Smoky Watermelon and Carnitas Tacos

IngredientsPork, Watermelon
Menu PartEntree
Cuisine TypeMexican
Watermelon Carnitas Tacos

Chef Jay Smith

Bloomin’ Brands

Tampa, Fla.

Chef Jay Smith of Bloomin’ Brands created a smoky spice rub that does double duty—it flavors both the watermelon and pork that fill these tacos. He pairs the colorful compressed watermelon and slow-cooked carnitas with spinach, salsa verde, queso fresco and cilantro in a grilled corn tortilla.


A picture containing food, slice, snack food, fresh

Description automatically generatedSmoky Spice Rub

3 tbsp. chipotle chile powder

3 tbsp. smoked paprika

tsp. cayenne pepper

1½ tsp. salt

Smoky Chili Watermelon

1½ lb. watermelon, cut in 1-in. dice

1 tbsp. smoky spice rub (recipe above)


5 lb. pork shoulder, cut in 2-in. dice

5 tbsp. smoky spice rub (recipe above)

3 tbsp. salt

6 oz. onion, cut in ¼-in. dice

1 oz. finely chopped garlic

1 can (7 oz.) chipotle chiles in adobo

Watermelon and Carnitas Tacos

24 corn tortillas (heated on grill)

72 pieces carnitas, skewered

3 cups fresh spinach, stemmed

1 cup salsa verde

1½ cups crumbled queso fresco

1½ lb. smoky chili watermelon matchsticks

24 leaves cilantro

24 lime wedges


  1. For smoky spice rub, combine all ingredients and store in airtight container.
  2. Season watermelon with smoky spice rub. Place into plastic bag and vacuum to compress watermelon. Refrigerate for 12 hours; use within 2 days. When ready to use, cut watermelon cubes into 1-inch matchsticks.
  3. For carnitas, season pork with smoky spice rub and salt. In 4-inch-deep hotel pan, combine pork with onion, garlic and chipotles in adobo. Cover airtight with foil.
  4. Preheat convection oven to 350 F. Place pork in oven and braise 2 hours or until meat is fork tender. Let cool in pan; cover and refrigerate.
  5. Per serving, thread pork cubes on skewers. Place skewers on grill and heat evenly until carnitas are hot throughout.
  6. Place a tortilla on a plate and top with ½ cup spinach and 3 pieces hot carnitas. Top with salsa verde, queso fresco and watermelon matchsticks. Garnish with cilantro leaf and lime wedge.

Photo courtesy of National Watermelon Promotion Board

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