Spicy Pulled Pork Tacos to Kick-off a New Eating Mindset

Spicy Pulled Pork Tacos

As if it were yesterday, I can recall the first clue that something wasn’t quite copacetic with my middle guy.

At his first Birthday, he cried when we gave him his first piece of Birthday cake. Not the cry that says I don’t want frosting on my face, but one that says I don’t want to eat this.

At three, he was diagnosed with asthma and environmental allergies as well as allergies to tree nuts and cats.

For over a decade, we’ve seen allergists, doctors, and the inside of emergency rooms. But always, the same treatments have been prescribed. And always, he’s never quite well. And always, as a mother, I worry. Constantly.

We’ve continued in this fashion for 13 years. A seesaw of knowing something isn’t quite right, but not knowing exactly what it is. Constant headaches, stomach aches, and fatigue.

Last year, he missed 25 days of school because he was sick.

This year he’s up to 15. February was especially bad.

I finally took him to my naturopath. She ran a food intolerance/sensitivities test on him. For three weeks, I anxiously waited for the results.

When they finally showed up in my in-box, my first thought after reading them was one of relief, “Thank God…we finally have some answers.” My second thought was, “What is he going to eat?”

The results showed that he has an extremely high intolerance/sensitivity to gluten, dairy, casein, eggs, and nuts (including peanuts.) Left unchecked, these intolerances can lead to full-blown celiac disease.

At first, my hubby and I joked, “Wonder how those hard-boiled eggs for breakfast and the peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread has been workin’ out for him? How about that ginormous bowl of ice cream for dessert? And pizza on Fridays?”

A few days later, I walked down the grocery aisle, riddled with guilt, and beat myself up with the realization that despite thinking that I was doing such a good job feeding my sweet boy with organic dairy products, whole wheat breads, and no-sugar added peanut butter, I was actually contributing to his illness.

Finally, I did what every grown woman in her mid-forties does; I called my parents and cried.

My mom has many of these same intolerances, so fortunately for us, she was immediately a wealth of information. The next time I saw her, she came loaded with food intolerance books for me, and a loaf of gluten-free banana bread just for my guy.

My dad encouraged me to go easy on myself. Not to look at this as what has been done, but what we could do now that we have some answers.

And my main squeeze, well, he has been nothing short of encouraging as he’s watched me try to overhaul our kitchen, and my way of thinking when it comes to nourishing our family. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t say, “He’s so lucky to have you as his mom.”

I share this story with you because we are in the crucible of a food overhaul in our family and well, I write about food and family.

I’m hopeful that in future posts I’ll be able to report that my sweet boy feels better.

And, perhaps something I say can help you, or perhaps there’s something you can share that would help me.

As always, thank you for reading and sharing…really,


Spicy Pulled Pork Tacos, Take 2


Spicy Pulled Pork Tacos
Course: Gluten-free main course
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 8
I don’t have time to be a short-order cook. Dinners have to satisfy everyone in our house - food intolerances or not. So, when I recently had 11 family members here for dinner, I whipped up tacos. Mexican food, without the cheese, is a great way to feed people with gluten and dairy sensitivities provided they eat the corn tortillas instead of the flour. Since people were coming back for third and fourth helpings, and then, munching on the spicy sauce with chips for breakfast, I can safely say these Spicy Pulled Pork Tacos more than satisfied the whole group, sensitivities or not. I realize this looks like a long list of ingredients, but don’t be intimidated by it. This meal is super easy to prepare. I always double the sauce recipe. It is crazy good. I send my sweet boy to school with a thermos full of brown rice, black beans, leftover pork, and a spoonful of spicy sauce mixed-in. He doesn't even miss the PB and J.
  • 4 lb. pork shoulder
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Red chili powder – Urban Accents Rio Grand Chili Blend is my favorite
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 7-oz. can chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (La Costeña brand is gluten-free.)
  1. Directions for Pulled Pork:
  2. In a large slow cooker, cover the bottom with your onion slices. Rub your pork generously on all sides with salt, pepper, and red chili powder. Place in slow cooker on bed of onions. Spoon salsa on top of meat and pour water around the meat. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 3-5 hours until pork is tender and falling apart.
  3. Once meat is done cooking, transfer to a cutting board to let cool slightly. Once cooled down, use two forks to shred meat. If not serving immediately, transfer back into slow cooker to keep warm and juicy. Before serving, drain meat from liquid and stir in a few tablespoons of spicy sauce.
  4. Directions for Spicy Chipotle Sauce (adapted from Fine Cooking recipe, Chipotle Dressing):
  5. In a blender, add olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Pulse a few times, until combined. Pour all of the adobo sauce from the can into the blender. Add chipotle peppers to taste. I use 3 chipotles, which is pretty spicy. I say add 1 or 2 and taste for spiciness. You can always add more. Pureé all ingredients until combined and creamy. Let sit at least ½ hour, or more, so flavors can meld together.
  6. When time to eat, I leave a skillet on low, with a ramekin of olive oil and a brush on the side. Those people eating the corn tortillas can lightly brush each side with olive oil and sauté for a minute or two on each side to soften the tortilla.
  7. Everyone can garnish their tortilla in their own with the fixin’s below. Enjoy!!
  8. Taco Fixin’s:
  9. Corn tortillas – for the gluten sensitive people in your life
  10. Flour tortillas – warmed
  11. Pulled pork
  12. Black beans – drained, rinsed, and gently heated
  13. Shredded cheese – omit for dairy/casein sensitive folks
  14. Sour cream – omit for dairy/casein sensitive folks
  15. Guacamole or avocado slices
  16. Chopped tomatoes and/or salsa
  17. Chopped romaine lettuce
  18. Lime wedges
  19. Chopped cilantro
  20. Spicy Chipotle Sauce



