This carrilladas de cerdo recipe is a traditional recipe for Spanish braised pork cheeks. This carrilladas recipe is a slow-cooked pork cheek recipe made with red wine. It’s perfect as part of a Spanish tapas night or served as a main course with roasted potatoes.
Traditional Spanish Recipe | One-Pot | Slow-Cooked On Stovetop
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Tools For This Recipe:
- Dutch oven: We have the 6.75 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven, which is the perfect size for this Spanish recipe
- Immersion or hand blender: This is to thicken the soup at the end.
- Garlic press: We have the Zulay garlic press and love it. No need to even peel the garlic.
- Cazuelas for serving
Check out our Spain Food Guide – What To Eat In Spain for more details on regional must-try dishes in Spain.
What Are Carrilladas – Braised Pork Cheeks
If you want to see Eric get weak in the knees, mention carrilladas. These are easily his favorite cut of meat. Carrilladas (or carrilleras) is the Spanish word for cheek.
And in this case, we are referring to pig cheek. In places like Spain, Portugal, and France, the cheek is often the most prized cut. Cooked properly, carrilladas transform into a heavenly cut of meat that is tender to the point of not needing to chew.
Check out some of our other Spanish pork recipes:
Tips For How To Cook Pork Cheeks
The meat itself is lean with just enough fat to render down during cooking. Cheek is also rather moist and retains this moistness even after several hours of slow cooking.
Carrilladas are usually braised and slow-cooked but also work really well on the grill. The natural moistness of the cheek holds up to the high heat of an open flame barbeque. Very little seasoning is needed for a carrilladas recipe. Their natural flavoring only needs a little salt and pepper to get things going.
In this carrilladas de cerdo recipe, we slow-cook the cheeks in red wine, which does even more to tenderize the meat. Although the meat doesn’t need to cook as long as our oxtail recipe, this is perfect for a weekend because this pigs cheek recipe cooks for about two hours on the stovetop.
Check out some of our other classic Spanish tapas recipes:
Ingredients For This Carrilladas Recipe
The ingredients for this pig cheek recipe is similar to a lot of Spanish stews and soups. It starts with a base of olive oil, along with vegetables like carrot, yellow onion, celery, and garlic. Try cutting the vegetables into small pieces so that there aren’t big chunks of vegetables into the carrilladas when serving.
The pork cheeks are seasoned simply with salt and pepper before they are cooked in the olive oil. Other spices really bring out the flavor of the broth or sauce that is served with the carrilladas recipe. That includes ground cumin, ground cinnamon, and sweet paprika. The ground cinnamon gives it a nice southern Spain flavor to it. Bay leaves are added, which is common in many soups and stews to add an earthiness and depth of flavor to the dish.
The braised pork cheeks are slow-cooked in red wine and beef stock, slowly, for almost two hours. A touch of flour is used to thicken the sauce, but if you are gluten-free, just skip the flour.
How To Make A Spanish Braised Pork Cheek Recipe
To begin this carrilladas de cerdo recipe, season the pork cheeks in salt and pepper. Don’t be afraid to use salt. It will help to season and soften the cheeks and will bring out the flavors of the sauce in the end.
Place a dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the olive oil is warm add the pork cheeks and cook until they start to brown, 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the cheeks from the dutch oven.
Cooking The Pig’s Cheeks
Add the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the dutch oven. Add the cumin, cinnamon, and paprika. Coat in the olive oil and cook for 7-10 minutes, allowing the vegetables to sweat and soften.
I like to add the spices to the olive oil and before the meat so that the spices infuse into the olive oil. It helps to release their aroma and flavor.
Add the red wine and bring it to a simmer. Add the flour and stir well to thicken. If you are gluten-free, just skip the flour. It helps to thicken the sauce, but is not really needed.
Add the pork cheeks back into the dutch oven. Place the bay leaves inside the pan and then add beef broth. Bring to a slight simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 1.5 to 2 hours.
Check on the cheeks every 20-30 minutes to ensure the liquid doesn’t fully absorb. If it seems dry add a ½ cup of warm water. The amount of liquid in the photo above is more than enough.
Finishing The Carrilladas De Cerdo – Immersion Blender
When the pigs cheeks are ready, remove them from the liquid. Use an immersion blender to thicken the sauce. You can do this in the dutch oven on the stovetop. I prefer to remove the pot from the stovetop.
Ensure the head of the immersion blender is completely submerged in the liquid or you will have a big mess on your hands. The carrilladas sauce doesn’t need to be pureed and it’s okay if vegetables are still floating in the broth.
If you want to thicken it a bit more, return the dutch oven to the stovetop and add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time. As the flour dissolves into the carrilladas de cerdo sauce, the sauce will thicken.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound (½ kg) of pork cheeks
- 1 large carrot, diced small
- ½ of a yellow onion, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced small
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon flour (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup of red wine
- 2 cups of beef stock (or chicken stock)
- Season the pork cheeks in salt and pepper.
- Place a dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil.
- When the olive oil is warm add the pork cheeks and cook until they start to brown, 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the cheeks from the dutch oven.
- Add the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic to the dutch oven.
- Add the cumin, cinnamon, and paprika. Coat the spices in the olive oil and cook for 7-10 minutes, allowing the vegetables to sweat and soften.
- Add the red wine and bring it to a simmer.
- Add the flour and stir well to thicken.
- Add the pork cheeks back into the dutch oven. Place the bay leaves inside the pan and then add beef broth. Try to cover the cheeks so that they are relatively submerged. They may float.
- Bring to a slight simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Check every 20-30 minutes to ensure the liquid doesn’t fully absorb. If it seems dry add a ½ cup of warm water.
- When the cheeks are done, remove them from the dutch oven. Use an immersion blender to thicken the sauce.
- Place the oxtail in a serving dish and drizzle with the thickened sauce.
If you are not familiar with using an immersion blender in hot broth, please see the notes above.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 158Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 285mgCarbohydrates: 7gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 6g
This nutritional data is provided by a third-party source and should not be relied on if you are on a strict diet.
Serving The Carrilladas De Cerdo
When the sauce is ready, place the pork cheeks in a serving dish and coat them with the sauce. The braised pork cheeks can be served on a serving platter family-style.
Or, serve them as a tapas portion, which is normally 3-4 pigs cheeks in a traditional cazuela, the Spanish terracotta serving dish. Or, place a single cheek on a piece of toasted bread to serve a more elegant tapa.
FAQs – Spanish Braised Pork Cheeks
Cheek, whether from a pig or cow, is one of the muscular parts of the animal. In order to soften or make it more tender, it needs to be cooked slowly over low heat. The cooking technique breaks down the strong muscle making it super tender and delicious.
Pig cheeks have a mild and succulent flavor. The meat takes on the flavors of whatever it is being cooked in, usually red or white wine. Cheeks from Iberian pork (pigs) have a nutty flavor thanks in part to these pigs being fed larger amounts of nuts.