Slow Cooker Korean Tacos


Anatomy of a Weeknight Dinner, Thursday May 5.

7:00 am Shower, get dressed, dig yesterday’s still-packed lunch bags out of backpacks even though Allowance Rules decree the removal of lunch bags from backpacks by owners of said lunch bags.

8:00 am Before leaving for school drop-off, remove pork loin from freezer and add to bowl of water for thawing.

8:15 am At school. Saying goodbye to girls when iPhone reminder pops up: Dermatologist Appointment for Kid 1 in half hour. Exactly half hour away. Kid 1 gets back in car, Mom rearranges morning.

10:50 am Back home, catch glimpse of gochujang tub in fridge, purchased along with half Korean Fermented Paste aisle at H-Mart, for recipe testing assignment. Scratch head. Check watch. Train in 30 minutes.

10:52 Brown loin in a Dutch Oven, then add to slow cooker along with a witches brew mix of soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and that gochujang. Turn on 8-hour setting. Cross fingers. Hope for best.

11:20 Catch Train.

3:30 Meeting over. Thoughts immediately turn to dinner. What to do with that pork that requires no extracurricular shopping? Remember corn tortillas in freezer. Korean tacos! Vinegary slaw a need, not a want. Walk through Grand Central market and pick up tiny head of Napa cabbage. Text Kid 1: Please flip pork loin in slow cooker.

5:00 Walk into house. Find Kid 1 making snack: Cheese quesadillas. Thereby depleting 1/3 of corn tortilla supply.

6:00 Drop off Kid 2 at soccer practice.

6:30 Make slaw. Make rice. Heat what remains of tortillas. Break apart pork.

7:45 Everyone home: Family Dinner.


Key is not to have too much liquid in the slow cooker.


Brown the loin well on each side before adding to the slow cooker. Or at least as well as you can without missing your train.


As Andy said “This meal is all about the slaw.” Bright, crunchy, vinegary slaw to cut the sweet, salty richness.


Korean Pork Tacos with Slaw
Using a pork shoulder here instead of a loin is definitely going to work, but it’s also definitely going to be on the fattier side. I prefer to use a lean cut — in the slow cooker, after 6 to 8 hours, the pork breaks apart just fine. Just be sure not to use too much liquid. It should only come about one inch up on the pork. Also: If spicy, funky gochujang is a page-turner for you — though it shouldn’t be! — use Sriracha instead.

For Pork
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 1/2 to 3-pound pork loin, salted and peppered
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4-1/2 cup water, as needed to maintain liquid level
1-inch piece ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 tablespoons gochujang (fermented hot pepper paste found at H Mart or any Asian grocer; or Sriracha)
8 corn tortillas (or 4 cups cooked sushi rice, salted)

Slaw
1/2 small head Napa cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1 bunch scallions (white and light green parts only), chopped
handful cilantro or mint (chopped), or both

Dressing
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)
squeeze of fresh lime juice
pinch brown sugar
1/3 cup grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)

Add oil to a large Dutch Oven set over medium-high heat. Brown pork loin on all sides and transfer to slow cooker. Add remaining pork ingredients to the slow cooker (make sure the liquid does not come up more than an inch or so) and set on 6- or 8-hour setting, flipping every few hours if possible. Before you serve, break it apart with two forks. It should look like the photo above.

While the pork cooks, add all slaw ingredients to a salad bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients, then toss with the slaw.

Warm tortillas in a cast iron skillet 30 seconds a side (or cook them over an open flame on your stovetop, which is how I like to do it these days) and top with pork and dressed slaw. Alternatively, serve pork and slaw on top of sushi rice for pork rice bowls.

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36 Comments

vandegee

we do a similar version of this, with a touch of rice vinegar, and we don’t even bother with the braising, making it an even more convenient weeknight meal. You can also do this with beef chuck roast with the same recipe. We also always use pork shoulder which has more fat and slow roasts much better because it’s not as lean – comes out super tender and juicy. If there’s too much fat from the cut of shoulder I bought, I skim fat off in the middle or towards the end of the slow cooking.

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ginger m

This looks really great! I totally get the slow cooker thing, but could you do the same thing with a dutch oven set at a low temp in the oven? Is it that it’s scarier to have the oven on while out or uses more energy? Just wondering since I don’t have a slow cooker.

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Eve

Agreed, this looks AMAZING, but I don’t have a slow cooker. Have never used a slow cooker. Have no idea how to convert times, liquid, etc. Any ideas, people?

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Jenny

I am a rare slow-cooker user myself so this is what I’d normally do: I’d just brown the pork in the Dutch Oven, remove it from the pot, add all the braising ingredients, then add the pork back to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Place in a 325°F oven (covered, with lid slightly ajar) for 4-5 hours, flipping every hour or so and adding water as you go to make sure liquid comes about a third way up the pork. Let me know how it turns out.

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Awads

7:45 for supper? i think i’d gnaw off a limb by then! With just one kid (8), we usually eat by 6:30, but it’s home-cooking 99% of the time (thanks a LOT to DALS) and our inability to make a decision re: take-out. Cheers!

