Serious Eats

Which Chain Makes the Best Carnitas Taco?

[Photographs: Farley Elliott]

One does not simply walk into carnitas heaven. No; the road is paved with plenty of sad porkers that have given their lives for something wet, flavorless and lacking any of the deep, earthy tones that the meat should be giving off.

To reach the levels of porky nirvana that carnitas can attain takes a mastery of many different elements: the cut of meat, the early seasoning, the deceptively slow simmer, the crispy finish. Skimping on any part of the process will result in something less than perfection.

And when you've had the carnitas taco perfection at places like Tacos Los Guichos and Los Cinco Puntos, both in Los Angeles, lowering the bar just doesn't seem very fair to anyone.

That being said, taco chain places are already doing yeoman's work. Between the corporate demands to the individual franchise directives and constant price-point battles with competitors, there is little room for the care and technique that carnitas requires.

Still, it's important to stand by any product listed on your menu board. Between Chipotle, Qdoba, Baja Fresh, Wahoo's and Del Taco, there are only a couple that should feel comfortable putting their name behind the carnitas tacos they serve. So, which tacos won this round?

The Criteria

See all the carnitas tacos we tried >>

Baja Fresh Corn Taco

The Chains We Tried

Recommended

Chipotle: Soft Taco
Chipotle: Hard Taco
Baja Fresh: Corn Tortilla Taco

Wouldn't Kick This Taco Out of Bed

Del Taco: Soft Taco
Baja Fresh: Flour Tortilla Taco

Not Recommended

Qdoba: Hard Taco
Qdoba: Soft Taco
Wahoo's: Soft Taco

About the author: Farley Elliott is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. He blogs about burgers at Beef and Bun and covers the LA comedy scene for LAist.com.

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