If you love big flavors, you’ve found them! Carne Adovada is a stewed pork dish from New Mexico, and it is not to be missed.
Melt in your mouth tender pork shoulder braises for hours in a chili pepper based sauce. Don’t worry! This one isn’t too spicy. Though, if you want, I’ll teach you how to turn it spicy!
Dried chili peppers are one of the things that sets Mexican and Southwest-style cuisines apart. They can range from mild to fiery, and always bring their own unique flavor profiles.
Today’s recipe isn’t heavy on the heat, relying on the relatively mild New Mexico and Ancho chilis, but it sure brings on the flavor!
Why We LOVE Carne Adovada
- Deep, Complex Flavors: The combination of New Mexico and ancho chilis creates a sauce that’s rich, deep, and layered with flavors. These chilis, along with the blend of spices like cumin, Mexican oregano, and a hint of cloves, contribute to a taste profile that’s both unique and incredibly satisfying.
- Tender, Succulent Pork: The slow cooking process ensures that the pork shoulder becomes exceptionally tender, almost melting in your mouth. This method of cooking allows the meat to fully absorb the flavors of the sauce, making each bite a delightful experience.
- Aromatic and Inviting: From the moment you start toasting the chilis to the final simmer, the aroma of this dish will fill your kitchen, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. It’s the kind of recipe that not only tastes good but makes your entire home smell amazing.
- Versatility in Serving: This dish pairs beautifully with various sides, making it a versatile recipe for any meal. We’ll give you some of our favorite serving options later in the post.
- Impressive Yet Easy to Make: While the flavors are complex, the preparation is straightforward. This makes it an excellent choice for impressing guests or for a special Sunday dinner without too much fuss in the kitchen.
What is Carne Adovada?
Carne Adovada is a beloved New Mexican dish featuring tender, slow-cooked pork immersed in a rich, red chili sauce.
Similar to Chile Colorado, except swapping the beef for pork and omitting the tomatoes, this stew combines the deep, smoky flavors of dried chilis with aromatic spices.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Dried Chili Peppers – We have found a mix of New Mexico and ancho chilis give a well balanced flavor profile. That being said, feel free to experiment with ratios, or add in other varieties like guajillo. For a spicy version, add some árbol chilis into the mix.
- Garlic – Garlic is pretty essential, but in a pinch, you could use a small amount of garlic powder as a substitute.
- White Vinegar – Apple cider vinegar could be a good alternative, offering a similar acidic balance with a slightly fruity note.
- Honey – If you prefer not to use honey, maple syrup or agave nectar are good alternatives for adding a touch of sweetness.
- Mexican Oregano – Regular oregano can be used, though it lacks the same intensity.
- Cumin Powder – Ground coriander could be used as a substitute, or use half the amount of regular chili powder.
- Cayenne Powder – For a little kick (but not as much as adding árbol).
- Ground Cloves – Adds another layer of flavor. If you don’t have ground, simply place whole cloves between paper towels and crush them with a pestle or similar object.
- Cooking Oil – Almost any neutral oil, like vegetable or canola oil, can be used for browning the meat.
- Pork Shoulder – A well marbled cut is ideal. This can be in the form of Boston butt, picnic roast, or shoulder cut country style ribs. For a leaner option, you could use pork loin, but keep in mind it won’t be as tender.
- White Onion – Yellow onions can be used in place of white onions. They’re a bit sweeter but will still work well.
Step by Step Instructions
1. Prep the chilis: Remove stems and seeds, then briefly (1-2 minutes) toast the chilis in a dry skillet. Transfer to a small pot and add water until they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Do not discard soaking water.
2. Make chili paste: Transfer chilis into a blender along with one cup of the soaking water, garlic, vinegar, honey and spices. Blend until smooth.
3. Brown the pork: Give the pork a quick sear in an oiled skillet until browned. Plate it out.
4. Sauté onion: Add onion and sauté until it starts to soften up.
5. Cook the adovada: Add sauce into the pan along with 1 additional cup of the chili soaking water. Stir well. Add in the pork chunks.
Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until pork is super tender, about 2-2.5 hours.
Can I Cook It in a Slow Cooker?
Absolutely, it is a stew after all!