  1. Ok, great.
    I’m gonna steal this one for lunch today @ our Bend retail location.
    We’ve just done up a bunch of pulled pork here in the plant in Redmond, so it’s an easy catch
    Give the girls something new so that they can act like real cooks.
    That makes two from you now, ideas that is, this one and the mini canning jar cobbler thing from last summer.
    Warmest regards,

  2. http://foodandhealth.com
    Although you’ve obviously plenty of ability to modify your meals, this site, and her others might be helpful.
    Judy was a classmate of mine at the C.I.A. in the ’80’s and has built this little healthy food empire since then.
    Warmest regards,

    • Thank you for the tip, George! I will definitely explore her site. I think I’m going to need all the help and inspiration I can get right now.

  3. Carrie, while we don’t have a need for “gluten-free” at our house, we all prefer corn tortillas with Mexican pulled pork (as we call it) at our house. We have a fabulous Hispanic market near us that sells freshly made corn tortillas – and salsa verde if you don’t quite get to making it at home!
    Glad you figured out the mystery….

  4. I have to agree with the Rooster! You, my dear friend, are an amazing mom! Jack is very lucky to have you! You will be cooking up…and sharing with us….all of the wonderful meals that you have discovered on this path to Jack’s health! Way to go sista!

  5. Eryn Burgess says:

    seriously Carrie, can you look at this awesomeness and think that there’s anything missing? perfect example of simple, beautiful, fresh and flavorful food that’s GFCF & DF 🙂 you will help a lot of people with new ideas.

  6. Papa Bear says:

    I can contest to those outstanding Tacos that my sweet daughter served us the other night. The sauce, is to die for without question.
    As for the allergy test that she had her son take, it is something that I would recommend for all family members to take. My wife took it sometime ago, just by chance, and it was a real eye opener, and has helped her alot.

  7. carrie – i am going to f/b msg you! i too am gluten (and other foods) sensitive now. i am so glad you got the testing done. give the new diet 2-6 weeks to work. i know #2 is going to feel so much better!! don’t beat yourself up about not finding it sooner – it is a very elusive, confusing condition. it took me years to figure out as well. i am looking forward to trying your pulled pork tacos recipe!!

    • Kris, now I remember you mentioning about the gluten issue awhile ago. I’m sure I will be pinging you with many many questions. You already answered one, because I wasn’t sure how long it takes to get the gluten out of your system. Thanks, my dear!

  8. Betty Cook says:

    Carrie, you are an inspiration. I know #2 will be feeling better. And, as Papa Bear mentioned the pulled pork taco’s and the sauce were to die for. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Thank you, Mom, for being so supportive and such a wealth of information. I’m making my way through all of the books you loaned me. Wow…mind blowing!

  9. Kathleen says:

    Check out Elana’s Pantry blog. I think it will be helpful and encouraging!

    • Thanks for the tip Kathleen! I checked it out and I can already tell I will be visiting her site often for inspiration.

  10. Be strong Carrie – you can do this! I have dealt with a number of food allergies in myself and my children for about 18 years. At 4 years old my son was taking rice cake sandwiches to school.. He is now a strapping 6’3″ healthy 22 year old! It is amazing what delicious options are available now (Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s will become your best friends), and there are so many great recipes that don’t include the offending allergens. They are just good food… With your love of cooking and creativity, after the learning curve no-one in your house will even notice there is something “missing”. And the best thing is, your son will feel well and thrive. Just be patient and give yourself a little time to get a handle on it, and for his body to adjust – sometimes a person can feel a bit worse before they feel better.. but then he will fly! Email me anytime – I would be happy to offer any advice I can. Best of luck to you.

  11. Carrie, I don’t comment very often, but I just felt compelled to today. First, the recipe looks amazing, thank you for sharing it. Second, my heart broke when I read the part where you said that you felt guilt for contributing to his illness. I’m sure you’ve realized by now that you were doing the best you knew how with the knowledge that you had. I’m really glad for you and your family that you have such support and wisdom in the food intolerance area. Best wishes to you and your family! Thank you for what you do here on your blog, amazing pictures, recipes and writing. 🙂

    • Oh, Melissa, thank you so much for your sweet comment. Don’t mind me. I’m looking forward now. As you said, nothing to be done about what I didn’t know!! Cheers!

  12. Carrie,
    I’ve enjoyed your blogging from Boston and just recently moved to the Portland metro area. I’m so sorry to hear of your son’s food intolerances — that can be a very difficult adjustment, but your attitude is wonderful and you will figure it out together. We have found Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live, to be helpful. It suggests a lifetime plan for eating that emphasizes health — with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits. (It’s not just a book about losing weight).

    • Hi Emily, Welcome to Portland!! Thank you for the reminder about Joel Fuhrman’s book. I read it about 5 years ago, but I think it would be a good one for me to re-read especially with what we have going on with my kiddo. Thank you for reading!

  13. Carrie,

    We’re going through the same issue with my #2. He also has missed a ridiculous amount of school. His primary care doctors missed the asthma and the allergies until I basically threw a hissy fit and stomped my feet insisting that A) he had asthma and B) he needed allergy testing. So far, we’ve learned he’s allergic to milk, soy, peanuts, trees, weeds, grass and dust mites, which means he’s suffering year-long. No wonder he feels icky so often. We’ve literally just started this journey, and I really like our allergist, but I’m thinking it wouldn’t hurt to get a naturopath on the team, too. Thanks for the post! I’ll be picking your brain on the LAX sidelines this spring!