Food You Can Eat: Carne Adovada

New Mexican food is the best food

Do you hear angels singing? I hear angels singing.

First things first:  Carne adovada is not carne asada—Cousin Matt covered that one recently.  Carne asada is beef, while carne adovada is pork—specifically, pork shoulder.  It is a glorious concoction of meat steeped in red chile which is so versatile it can be used in just about any way.  I’m using it in my breakfast burritos, but you can make enchiladas, burritos, stew, or even just eat it on its own.  Also, no matter what the tag says, this is NOT Mexican food–particularly the way this is prepared.

A caveat before we get started:  To make traditional carne adovada you need to use dried New Mexican red chile pods—using prepared jars of red chile won’t cut it.  Don’t even think about using chile powder—that’s Mexican carne adovada and this is New Mexican cuisine, which is far superior.  Fight me.  You can order dried chile pods here.  Red chile generally, but red chile made from dried pods in particular, can cause permanent stains on almost any surface.  So, don’t wear anything you’re worried about getting dirty—you’ll eventually get used to that red stain on your rubber spatula and the lid of your blender.

Here’s what you’ll need:

6 Lbs. Pork Shoulder

1 Lb. Whole Dried New Mexican Red Chiles

4 Cups Chicken or Beef Stock

1 Lg. Onion, chunked

8 Cloves Garlic

4 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar

4 tsp. Mexican Oregano

2 tsp. Salt, or more to taste

Start by trimming and boning (stop snickering) your pork shoulder.  This is not a prime cut of meat, so there’s a lot of fat and a large section of bone running right down the middle.  This is one of the reasons why carne adovada was (and is) so ubiquitous in the Southwest, because it was a cheap way for poorer people to have access to meat, before the days of supermarkets and national trucking lines.  Super Traditional carne adovada was actually a fairly long process because the pork shoulder was first placed in pottery and fermented.  We’re not doing that shit, which is why vinegar is now an acceptable method to obtain that slightly sour taste.

A word about knives:  Not all knives are created equally.  I’m not just talking about the quality of a good knife versus a shit knife (which, while we’re on the subject, do yourself a favor and buy yourself one professional grade 8” or 10” chef’s knife.  You can thank me later).  I’m talking about the different types of knives.  Knives are tools and each tool has a specific purpose.  For example, if you have to drill a ½” hole in a piece of wood, are you going to use a ¼” bit and just keep banging away at it until the hole is roughly the size you want?  No.  No, you will not.  You will use a ½” drill bit because each bit has a specific purpose.  The same concept applies to knives.  Don’t just grab any old knife to do this work because it will make things ever so much more difficult.  Also, make sure your knives are sharp.  A dull knife is a dangerous knife because it is prone to slipping which means injuries are more likely.  So, the next time you hear someone say that they don’t like using sharp knives because they feel safer with a dull knife, you have my permission to tell them just how fucking stupid they are.

Anyway, getting back to knives and their purpose.  For the process of trimming and boning (stop snickering) the pork shoulder, your first choice is a boning knife.  Don’t have a boning knife?  Then you can get away with using a long paring knife.  Don’t have a paring knife?  Then, what the hell are you doing here?  Just buy some pork chops and cube them with your dull $10 carving knife and don’t come crying to me when you slice two of your fingers off.

Pictured, top to bottom: Chef’s Knife, Boning Knife, Paring Knife.

The pork shoulder will very likely still have the outer skin attached, so you’ll start there.  Simply choose a spot where the skin and the meat come together, slip your knife—edge first, not point first—into the meat/skin line, and slice away while gently pulling at the skin with your other hand.  This will take practice so don’t expect to do it perfectly, but do your best to not take a bunch of meat off.  Once the skin is removed, trim any easily accessible pieces of fat.

Before trimming.
After trimming.

Boning a shoulder (I said stop it), is not like boning a ham which is a very exacting process, which makes this less of a pain in the ass.  To remove the bone from the shoulder, simply choose a point to cut straight into the meat until you reach the bone, then carefully trim the meat off the bone, turning the shoulder this way and that until the bone has been removed.  Then trim whatever remaining fat is easily accessible.  Put the bone in a freezer bag and keep it for making soup stock later.  Waste not, want not.  There are a bunch of decent YouTube videos that show this process if you need a little more hand holding.

Boned. Stop snickering.

Using a chef’s knife, cut the meat into roughly 1” sized cubes and place in a greased baking dish.

This is probably four pounds of meat, once all is said and done.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  While the oven is heating, take your bag of red chile pods and cut off the stems and remove the seeds as best as you can.  There will always be a few seeds, here and there, which won’t just shake out of the pod so don’t make yourself crazy.

This is the real deal. You can tell by the company address at the bottom, which is located in Hatch, NM.

Then rinse your chile pods in water to clean out most of the remaining seeds, and place the damp chiles in a single layer on a baking sheet.  For this many chiles, you’ll probably need two baking sheets.  Then, bake the chiles for no more than five minutes.  You’re actually steaming the chiles to make them more pliable—not trying to dry them again.  Plus, they will scorch very quickly.  A little darkening is OK, but don’t let them burn. 

Before steaming.
After steaming. The difference in shade is very subtle, which is exactly what you want.

It’ll only take a few minutes for the chiles to cool, then tear them into two or three pieces, shaking out some of the really recalcitrant seeds. 

Dump roughly half of the chiles into a blender with half of the stock.  Run the blender on lowest setting until you have a smooth, thick liquid but can still see pieces of the chile pulp.

I could drink this right out of the blender.

Pour this sauce over the pork in the baking dish.  Then add the remaining chiles, stock, onion, garlic, salt, oregano, and vinegar into the blender and run it again until the onions have become almost invisible.  Pour over the pork, then stir everything together until the pork is evenly coated and the two different batches of sauce blend are well mixed. Generally speaking, the pork is usually allowed to marinade for a few days in the refrigerator, but my capacity for self-restraint is extremely limited so I popped that baby right in the oven.

Before braising. The “after” photo is the header image.

Cover the dish and bake in the 300-degree oven for three hours.  Then remove from the oven, stir everything some more, and return to the oven, uncovered, for another 30 minutes so the sauce can thicken and the top can get slightly crusty, like me.

Serve any way you like.  It works with almost anything.  I haven’t tried it with cereal yet, but don’t tempt me.

About butcherbakertoiletrymaker 568 Articles
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  1. I’m sure it is delicious. And I really like the soliloquy on knives! (I needed a warning about the photo of the meat stilling wearing pig skin, however.)

  2. Don’t tell Butcher I’m going to make this in a crockpot until the bones fall out, no fancy boning necessary. Love, Beavis. [I snickered every time]

    • I mean, you can do that, but you need to make sure the skin is off the shoulder first.  Also, keep in mind that what you’re making will essentially be a pulled pork with a red chile marinade.  The texture will be completely different.

  3. Maybe you can clear this up. My supermarket sells this brand of dried peppers

    and whether I use the Guajilo, California or New Mexicos, the skins always come out really hard after soaking, so when I run them through the blender there are lots of little shards almost like nail clippings and I have to run the pulp through a fine seive to get them out.
    Is it the brand, and I ought to try some mail order alternative? Or is there some alternative way of soaking I should try?

  4. I know this must vary greatly depending on how much fat is on the pork and how big its bones are, but how much does this make, roughly? Or how big is that baking dish, and does this fill the baking dish, or do you have extra? I’m just curious because I’d love to make this for a group without leftovers, so do I invite 2 people or 6? 

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