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Jan @ Family Bites

Three cheers for slaw with no mayo! Also, I love a late dinner. Last year we added a baby to our dinner table (we already have two teenagers) and we really miss eating late now that we do the 5:30 thing with him most nights. :)

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Julie

Right there with you on the allowance for lunch bag removed from backpack…..☺

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Jessica

Reminds me of the coke braised carnitas which I FINALLY tried this weekend. They were dry but tasty (and a bear to clean the dutch oven with hardened coke stuck to bottom and sides) so I’m wondering if I didn’t use enough liquid even though above you say to be careful about not too much liquid. I guess it’s a trial and error kind of thing.

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Meredith

I’ve never used grapeseed oil before and therefore it’s not a pantry staple in my house. When I googled subs for grapeseed oil canola oil is mentioned because these 2 oils have similar smoking points. But since you used this oil as a dressing would you still recommend canola oil as a sub?

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Jenny

I’d just use olive oil — won’t be perfect, but it will be better than canola.

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Joanne McKenna

“Print Friendly” is nine (9) pages? How friendly is that? I narrowed it down to one two-sided page (pages 4-5) and am anxious to try this recipe. To avoid the stuck-on slow cooker bottom/sides, I always use crock-pot liners. Easy cleanup!

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Jenny

Joanne – To reduce the amount of pages you print, the “Print Friendly” function lets you easily delete photos and extra text. Just click on the photo or paragraph that you don’t want and it will give you an option to “delete.” That should make it way more print-friendly.

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pmm

Just got a slow cooker this weekend! Would the flavor be a total disaster if I didn’t use the spicy sauces? I’ve got “delicate” taste buds in my family!

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Anne

The recipe looks delicious! I think you would really appreciate a pressure cooker. Better flavors and so much quicker! I’m going to make it in my Instant Pot tonight; I will let you know how it goes.

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Anne

They were delicious! 45 minutes in the electric pressure cooker. Fantastic!

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Carmen

I tried this last night with chicken breasts (we’re not pork eaters) and it was great. Didn’t pre-braise but otherwise did everything as written and it all worked out. The kids (plus one school pal) loved it. (!!!)
Andy is right- the slaw shines. Thanks for the great recipe!

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Dani

Love the anatomy of dinner post! These korean taco’s look so delicious :) I’ve just discovered the slow cooker so always keeping an eye out for recipes to throw together the night before and then turn on in the morning before work! thanks for sharing x

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JulieP

I made this and it was extremely dry and salty- my family could not eat it. I’m thinking 1 cup of soy sauce is a typo? I even used low sodium soy sauce…

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Jenny

Yikes! So sorry to hear that. Did you add water to it? Maybe next time decrease soy sauce to 3/4 cup, though I did use a full cup, and ended up adding about a half cup of water. I will make a note in the recipe to reflect this.

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Julie

Made these Tuesday night. Definitely going into the monthly rotation. Super tasty!

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Julie

Jenny, I owe you big time for this recipe! I made it today and my boys (hubby and 10 yr old) LOVED it! When the husband doesn’t reach for any extra Sriracha, Tapatio, Pico Pica, Frank’s Red Hot, etc. (or any bottle from his expansive jarred sauce collection) then I know it’s good. This one is a keeper!

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Mag

Making this tomorrow night for some friends who are coming over for dinner and drinks. I want to make it a complete meal though. Any suggestions for a fun asian-inspired side vegetable preparation that would go well with the pork tacos?

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Jenny

Fun! I would keep it simple — you don’t want too much Asian stuff going on. Maybe in addition to the slaw, you make some roast spring asparagus with scallions, olive oil and lemon? Definitely make the rice, too and toss with chopped cilantro, salt, and a squeeze of lime.

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Sarah

Looks amazing, can’t wait to try! Perfect recipe for a grad student like me who’s strapped for time/money but missing mom’s homecooked korean!

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Brittney

Made these last night and they turned out so wonderful. Thanks for the recipe!

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Lauren Walker

What setting for the slow cooker? Low or high!?! THANKS! Can’t wait to give this a whirl.

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christi in ma

this recipe is a keeper! so easy and delicious. We had it for 3 nights and then I froze the rest of the meat to use on pizza later.
It wasn’t very spicy so I think it would be kid friendly. It’s more like a complex, flavorful barbecue sauce.
Definitely make the slaw and use mint! it’s fantastic. I cheated and used bagged broccoli slaw tossed with some lime ponzu.
Target has gochujang in the Asian section and it was on sale for $3. The supermarket I went to didn’t have it but I’ve found it at several since then.

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Carrie

Completely second this being complex, rather than burn-your-mouth hot. And I got my Gochujang on Amazon.

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Carrie

Wow – kids loved it, and we all couldn’t stop eating out of the serving bowl. Great as tacos, and even better as bowls. The slaw was awesome, too, even without the cucumber and carrot (we had a day like the one you described, and we’re sitting down to eat this at 7:15, even though I had gotten home at 6:55).

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Natalie

Amazing!! I made this last night, and it is the best crock pot recipe I have ever made. My husband loved it too. He doesn’t like slaws, but he ate a lot of this one. This recipe was a mega win and I know I’ll make it many times in the future. Thank you!!

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Elizabeth

Made this last night and it was a huge success with my husband, definitely one that will be put into the dinner rotation at my house. The combination of the pork and the bright fresh slaw was actually a perfect combination for early Fall. I had to cut the pork loin in half to fit it (I have a round shaped slow cooker), and also used sriracha instead of gochujang and the pork turned out beautifully. The slaw is great because it doesn’t use mayo and I used the julienne slicer on my Cuisinart to slice the cucumber and carrots faster.

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