Carne Adovada, or Slow-Baked Pork in Chilli Sauce

Categories New Mexican, Pork, US


Leafing once more through Gran Cocina Latina by Maricel Presilla, an extraordinary cookbook I was offered by a very kind friend, I stumbled upon Peruvian Pork Adobo. It reminded me of the New Mexican Carne Adovada from MJ’s Kitchen, which I had mentally bookmarked, but never cooked. The name ressemblance is not accidental because, even though not identical, both relate to pork marinated in dried chilli sauce and cooked until very tender. Trusting MJ’s excellent taste, I followed of course her New Mexican recipe (though, as always, with certain modifications). My dried chillies were very dark, so the pork didn’t end up as beautifully vibrant red as MJ’s, but I loved the result: the slightly smoky flavours, the fork-tender texture, the lazy cooking process…. My homemade chapatti (Indian flat breads) proved perfect wrapped around the meat and vegetables. I know there are many other ways to serve carne adovada (see MJ’s suggestions), but these wraps were so good, I think I’ll have them at least once a day during the upcoming week! Thank you so much, dear MJ, for such a fantastic discovery!

Though I’ve followed MJ’s instructions (with a smaller batch), I have also slightly changed the ingredients, using aji panca chillies, advised in the Peruvian recipe (I simply had lots of them forgotten in the cupboard), adding cumin and black pepper, using a crazy amount of garlic…. In short, make sure you visit MJ’s Kitchen blog not only to see the genuine New Mexico Carne Adovada and learn about other ways to serve it, but most of all to take a journey through a fascinating world of beautifully photographed New Mexican cuisine.

TIPS: I have used here pork’s neck, choosing a cut which was not too fatty. Then, just like MJ advised, I cut off the big fatty parts, but left some tiny bits so that the meat wouldn’t become too dry. The choice of the cut and of the fat content is up to you.

Adapt the chillies’ heat level to your preferences and resistance. Even if you like very spicy food, I advise medium hot chillies. You can check the heat level after two hours of baking and add some chilli powder if it’s not fiery enough. Stir the pork and put back into the oven.

If you want to serve Carne Adovada in wraps, you can use either tortillas or chapattis, homemade or bought (though I find store-bought chapattis worse than store-bought tortillas). The above wrap contains lettuce, cucumber, avocado, red onion, Greek yogurt and coriander leaves. After taking the photo I have also added pickled jalapeños, which proved a perfect final touch.

This meat is very good reheated, even in a microwave (I prefer it warm in the wraps and intend to heat it this week for my meals).

Preparation: about 4 hours+overnight marinating 

Ingredients (makes at least a dozen wraps, if raw vegetables are added):

900g (about 2 lbs) pork (I have used neck, but you can also use shoulder or tenderloin)

Dried chilli sauce:

1 tablespoon oil

10 medium hot dried red chillies (with our without seeds; I’ve used seedless aji panca), torn into pieces

1 tablespoon oregano (the best is Mexican oregano of course)

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons vinegar (I’ve used red wine vinegar)

7-8 big or 10 medium garlic cloves, sliced

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

10 black pepper corns

2 medium shallots (or 1 medium onion), sliced

1 tablespoon honey or 1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar

(powdered chilli)

First prepare the sauce.

Heat the oil in a pan. Stir-fry the onion until soft, then add the garlic and then dried chilli and stir-fry until you smell the chilli (it burns easily so don’t put your eyes off the pan!).  Add the remaining ingredients, pour 250 ml (about 1 cup) water and let it simmer for ten minutes.

Mix the sauce in a food processor.

Adjust the flavours, adding more vinegar, salt, honey and if you find the sauce not hot enough, add chilli powder, but you’ll be able to adjust the heat level during the baking process (see the TIPS above).

Mix once more and put aside.

Cut up the meat into bite-sized pieces (I have cut into 2 cm (about 3/4 in) cubes) and mix well with the sauce.

Put the meat to marinate overnight in a covered container.

The following day take the meat out of the fridge, put into a baking dish with a cover and let it rest while the oven heats.

Preheat the oven to 140°C (about 300°F) and bake the meat, covered, for 3-4 hours.

(After two hours you can check the heat, add some more chilli powder and then bake for one-two more hours.)

Check MJ’s Kitchen to see how you can serve the meat, apart from wraps.

10 thoughts on “Carne Adovada, or Slow-Baked Pork in Chilli Sauce

  1. Great looking dish, Sissi.

    Pork is such an economical dish to cook especially the tougher cuts that take a lot of slow cooking/braising with some liquid to become tender. The combination of flavours in the liquid lends to a complex end product even if one can’t acquire that particular pepper. Peruvian cuisine is new to me and I don’t think my Mexican grocery store has it. Unfortunately on line shopping has its limitations including excessive shipping costs so I try to, as much as possible, source my ingredients locally even if they’re not locally grown.

    Thank you for expanding my palate with Korean foods first and now Peruvian. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, A_Boleyn, for this kind comment. I love pork, so I’m always happy to learn new dishes with it. Actually this is rather a New Mexico dish with Peruvian dried chilli peppers I accidentally had… If I had New Mexico peppers, I’d use them instead! I’m sure the chillies you can find at your Mexican grocer’s will make this closer to the genuine dish. Anyway, I’m sure it’s delicious with any dried pepper!

  2. OMG! That wrap looks so good and having had to privilege of tasting aji panca chilies, I can already taste it and it tastes so good! In addition to the use of the aji panca, I love the other changes you made and also love that you referred to the cookbook. AND, I LOVE the larger amount of garlic. You can never have too much right?

    Thanks you so much for awesome shout out!! You are way too kind and such a good friend. You’re the best Sissi! Sending you some hugs.

    1. Thank you so much, dear MJ, for all the compliments! (Actually my chapatti were horribly clumsy this time….so I hoped the wrap didn’t look too scary). I’m relieved you approve of my slight changes… I saw cumin in the Peruvian adobo and since I often use it in Indian cuisine, I added it too. I really loved this way to cook pork so much, I have had it three days in a row and am already worried it’ll end soon… I’ll make some more next weekend maybe with real Mexican oregano! Thank you so much again for inspiration, kindness and support!

  3. What a beautiful dish, I just love how bright the colours are! Our first experience with Peruvian cuisine was in The Lower East Side (LES) in New York City. JT and I were waiting for friends in the lobby of our hotel when a woman carrying a bag of warm bagels comes rushing in. She stops by, “have you ever had a New York bagel?” she asks out of the blue. “No,” we said and with that, she reaches in and pulls out a warm bagel for us to try! She was on her way to the hair salon she manages that is attached to the hotel. We chat for a moment and she tells us about this sensational and reasonably priced Peruvean restaurant near by. She was so convincing that we tried it for lunch and were hooked! It’s quite similar to Mexican cuisine with small differences but the flavours hit all the right notes with us too. Thanks for bringing back such a lovely memory.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. I have never had a Peruvian dish, but I’ve heard Peruvian cuisine is wonderful (this dish is more New Mexican – I hope – than Peruvian though!). Thanks a lot for sharing the lovely memories of your New York Peruvian adventure! I’d love to experience such a moment in every single city I visit. It’s always the best to have a local recommendation when we travel.

  4. Oh, this looks good! I’ve made wraps with carnitas slow cooked on the stove a few weeks ago and they were great, but if there was one thing I’ve missed was the heat. I would love to try this carne adovada with chili sauce. My mouth is watering. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Adina. You should try this recipe, adapting the chillies’ heat level to your preferences. It was really amazing.

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