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Easy and Delicious Costa Rican Shredded Pork Recipe

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This super easy Costa Rican shredded pork recipe is perfect for making tamales- but it is also a great main dish for taco night! Instructions for stovetop, pressure cooker, Instant pot, and slow cooker- there’s no reason not to make it!

If you are making our tamales ticos recipe- otherwise known as Costa Rican Tamales, then you need to know how to make the Costa Rican shredded pork for the filling.

This shredded pork is one of the easiest parts of making tamales and ideally is made in advance of the day you are making your tamales. Of course one of the ingredients is Salsa Lizano… but that’s not the only spice that gives this shredded pork it’s distinct flavor.

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What Are Tamales?

Tiny little packets of deliciousness wrapped in corn masa and cooked inside plantain or banana leaves. They are super delicious- and I have the full Costa Rican Pork Tamales recipe with an explanation on tamales around the world. 

tamal masa with pork, rice and vegetables on top

What Else Is This Costa Rican Shredded Pork Recipe Used For?

I can’t think of anything else in Costa Rica. If you know- let me know!  🙂

But- this shredded pork would be delicious inside of some tacos with chile del arbol salsa or a creamy green salsa.  

You could serve this with some Costa Rican black beans and Costa Rican white rice and make your own casado- complete with a picadillo de chayote!

If you are making this ahead to go inside your tamales, save yourself some trouble and start making the arroz arreglado that goes inside as well.  Start the pork, then the arroz, and have them ready for your tamalada. Much easier.

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Large pot of arroz arreglado in Costa Rica

What Type of Pork Should I Buy?

Good question- I think this is usually made with dark pork meat- otherwise the meat tends to dry out and doesn’t taste as good inside of the tamale.

However, I also make pork carnitas quite often with the pork shoulder meat that I buy at Sam’s, and it comes out really nice when I shred it. You could also use a pork roast. 

The bottom line is that by the time you shred this up and put it inside a tamale and then recook it, it will taste great. It ‘s more about the spices and flavor of the pork than the cut of meat. 

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Yield: 2 lbs cooked pork

Costa Rican Pork Recipe- For Tamales

Man holding pot of shredded pork in Costa Rica.

This Costa Rican shredded pork recipe is used in Costa rican tamales and is a great main dish to add to a casado or tacos

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours 4 seconds
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 6 hours 15 minutes 4 seconds


  • 2-3 lbs pork meat cut into large chunks (see notes)
  • 3 TBSP Salsa Lizano
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup of cilantro, roughly chopped (leaves and stems)
  • 1/2 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 TB salt
  • 1 carrot roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • 6-8 cups of water
  • 2-3 TBSP achiote (see product recommendation below)


  1. Put everything into a pot and cover. If cooking on the stovetop, boil for 2-3 hours until everything is super tender. Gently shred meat.
  2. If slow cooker, cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4-6 hours. Shred.
  3. If using a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, cook, sealed on high pressure for 20 minutes. You can then release the pressure or leave on warm.
  4. Stir in achiote until pork is desired color and there are no chunks of achiote in the meat.
  5. Shred and use the pork liberally in your tamales! 

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About the Author

Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa! I fell in love with Latin America in my 20s, and I’m still head over heels! Here at Pura Vida Moms I celebrate what it means to be bicultural- Costa Rican recipes, bilingual parenting and family travel.

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2 Responses

  1. Do you remove the fat from the pork? Great recipe by the way, this matches closely what I remember my abuela doing when I was a child and I used it to recreate her tamales.

    1. Hi Adriana! I don’t remove the fat until I shred the pork. Then I remove all the bits and pieces I can. Thank you for the compliment on the recipe- I hope the tamales turn out perfectly! Pura vida! ~Christa

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Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa, and I’m on a mission to help the world fall in love with Costa Rica through food, travel and language. I’m a mom of two Latinas, bicultural, bilingual (English/Spanish), and 100% in love with celebrating parenthood in all its forms, (even the sucky parts). I’m so happy you found the site- WELCOME! Find out more about me here

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