Skip Nav
Trader Joe's
The 7 Best Salads at Trader Joe's
Lemon-Thyme Baked Chicken Recipe
Original Recipes
This Lemon-Thyme Baked Chicken Recipe Will Become Your Weeknight Staple
Oreo Cinnamon Rolls Recipe
Food Video
Prepare to Be Obsessed With These Oreo Cinnamon Rolls

Difference Between Carnitas, Carne Asada, and Al Pastor

Carnitas, Al Pastor, Barbacoa: Here's the 411 on Mexican Meats

The beer-drinking backdrop of a hot afternoon or evening would pair perfectly with a festive Mexican feast of tacos and grilled meats. But with a menagerie of Spanish monikers from carnitas to carne asada, taco meat terminology can get a bit confusing. Here's the breakdown of Mexican meats:

  • Carne asada: Grilled, marinated pieces of beef (typically sirloin or rib) served inside burritos and tacos.
  • Carnitas: Shoulder of pork that's been seasoned, braised until tender with lard and herbs (oregano, marjoram, bay leaves, garlic), pulled apart, and then oven-roasted until slightly crisp, then eaten alone or used as a filling for tacos, tamales, tortas, and burritos.
  • Al pastor: Crisp-thin shavings of vertical spit-roasted pork, marinated with guajillo chiles and achiote, then served on tortillas. Pastor means "shepherd," the name given to Lebanese merchants who immigrated to Mexico City in the early 1900s, bringing the concept of shawarma with them.
  • Cochinita pibil: Whole suckling pig or pork shoulder that's marinated in citrus with achiote, then wrapped in banana leaves and roasted. Historically, it's buried in a pit with a fire at the bottom.
  • Barbacoa: Traditionally, beef cheek and head that's covered in leaves from the maguey plant, then slow cooked over a wood fire in a pit in the ground. In America today, it also refers to spicy, shredded, slow-braised beef that's been made tender, then pulled apart.

Got all that? What Mexican meat goes in between your tortillas?

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Anna Monette Roberts
From Our Partners
Puma x Sophia Webster Collection 2018
Is Tick Season Going to Be Bad in 2018?
Everlane Wrap Dresses 2018
Best Zara Swimwear 2018
Best Summer YA Books 2018
How to Style Your Swimsuit For 2018
Shoes For a Wedding in the Spring and Summer
Best Wedding Guest Dresses at Reformation
Best High-Waisted Pants 2018
Best Lightweight Carryon Suitcases
Selena Gomez's Sexiest Swimsuits
How to Make Scrambled Eggs With Worcestershire Sauce
From Our Partners
Latest Recipes, Menus, Food & Wine
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds