Carnitas with Tomatillo Sauce, Pinto Beans, & Cilantro

This dish is wonderful because you can build tacos with it, wrap it all up in a tortilla to make a burrito, or just combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Whichever way you choose to eat it, I hope you enjoy! 

Carnitas with Tomatillo Sauce, Pinto Beans, & Cilantro
Serves 6-8


  • 2 pounds pork shoulder meat, cubed

Pinto Beans

  • 2 pounds pinto beans, dry, soaked overnight
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons coriander, ground
  • 2 tablespoons cumin, ground
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper

Tomatillo Sauce

  • 5 pounds tomatillos, peeled
  • 1 pound green chiles, frozen
  • 1/4 cup garlic cloves
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper

Day before:

Soak beans in cold water overnight. This will help them cook faster when you make the carnitas.

Day of:

Heat a large, deep saute pan or cast iron skillet on the stove until it is nice and hot. Add the canola oil and pork, then brown the pork on all sides. Once browned, cover the pork with water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Once the pork is simmering, place a large stockpot on the stove over medium-high heat for the beans. When the pan is hot, add the canola oil and onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, dried spices, and beans and stir well, then add the chicken broth. Simmer for about 1.5 hours, until the beans are nice and soft and most of the liquid has cooked out of them.

While the beans are cooking, give the carnitas an occasional stir, breaking up the meat as it cooks.

Make your tomatillo sauce while the beans and carnitas cook. Place a small saucepan on the stove over medium-high heat and add the oil. Then add the onions, garlic, and tomatillos and cook for 3 minutes. Add the green chiles and chicken broth, then bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the tomatillos are nice and soft. Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool.

Check on your pork. Eventually, all the liquid will cook out, and the pork will start to stick to the bottom of the pan a little bit. This is a good thing as long as it doesn’t burn! Continue to break up the meat with a spoon until it is shredded a little, but a few chunks remain. Season to taste with salt. You can keep it warm in the oven until you’re ready to eat.

Once your tomatillo sauce has cooled, add the cilantro and puree with a hand blender (or transfer to a blender and puree). Season with salt and pepper. The sauce is delicious served hot or cold- whichever you prefer!

Serve the pork, beans, and sauce together however you like. Enjoy!

Chef Brandon FosterBrandon Foster began his life in the kitchen at the Best Western in Frisco, Colorado, almost 18 years ago. His passion for ingredients and drive to learn technique led him down the mountain to Denver, where he worked in two of Denver’s most fondly remembered restaurants, The Fourth Story and Mel’s. He joined the crew at Vesta in 2005 as a line cook and became executive chef in 2010, focusing on getting back to the roots of cooking through charcuterie and seasonal ingredients. Ultimately, Chef Brandon’s career highlights centered on events like Plates for the Peak, Invest in Kids, and James Beard Foundation dinners where he could play a role in helping people in need- a passion that led him to Project Angel Heart in 2016. Outside the kitchen, Chef Brandon enjoys spending time skiing, camping, golfing, and eating with his wife Larissa and their three kids.