Looking for something different to spice up your Taco Tuesdays? Crispy pork belly seasoned with a smoky-sweet ancho rub is just what you need for super satisfying melt-in-your-mouth tacos. Quick pickled chilis, a simple lime & cilantro slaw and a charred tomatillo salsa are perfect compliments you can prep ahead or throw together while the pork belly cooks.
Anyone else get seduced by the butcher’s case?
I went to the store with a list. Before leaving my house I’d planned out our meals for the week, checked my fridge, freezer & pantry to make sure I wasn’t duplicating items and organized my list by the path I take walking through the aisles. But, when I stood in front of the butcher case I found myself completely incapable of sticking to what I’d left the house committed to. There was this beautiful pork belly sandwiched between the pork roasts and rib chops and, as I stood there waiting my turn, I think I may have drooled a little.
(Side note- as much as I hate wearing a mask, the ability to drool, unnoticed, in a public setting IS a direct benefit 😊)
So, I put the pork belly in my cart and mentally reworked my list to include everything I’d need for pork belly tacos. Shredded cabbage, chilis, limes, avocados and cilantro, CHECK. Ooooh…and are those tomatillos over there? Into the cart they went for some charred tomatillo salsa. I was pretty sure I had everything else I needed already, because taco’s are a regular on our dinner rotation.
What is Pork Belly?
Pork belly is the same cut that bacon is made from. It’s just in it’s raw, untouched state, where bacon has been cured. If you’ve had pork belly and didn’t like it, it probably wasn’t prepared well. I’ll bet it was either chewy and tough or it was limp, greasy and all fat. Really good pork belly has a wonderfully crisp, flavorful crust on top of a melty layer of fat that dissolves into the meat underneath creating a silky-soft, buttery pork experience.
What to look for?
You can buy pork belly with or without the skin. I mostly get mine without the skin because it’s the way my butcher carries it. This method is for skin-off pork belly. I haven’t tried this recipe with skin-on so I can’t promise it will turn out the same if that’s what you use. This cut naturally has a lot of fat, and you’ll see more creamy white fat than pink meat. But don’t be afraid of the high fat to meat ratio. The fat will render as it cooks, flavoring the meat underneath, and what you’ll end up with will be a closer ratio of the two.
Tips for crispy, flavorful pork belly
- Choose pork belly that’s the same thickness throughout so that it cooks evenly
- Score the top in a diamond pattern. This is a MUST for skin on, but I’ve found it helps the crispness and the flavor of skin-off, too
- Dry it very well with paper towels before adding the rub
- Use more seasoning than you think you need. And rub it onto all sides and into the score marks
- Cook on a rack over a baking sheet. This way the heat penetrates from all sides and the bottom doesn’t end up soaking in fat while it cooks
- If it’s not as crispy as you’d like when it’s done (everyone’s oven is different), take it out and increase the temp to 400 degrees f. Return to the oven and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until crispy
Tacos are a formula
Taco night is flexible, but there are a few things I think are important for a good mix of flavors and textures. I like to have something hot and something cold, something crunchy and something soft, something spicy and something mellow. My general taco formula almost always includes:
- Protein (chicken, steak, fish or pork),
- Vegetables (bell peppers & onions)
- Something cold & crunchy like slaw or shredded lettuce
- A couple flavor-adds like salsa, chipotle dressing and/or guacamole (who am I kidding??? I ALWAYS have guacamole!)
- Cheese (shredded cheddar or Monterey jack, crumbled goat cheese or cotija)
- Tortillas (corn or flour)
- Lime wedges for squeezing
These tacos are served with a really delicious, charred tomatillo salsa that I like both warm and cold. Whenever I make it, I make enough to have leftovers to use in other meals throughout the week.
Also? Quick pickled chilis are SO simple to make and placing a couple on top is like adding a spicy little exclamation point to your taco experience!
I hope you enjoy these pork belly tacos as much as we do!
And if you try them, I’d love to see a picture and hear how it went! Tag me on instagram @breathingandcooking or tell me about it right her in the comments!
For Pork Belly
- 1 1/2 lb pork belly, skin-off
- 1 Tbsp Ancho Chili Powder
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp Diamond kosher salt (if using table salt reduce to 3/4 tsp)
- 1/4 tsp coriander
- 1/2 head of cabbage sliced very thin (or use 1 10 oz bag of angel hair cole slaw mix)
- 1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (to taste)
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil
- pinch of sugar and salt and pepper to taste
- 3 bell peppers (any combination of red, yellow & orange), sliced into 1/2 inch strips
- 1 large red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
- 1 Tbsp avocado oil
For Tacos & For Serving
Make the pork belly
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees f. Combine all spice rub ingredients in a small bowl
- Pat pork belly dry with paper towels and score the top (fat side) about 1/4 inch deep in a diamond pattern
- Rub spice mixture over pork belly on all sides making sure to get it into the scored areas, too. You'll have a nice thick coating and you may have spice rub left (put it in a little jar or baggy and use in another recipe).
- Place an oven proof rack on a rimmed baking sheet and place seasoned pork belly on top of rack. Place in center of preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes reduce heat to 300 degrees f and continue roasting for 1 1/2 hours more.
15 minutes before pork belly is done
- Slice jalapeno or fresno chili into thin rings (remove seeds if you want less heat), place in small bowl and pour vinegar over. Set aside.
- Combine all slaw ingredients in bowl and work mixture with your hands until everything is well combined. Cover and place in refrigerator until ready to use.
- Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven with pork belly.
- In large skillet heat 1Tbsp oil over medium-high heat and add onion, stirring constantly 3 minutes. Add bell peppers to onions and continue stirring 4 minutes more, until they're crisp tender. season with a little kosher salt and cracked pepper. Transfer to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
- When pork belly is done, remove it from the oven (turn off oven but leave tortillas inside to stay warm) and wait 5 minutes before slicing thinly
Serve pork belly and peppers with tortillas, slaw, guacamole, tomatillo salsa, cotija cheese, pickled chilis, lime wedges and lots of napkins
One more thing…
Got leftovers? Make breakfast tacos!
Crisp pork belly in a skillet and serve on a corn tortilla with salsa and an oozy fried egg. Because everything’s better with an egg on it 🙂 I warmed up some diced orange along with the pork belly in the picture, below, and put that on top, too! Delicious!