The Zach and Cilantro Saga – Day 2: Pork Tacos with a Chipotle Aioli, Salsa Verde, and Orange-Habanero Sauce


When I think of tacos, I think of something that just melts in your mouth and makes a huge mess. My Dad used to always say, “The messier the better”. This statement seems to hold for tacos all the time. Hence, I bring to you the ultimate pork taco packed with three different sauces just to keep your taste buds in a constant state of confusion while you attempt to prevent the delectable taco from falling onto the plate. Don’t be afraid of these tacos though since the sauces are actually quite mild due to the large amount of natural sugars present in the dish. And, the use of three different chiles (chipotle, jalapeño, and habanero) disperses the spiciness over your entire mouth, something that you will not get from just a single type of pepper alone. These might very well be the most customizable taco to ever enter your kitchen too. Do not be afraid to pile on the sauces!







I do suppose that a taco does deviate from the expected plan to only provide sweets and fried foods while Justine is out of town. However, it is Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, and it just seems natural to throw something on the grill. While many folks will be loading up the grill with prepackaged hot dogs and burgers, I figured it would be worth the time to do something a bit more creative with the grill. So, why not use a grill to cook a pork tenderloin rubbed with cumin, chile powder, and paprika? Uh, I do not have an answer for that question. So let’s just do it! The one thing that you have to be careful about here though is that you do NOT want to put the pork over burning hot coals or in a gas grill on high. The rub will burn very quickly if you do this and the meat will taste more like a burnt log than a succulent pork tenderloin. Also, be sure to let the pork rest after removing it from the grill so that you do not lose all of those yummy juices that are stuck inside the loin.

While the list of sauces is quite extensive, I assure you that they are super easy to make and you can make them all at the same time if you follow the order in which they are described below. The nice thing about these tacos is that if you are serving them for guests, you can leave it up to the guests to use any ratio of the sauces. So, if someone wants a smokier taco, they can pile on the aioli. If someone wants the heat of a jalapeño, then add a bit more salsa verde. And then, if there is someone who just wants to go all out they can pile all the sauces on the taco (make sure that this person is wearing a bib as there is a 99% chance that some of the taco will end up squirting out). You can make all of these sauces a day in advance if you are pressed for time too. And, you can even do the pork loin a day in advance and just let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. You will not even have to heat the pork the next day if you do not wish to. I have had these tacos both hot and cold and I cannot decide which I like better. I guess you could do both and let your guests decide for you?

As with any spicy dish, a hoppier beer is always a good bet. However, as the mercury rises, a super heavy and hoppy beer is not the kind of thing that you want to be downing with each and every meal. So, we need a compromise here I think. Breckenridge makes a brew that is exactly what the doctor ordered here (I suppose I could be the doctor making this order) . . . an Extra ESB. In the world of microbrew and now nanobrew, I suppose one can just make up any style that he/she may wish. It appears that that is exactly what they have done here with the Extra ESB. This beer is going to be higher in alcohol content than a standard ESB but no where near the bitterness of an IPA or IIPA. I suppose that this beer is so good that you may just want to drink the beer and save the tacos for leftovers.

As a final note, and completely unrelated to tacos and beer. We are testing out a new recipe format with this post and we would absolutely love any feedback (both positive AND negative). If you hate it, let us know. If you love it, also let us know. We think that the addition of the food nutrition is a great plus and we hope you find the recipes easier to follow (especially on the more complex recipes like this one where there are numerous sub-recipes). Thank you again for all of your support!



Pork Tacos with a Chipotle Aioli, Salsa Verde, and Orange-Habanero Sauce
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
1 hr, 20 min

Pork Tacos with a Chipotle Aioli, Salsa Verde, and Orange-Habanero Sauce

These tacos are super moist and packed with wonderful flavors. The use of habanero, fresno, and jalapeño peppers parts a nice amount of heat to the tacos but is well balanced by the sweet sauces.


    For the Pork Taco
  • 1 pound pork loin
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cheddar (shredded)
  • 1 cup red cabbage (sliced into thin pieces)
  • 1 avocado (cored and sliced)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (fresh, for garnish)
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • For the Orange-Habanero Sauce
  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 2 habanero peppers (halved)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • For the Salsa Verde
  • 5 tomatillos (cleaned and quartered)
  • 2 roma tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 jalapeno (halved)
  • 5 cloves garlic (clean and smashed)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime (juice only)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • For the Chipotle Aioli
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • First, preheat your grill on high for 10-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the orange-habanero sauce by combining the orange juice and habanero in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the sauce has reduced to about 2/3 of a cup. Remove the sauce from the pan and remove the peppers. Add the honey and salt a whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • To prepare the salsa verde, combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer the salsa to a saucepan and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • The chipotle aioli is prepared by simply whisking the ingredients together in a small bowl until well mixed. Set aside.
  • For the pork, mix the spices together and pour onto a plate. Roll the pork loin in the spice mixture and rub the spices into the meat. Let sit for 5 minutes before placing the pork loin on the grill. Be sure to turn the heat down on the grill at this point so that you do not burn the pork. Turn the pork every few minutes. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the pork is medium to medium-well. Remove from the grill and set aside for at least 10 minutes before cutting.
  • To prepare the tacos, place a small amount o the chipotle aioli on a flour tortilla and spread evenly. Then place 3-4 slices of the pork loin on the taco and top with the salsa verde, cabbage, cheese, avocado, and cilantro. Lastly, squirt about a tablespoon of the orange-habanero sauce onto the taco and serve!


Hardware: Grill * Saucepans * Blender/Food Processor * Mixing Bowls

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