!
    I didnt end up letting the pork sit in the fridge for an hour prior because i didnt have the time and it turned out great!
    Thanks again you really should do a cookbook, really ever recipe i try is a winner.

  13. colleen says:

    This recipe looks delicious and I plan tp try it today. Thank you Mel.

  14. Menu Mondays says:

    […] cuban street tacos, cilantro rice, black […]

  15. El Cubiche says:

    There is no such thing as Cuban taco , “street” or otherwise.
    Tacos, spicy hot chilies or chili powder, which is a blend of spices,
    are unknown in Cuban cuisine. This a complete gastronomical contrivance
    which creates the offensive illusion that the entire Spanish speaking world is
    nothing more than a different Mexican state. As a Cuban, I see it as an ignorant
    Anglo slight which belittles both Cuban and Mexican cultures. Too
    heavy a response? Not if it was your cultural indentity that was being

  16. Joyce says:

    Wow! My family loved these! I had been searching for a pork recipe that I could use my boneless country style ribs in. It worked perfectly. I also used the raw flour tortillas from costco. Those are so good. It all came together perfectly! And there’s still enough for leftovers tomorrow. Thank you!

  17. Courtney says:

    Oh, Mel, I don’t know what I did wrong… I made this and the pork was amazing – but then my sauce got super salty. I did post about it and gave you credit for the recipe — BUT I was sure to state that I was sure it was my fault when it went wrong. I’m sure I need to try this again, because the pork really was so good. In case you are interested:

    Take care and hope you are enjoying that baby girl!

  18. […] Cuban Street Tacos, adapted slightly from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe […]

  19. Treva says:

    A note of thanks for this great recipe. I was looking for something to do with my smoked pork chops in the slow cooker, and thought this would work. Did it ever! First time I did chops in the slow cooker, so I tried just under 6 hours on low. The result was fantastic, especially paired with a jicama slaw with lots of lime. My adjustments were to just use the cup of broth for the 4 chops, omitted the extra water and used a tomatillo salsa I had instead of the jalapeno. Thanks for a taste of summer in cold Toronto!

  20. Mel says:

    Nicole – as the sauce reduces, it should condense and thicken…not the same consistency as, say, a sauce that has cornstarch in it, but just by nature of the liquid evaporating out so the sauce can reduce – that alone, should thicken the sauce just slightly. The comment below yours (from Jackie) indicates she used some cornstarch to thicken so if you want the sauce a bit thicker, feel free to use that method.

  21. Jackie says:

    I tried these tonight & they were AWESOME!!!! The only change I made was that instead of reducing the liquid I thickened it with a bit of cornstarch. I didn’t have much liquid in mine & had to add 1 more cup of water half way through cooking. It turned out great….Thanks for sharing this recipe, it’s a definite keeper.

  22. Nicole says:

    Mel just wanted to mention I love the site and have tried quite a few of your recipes. I’ve noticed this one and one other that had a sauce that required reducing, they don’t really thicken like the recipe says because there is nothing IN it too thicken. Any thoughts on that? I boiled down this liquid which did reduce but it never thickened.

  23. Deanna says:

    Thanks Mel! They were so yummy and I’m not a big fan of pork! This recipe is a keeper.

  24. Karly says:

    FINE! I’ll eat a street taco. You’ve convinced me.

    Also, I keep pinning photo after photo from your site and I’ve finally realized that hey, maybe I should just go ahead and subscribe. Duh. Took me long enough.

  25. Deanna says:

    I am making this recipe tomorrow. Question for you….I have a lot of fat on my butt roast. Do you trim the fat, or does all that fat make the meat tender?

    • Mel says:

      Deanna – I like to trim the large pockets/slabs of fat. I leave just a skim to help with tenderness, but I don’t like the meat to be swimming in fat.

  26. Dana says:

    Does the jalepeno make it spicy at all or just give it a slight feel of spiciness? My tummy is struggling these days, and let’s face it…my kids are picky. But these look so good.

    • Mel says:

      Dana – these aren’t spicy at all! Just really flavorful. I think to be on the safe side you could leave out the jalapeno and probably still get tons of flavor.

  27. lisa says:

    I made this tonight and the flavor was really good but it was way too salty. I am not sure if my roast was not big enough or what, but I have tons of meat that nobody will eat. Next time I will definitly cut down the salt!

