This easy carnitas recipe makes for amazing carnitas: rich, tender shredded pork with crunchy, crunchy edges, perfect for tacos, burritos or just eating by the fork. The post includes step-by-step instructions and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about making carnitas.
Well, you all know that I love all the recipes I share here, but there are some that I’m more excited to share. My oven-roasted Tri-tip was one (and has been incredibly popular
). My frozen meatballs were another (these haven’t been popular at all, people, fall in love with them!!), and today I have another recipe that I’m very excited about: carnitas!!!
Have you ever
made carnitas? Have you ever eaten carnitas? Because, friend, they. Are. Then. Not bad.
- Vegetable oil: Traditional carnitas recipes use lard as cooking fat, but today we will use vegetable or canola oil.
- The best cut of meat for carnitas is AKA back pork shoulder AKA Boston butt because it is well marbled with fat and cooked incredibly tender with a long stew
- A yellow, white or red onion works here
- Just a little lemon juice gives pork a slightly acidic taste.
- Garlic and spices: Garlic and a mixture of chili powder, oregano and cumin help flavor the pork as it is roasted.
- : Using chicken broth as our stew liquid instead of water also helps increase the flavor of pork while cooking.
Roast Pork Shoulder:
. Large onion:
. Lemon juice:
A note on bone-in vs. boneless pork shoulder roasts: You’ll probably find pork shoulder roasts with and without bone at your grocery store. Either works well for carnitas, but if you can choose between the two at a comparable price, go with the boneless roast. Roasts with bone have a Y-shaped bone that is a bit painful to come out cleanly.
If you end up with a bone-in roast, the good thing is that they’re so big and cheap that you don’t have to worry too much about pulling every last piece of meat out of the bone. Just use a sharp knife (a bone-out knife if you own one) and cut the flesh off the bone as best you can until you can remove it. Don’t stress too much about it. Here’s a good video of someone doing a much better job of removing the bone than I normally handle.
of pork shoulder for carnitas
As mentioned, pork shoulder is a pretty fatty piece of meat. Before cooking, you’ll want to remove the large fat cap (the thick layer of fat on one side of your roast) and cut off any silvery skin (the thin, silver-blue membrane that adheres tightly to meat). Don’t worry about the smaller pieces of marbled fat throughout the meat. Any fat left over after braising can be collected while crushing.
Then, simply cut your roast into large pieces the size of a lady’s fist, and you’re ready to start cooking.
PS: Don’t worry if your chunks don’t look pretty or aren’t completely uniform in size. You’re going to crush that pork so no one knows.
How to make
There are three stages to making carnitas. Stages two and three are pretty practical, but step one will require your full attention, so make sure you have all your ingredients prepared and ready to start before you start.
- Salt and brown the meat. Depending on how big your roast and Dutch oven is (this is the Dutch oven I always use for carnitas), you may need to do it in batches. You’ll want to brown all sides of your meat, so don’t overfill the pan, and this can take up to 15 minutes.
- Long and slow cooking time. After your meat is golden brown, you will add the onions, garlic, spices, lemon juice and enough chicken broth to cover mainly the meat. Let everything simmer covered for about two and a half hours, until its meat is tender enough to separate it with a fork.
- Make it crispy. This is my favorite part. Now that your meat is nice and tender, you can also make it crispy. Crush the meat, transfer it to a pan and leave it crispy in the oven at high temperature for 30 minutes, occasionally adding a little cooking liquid to prevent it from drying out. As soon as you have enough crispy edges for your taste, it’s done and you can eat!
to serve with pork carnitas? Carnitas
are super versatile. You can serve them in Tacos de Trinitas, tostadas, or make sliders with them. Adding them to nachos, a salad or turning them into carnitas enchiladas is also highly recommended.
For the sides, as with something like Beef Stroganoff or Braised Short Ribs, carnitas are so rich that you’ll probably want to stick with sides that aren’t too heavy. Something like cilantro rice, pan-cooked Mexican zucchini, Mexican coleslaw, black bean corn salad or Mexican street corn salad would be perfect. And when in doubt, you can never go wrong with simple universal sides like green beans or steamed broccoli.
What to do with leftover carnitas? Store leftover carnitas
an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Spray with a couple of extra tablespoons of the cooking liquid to help keep them moist before storage. Reheat in the microwave. The second day’s carnitas are fantastic in quesadillas, burritos and burrito bowls.
And I’m not going to lie, it’s also quite satisfying to stand in the fridge and eat cold carnitas leftovers the day after a party (they get better on the second day!).
Can I freeze carnitas?
yes! Because carnitas are a real-time commitment and the cut of meat you need comes as a fairly large roast, even if it’s part of a small household and doesn’t cook for guests, I still recommend making the full-size carnitas recipe instead of trying to cut it because carnitas freeze so well.
Simply freeze meal-sized batches with a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid in freezer-safe plastic bags. When you’re ready for more carnitas, thaw in the refrigerator. To reheat, microwave until hot or spread on a baking sheet and bake, covered with aluminum foil at 350°F until heated (usually 10-15 minutes).
Remove the aluminum foil and roast over high heat for a minute or two until the edges are crispy. (Attention: If you have just cleaned your oven, you may want to skip this step. Carnitas burst and sizzle quite a bit as they are roasted.)
What kind of meat are carnitas?
pig! Carnitas are made from pretty marbled (fatty) pieces of pork shoulder, which when braised for a long period of time become incredibly tender.
The good thing about pork shoulder is that it is readily available, and it is usually very cheap. Here’s Southern California, I often see it as low .99/pound. So for parties, feeding a crowd, or even stocking your freezer with leftovers, this is a very inexpensive food option.
You can also enjoy
- homemade beef
- sauce chicken
- awesome fajitas
barbecue chicken with
carnitas recipe notes
If you’re making carnitas for an event, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to cook them. Between meat preparation (especially if it’s bone-in), browning, long, slow, crunchy time, carnitas always take longer than you expect, so allow yourself that time.
Recipe adapted from AllRecipes
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