What Is a Torta?
A torta is a Mexican sandwich served on a toasted roll and filled with meat, sauce, and various toppings such as cilantro, avocado, lettuce, shredded cabbage, tomato, jalapeño peppers, pickled red onion, mashed black beans or refried beans, and melty cheese such as queso Oaxaca. Tortas can be filled with almost anything, but some of the most famous versions include:
- Torta Cubana: This style of torta from Mexico City, has it all: hot dog, ham, pierna (marinated, uncured pig leg), head cheese, scrambled or fried egg, chorizo, and chicken or beef milanesa—all piled into one huge sandwich.
- Torta ahogada: This style of torta from Guadalajara, Jalisco, is a pork sandwich served on birote salado, a roll with a crunchy, salted crust. The torta is then “drowned” in a spicy sauce made from chile de árbol, oregano, garlic, and vinegar, and topped with white onion.
How to Make Pork Tortas
The pulled pork torta is one of the sandwich’s most beloved iterations. To make it at home:
- Braise the pork. Tortas are a great use for meat left over from tacos or barbecue, but if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to braise a pork shoulder (aka pork butt) or pork loin. Braise the pork in water with salt, sliced onion, garlic cloves, and spices such as ground cumin, Mexican oregano, black peppercorns, and chipotle chiles. You can place the meat in a Dutch oven and cook it in a low oven, or use a slow cooker or pressure cooker—just make sure the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender when you take it out.
- Shred the pork. Once the pork is tender, allow it to rest until cool enough to touch. Then shred—or pull—the meat using a fork or your hands.
- Crisp the pork. Fry the pulled pork on a griddle or in a pan over medium-high heat in vegetable oil or another fat until you have some crispy edges. Alternatively, spread the shredded pork on a baking sheet and broil until crisp in places. You can add flavor to the pork at this stage by frying it in adobo sauce or mixing it with sugar.
- Assemble the torta. While you’re waiting for the pork to cool, gather the rest of your ingredients. Torta bread should be soft enough that the juices from the meat and sauces can soak the bread, with a slightly crisp exterior to prevent the entire sandwich from soaking through. Look for bolillos or teleras at Mexican bakeries, or substitute a French roll, baguette, or any sandwich roll with a crisp exterior and fluffy interior. Slice the bread in half and toast on both sides, either in the pan that you crisped the pork in or in the broiler. Spread both sides with mayonnaise. If using beans, spread on the bottom half of the sandwich. Add shredded pork, followed by your preferred toppings, like lettuce or cheese. Place the other half of the roll on top of the sandwich and eat warm with your hands.
Pork Torta Recipe
Prep Time30 min
Total Time1 hr 30 min
Cook Time1 hr
For the pork:
- 1¼ lb. pork shoulder (aka pork butt)
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled and smashed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 dried chipotle chiles
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or lard
For the tortas:
- 4 bread rolls such as bolillos
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 large ripe avocado
- 2 cups shredded lettuce
- ½ cup Mexican cheese such as cotija
- Hot sauce, to taste
- Place the pork shoulder in a large Dutch oven and season generously with salt. Add enough water to cover and then add sliced onion, garlic cloves, bay leaf, cumin, Mexican oregano, black peppercorns, and chipotle chiles. Add 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until tender, about 1 hour. Drain the liquid and discard.
- Once the pork is tender, allow it to rest until cool enough to touch. Then shred, or pull, the meat using a fork or your hands.
- Fry the pulled pork on a griddle or in a pan over medium-high heat in oil or lard until you have some crispy edges. Alternatively, spread the shredded pork on a baking sheet and broil until crisp in places.
- Slice the bread in half and toast on both sides, either in the pan that you crisped the pork in or in the broiler. Spread both sides with mayonnaise. Add shredded pork, avocado, lettuce, cheese, and hot sauce. Place the other half of the roll on top of the sandwich and serve warm.
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