Duck Carnitas Tacos

Mexican carnitas are made from meat that’s been slow-cooked in fat. Usually, this means pork braised in lard. But duck legs covered in a thick layer of fatty skin are ideal for this sort of cooking. Not only do you end up with easy, really delicious duck carnitas, you’ll have a little extra rendered duck fat in the pot to use for future cooking.

The tender, shredded duck meat is fried briefly to crisp up the edges, then it’s tossed with a cabbage slaw made from red cabbage, radishes, jalapeno peppers and cilantro. This combination of ingredients makes the slaw a brightly colored, sulfur rich, Vitamin C packed powerhouse…but you don’t have to think about that while you’re eating it. Just focus on how delicious the cool, crunchy, spicy slaw tastes with rich, crispy morsels of duck.

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 25 minutes hands-on, plus 2 hours to braise duck legs


  • 2 pounds duck legs (900g)
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder (5 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided (5 ml plus 2.5 ml)
  • 1 white or red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • 1/2 a small red cabbage, finely chopped
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (240 ml)
  • 1 or 2 jalapenos, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (60 ml)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (80 ml)


Heat oven to 350 °F/176 °C.

Season duck legs on both sides with five-spice powder and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of the salt.

In a Dutch oven or lidded baking dish that snugly fits the duck legs, combine the duck legs, onion and garlic. Squeeze the orange wedges over the duck. Add the pieces of orange to the pot.


Cook covered until duck is very tender, which should take about 2 hours.

Let the duck cool then shred the duck meat off the bones.

While the duck is in the oven cooking, combine cabbage, radish, jalapeno, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Whisk together lime juice, olive oil and remaining ½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt and pour over cabbage mixture. Mix well. Refrigerate while the duck finishes cooking. Taste the slaw again before serving, and add more salt as needed.

cabbage slaw

Heat a tablespoon of the rendered duck fat in a skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the shredded duck meat, cooking just a few minutes until crispy just around the edges. Don’t let the meat get too crispy, or it will be dry.

Serve the duck meat and slaw on Primal tortillas or on a thin omelet. Or, ditch the idea of a tortilla completely and serve these duck tacos in a bowl as a duck carnitas salad.

Duck Carnitas 2

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