Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -Mark Twain

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Homemade Chilorio: Decadently Delicious

If you are on a low fat diet, then I'm sad for you because you will never be able to enjoy the true succulence that is chilorio. You can read on and drool, or figure out a way to make it without the fat, or just call it a day and move along to another recipe. It's OK. I'll still respect you in the morning. ;-)

Chilorio is a pork dish originating in the Mexican state of Sinaloa (on the Pacific coast, where Mazatlan is located). To make chilorio, pork is slow-simmered in water and lard until it falls apart, generally at least a couple of hours. It is then drained, shredded or broken into bite size pieces, fried in lard, and cooked in a chile sauce made from re-hydrated dried ancho chiles. The sauce is usually flavored with onions, cumin and garlic. The dish ends up a rich deep red in color and in taste it is positively decadent. Besides making a great filling for tacos, burritos, tamales, empanadas, gorditas, etc., it is also great in chili, pasta salads and as many more dishes as your creative juices can concoct.

You can buy the commercial version, canned, in any supermarket with a Mexican foods section and it's actually quite good, though on the expensive side. But as is usually the case, homemade is mo' bettah!

The process might sound kind of well, unhealthy, especially to health conscious Americans, but the end result is to die for and it isn't really as bad for you as you might imagine. Since we're going to be cooking with lard, which has gotten a clean bill of health for at least the last 15 years(!), scroll down below the recipe for some enlightening information about that much maligned ingredient.

The following recipe seems pretty standard, though some recipes call for the pork to be cut into bite-sized pieces before cooking it. I like it better this way, as it seems to make the meat more moist.


  • 2 pounds boneless pork
  • 4-5 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup lard
  • 4-5 dried ancho chiles (or other mild sweet chile)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Place dried chiles in a bowl and set aside.

Place pork in a large heavy pot, add water or broth and 1/4 cup lard and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours, or until the meat is falling apart. About 20 minutes or so before it is done, ladle out enough liquid to completely cover the dried chiles and let them soak in the liquid until they are soft and the liquid has cooled. When the chiles are cool enough to handle, remove the stems and seeds.

When the pork is done, drain off the liquid, reserving 1 cup. Shred the pork using two forks or pull it into bite-sized chunks. Heat remaining lard in a large heavy frying pan, add the pork and fry until browned, stirring frequently. Remove the pork and set aside. Then cook the onions in the remaining lard until translucent but not brown. Remove onions from the pan and set aside to cool.

In a blender, add the chiles, onions, spices and reserved liquid. Blend until smooth. And here is the step that makes this dish special: Drain most of the lard from the pan and put the pork back into the pan with the blended chile sauce. Simmer for at least 10 minutes to thicken the sauce and meld the flavors.

Now then, about lard, which has gotten an unnecessarily bad wrap in recent years. Aside from making fried foods and pastries much crispier, flakier and less greasy, did you know this totally natural fat is mostly monounsaturated, which is healthier than saturated fat? And even the saturated fat in lard has a neutral effect on blood cholesterol. Much healthier than canned shortenings such as Crisco which are full of deadly trans fats. Don't believe me? Read this paean to lard by Regina Schrambling: Lard: After decades of trying, its moment is finally here.

So go out and get yourself some lard, and let's get busy making some chilorio!

Buen provecho!

If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish, I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)