Simply follow the same steps above through sautéing the onions. Then place the onions, sauce and pork in your crock pot.
For best flavors, we recommend using the additional cup of soaking liquid that goes into the dish to deglaze the searing pan, then pouring it into the crock. You don’t want to waste all those browned bits you created searing the meat.
Place on the lid, then cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
Carne adovada is typically garnished with cilantro and served with rice and/or tortillas, along with lime wedges.
We also love to shred the pork and use it as a filling for tacos or burritos, or as a topping for nachos, bowl meals or even baked potatoes.
For a low carb option, serve it with cauliflower rice.
Hmm… how about adovada ramen? Hey, it works with Birria!
Leftovers and Storage
Like all chilis and stews, carne adovada just seems to get better after a day or so, as the flavors mingle together.
You can refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Just reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat with a splash of additional water.
It also freezes very well. Store it in an airtight container and freeze, using within 2-3 months for best quality.
Tips and Tricks
- Toast Chilis Carefully: When toasting the chilis, do it over a medium heat and keep a close eye on them. They should become fragrant but not burnt, as burnt chilis will impart a bitter taste to your sauce.
- Browning the Pork: Don’t rush browning the pork. This step adds depth to the flavor. Make sure the pork is dry before you add it to the pan, and don’t overcrowd the pan to ensure a good sear.
- Low and Slow Cooking: Simmer the dish on a low heat. This slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together and the pork to become incredibly tender. Don’t be tempted to turn up the dial.
- Skimming the Fat: After the cooking process, there might be excess fat on the surface. Skim this off for a cleaner, more refined sauce.
- Resting Time: Let the dish rest for a bit after cooking. This allows the flavors to settle and the sauce to thicken slightly.
- Adjust Seasoning: Before serving, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sometimes a little extra salt or a splash of vinegar can really brighten up the flavors.
Give your pork a Southwest makeover tonight! Trust me, once you take your first succulent, tender and flavorful bite, you’ll be hooked!
Pin or bookmark this delicious recipe so you always know where to find it. And be sure to subscribe to GypsyPlate, we’re always cooking up new recipes for you.
Carne Adovada, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 6 New Mexico chilis
- 4 ancho chilis
- 6 cloves garlic
- 3 Tbsp white vinegar
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1½ tsp Mexican oregano
- 1½ tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp salt + more to season pork
- ½ tsp cayenne powder
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil
- 2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into bite sized chunks
- pepper, to taste
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- cilantro, for garnish
- lime wedges, for serving
- Cut the stems off and make a slit along the side to open them and discard the seeds. Dry toast them in hot pan for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant (don’t burn them, as they can turn bitter).
- Add the chilis into a small pot and add water until they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Do not discard soaking water.
- Transfer soaked chilis, 1 cup of the soaking water, garlic, vinegar, honey, oregano, cumin salt, cayenne and cloves to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
- Heat oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat. Season pork chunks with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides. Work in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan. Remove to a plate.
- Add onion to the skillet and sauté until translucent.
- Add sauce into the pan along with 1 additional cup of the chili soaking water. Stir well. Add in the pork chunks.
- Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 2-2.5 hours, until the pork is fork tender.
- Before serving, skim the accumulated grease off of the top of the stew and discard.
- Serve with your choice of rice and/or tortillas, along with cilantro and lime wedges for garnish.
- Feel free to change up the chili pepper ratios, or add in some other varieties such as guajillo. For a spicy version, add 2-4 árbol chilis.
- To cook this in a slow cooker, follow steps 1-5 above. Transfer pork, onions and sauce into the slow cooker. Use 1 cup of chili soaking water to deglaze the browning pan, then pour it into the crockpot. Stir well, cover, and cook for 6-8 hours on low, or 3-4 hours on high.
- For best flavors, let the dish rest for a bit after cooking. This allows the flavors to settle and the sauce to thicken slightly.
- Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat with a splash of additional water.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 510Total Fat 37gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 22gCholesterol 136mgSodium 493mgCarbohydrates 6gFiber 1gSugar 4gProtein 36g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.
Never miss a recipe!
Join the GypsyPlate mailing list and get easy dinner recipes right in your mailbox. From homestyle comfort food to exotic dishes from around the world.