  28. Missy says:

    I have the same issues as Cammee! Can’t wait to try these. I bought a big thing of pork from Costco and am grabbing the other stuff tomorrow. One question … I have a Dutch oven but only use it for camping which is not very often. I’m not sure what to do on this step. Do I put my Dutch oven on my stovetop? Can I cook it in something different or will that affect the flavor? Help! 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Missy – no need to use your dutch oven from camping (I usually use my enamel coated dutch oven for a step like this), do you have a heavy-bottomed pot or even a deep skillet? Either of those will work, especially since the meat is transferred to the slow cooker.

  29. Cammee says:

    Am I the only one with a fear of street vendor food? I can’t bring myself to eat any of it. When we were in NYC it almost made me gag. I just feel like it has to be lacking in sanitation! So anyway, for me, I would rather make street vendor food in my own home–with a sink stocked with soap to wash my hands (sorry, I have issues :)). This recipe looks fantastic, I can’t wait to try it!

  30. JoAnn says:

    I added the ingredients to my shopping list, the pork is even on sale this week. 🙂 These look delicious! I live in northern WI so yeah, lots of brats but no street tacos.

  31. Michelle says:

    I made these today for dinner. OUTSTANDING!!! So so so good!!!! YUM!!! I’m making quesadillas with it tomorrow for lunch.

  32. Brooke says:

    Thanks for another yummy recipe…and for updating the sidebar. For someone like me who is relatively new to your site it highlighted lots of favorites for me to try–several of which will be tried this week.

    PS I also wanted you to know that I won a “Copper Plate” (similar to a Grande Prize) at our County Fair with your cashew granola recipe. I modified it by using only almonds because that’s all I had and using craisins instead of raisins. It was kind of by mistake, really. My boys were entering cookies and thought I should enter something too. I had already made a batch that morning, so I just took it with their coookies. Who would have thought?!? I

  33. Yum, yum, yum! These look and sound awesome! I grew up in Wisconsin and your right, not much Cuban ethnicity there but they sure know how to cook German, Polish, Swiss foods of every variety!

  34. Kim in MD says:

    Ohhh…silly me! I should have known what a Brat Barn was! Also, I was watching The Today show this morning, and they were/are broadcasting from Green Bay, Wisconsin! Of course I immediately thought of you! I am excited for the Packers to play football tonight! Not only is Wisconsin famous for cheese, but I learned this morning that Wisconsin is the toilet paper capital of the world-your state was the first to use splinter-free toilet paper! Who knew? 😉

  35. cara says:

    I’m always looking for new slow cooker recipes! This pork would be great in lots of things.

  36. Asparagus says:

    Sorry for being slow — but could you please clarify for me: what do you put in the 300 degree oven? and also, p.s. thank you so much for sharing your recipes. you’ve saved many a dinner night over here.

    • Mel says:

      Asparagus – thanks for the catch! That was an error in the recipe. I modified the original recipe to go from an oven recipe to a slow cooker recipe and accidentally still put in there to preheat the oven. I’ve edited the recipe. Thanks for letting me know!

  37. Christina @ Sweet Pea's Kitchen says:

    Mmmm…makes me wish I had this for dinner tonight! These look incredible! I love the idea of using a slow cooker and having these the next day as quesadillas. Yum! I am so glad that you enjoyed them. 🙂

  38. I am so lucky because where I live in Texas we have tons and tons of street food venders and food trucks (they were popular here way before the ever popular Food Network show Great Food Truck Race). Not only do these trucks have some of the best food around we have such variety of options. From authentic Texas BBQ to taco trucks, to sandwiches and even cupcake and cake ball street vendors. I love it! Tacos are also a weekly menu item in my house and I am always trying to change them up so this version is a great one to add to the rotation.

  39. Maria says:

    Great dinner idea!

  40. AnnetteBrunette says:

    Wow! Way too many exclamation points! I am very excited about these tacos!

  41. AnnetteBrunette says:

    Yum! I have to admit I am a stickler about corn tortillas though! Definitely going to try these soon (but with corn tortillas, sorry!) On a side note, if you visit SLC anytime Mel, you can get really good street tacos downtown!

  42. Deborah says:

    I have really come to love Cuban flavors lately, and these tacos, (authentic or not!) sound delicious!!

  43. StephenC says:

    I love tacos and I also much prefer flour tortillas. Nice work.

  44. Kim in MD says:

    Since we are all confessing here, I will also confess that I have never had a street taco, either! We are SO deprived! Well, I will feel much less deprived after I try this recipe. I love the complexity of the flavors in this dish. My family loves tacos of any kind, so I know they will love this!

    Oh- and Mel…what in the world is a Barn Brat? 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Kim – a Brat Barn is a roadside stand that sells…well…brats. Brats in buns. You know, it is the official state food of Wisconsin. (Not really, but they should be.) The little brat barns are everywhere from gas stations to grocery stores.

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