Carnitas

Mexican and Tex MexGluten-FreePorkTaco

Mexican pork carnitas, slow cooked, spicy, shredded pork shoulder, finished in the oven for browning, served with tortillas and salsa.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Enter any Mexican taqueria in California and you’ll find carnitas on the menu, usually pork butt (the shoulder roast) braised first, pulled apart, and then roasted on high heat to caramelize.

This is my father’s favorite recipe for pork carnitas which we put into fresh tortillas for tacos, with fresh tomato salsa. I think I could eat this everyday for a week and not get tired of it.

Carnitas Recipe

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  • Yield: Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds boned pork shoulder, cut into large cubes (remove any large chunks of excess fat, but do not remove all the fat or you'll have dry, unflavorful carnitas)
  • 1 quart beef broth
  • 2 cups chunky tomato salsa either prepared or homemade
  • Water
  • Salt
  • 2 cups fresh tomato salsa (pico de gallo)
  • 16-24 corn tortillas

Method

1 Combine pork, broth, salsa in a large pot, cover and simmer several hours: In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine pork, broth, and salsa. Add enough water to barely cover the pork.

Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 3 to 4 hours (or longer) until meat pulls apart easily. Add salt to taste if needed.

2 Break meat into chunks, spread out in roasting pan, roast in oven until browned: Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove meat from liquid in pot (discard the liquid) and spread the meat out in a roasting pan. Break the meat into small chunks. Roast meat for 15 to 20 minutes until brown and crispy.

3 Warm the tortillas: If you are using store-bought tortillas, heat the tortillas one-by-one either in a microwave or on a hot skillet.

If you heat them on a skillet you may need to use a little butter or oil to help soften them. When air pockets form in the tortillas they are ready.

To heat them in a microwave, place a paper towel on the floor of the microwave. Lay one or two tortillas on the paper towel (whatever will fit so there is only one layer). Microwave on high heat for 10 seconds per tortilla (some brands of tortillas require 20 seconds each).

Keep warm tortillas wrapped in a clean cloth towel for serving.

To serve, double up the tortillas and place a few spoonfuls of the carnitas on them. Top with salsa. Serve with grated lettuce (that has been lightly salted and sprinkled with vinegar), beans, avocados, and/or grated cheese.

To eat, remove half of the carnitas from one tortilla to another. Take one tortilla at a time with the carnitas and salsa, fold it over and enjoy. Or, keep them doubled up. Your choice.

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Links:

Carnitas with chipotle and coca cola from Alaska Cooks

Carnitas Houston Style from Lisa Fain the Homesick Texan

Showing 4 of 34 Comments / Reviews

  • Jeanie

    Made this last night and served it with homemade tortillas (recipe from your site) and fresh salsa. Delicious and plentiful! We subbed beer for the broth.

  • jonathan

    ¡Delicioso! ¡Y fácil hacer! Best part? Pork shoulder is muy barato ($3-4/lb?). Another nice garnish is small dice white onion, marinated in lime juice and cilantro. Between this and a steak taco recipe I just tried, I’ll be opening up my own taqueria by early 2007. Any investors?

  • kg

    I’ve made these with green salsa as well and they are REALLY good. I trim a little of the fat, but the marbling on a roast really helps the carmelization process, so leave some on!

  • Casey

    My family makes Carnitas every year on Christmas Eve. Our recipe is very different however from the one you posted. We cook ours in a slower cooker. Just put all the following in the pot and cook for 6 to 8 hours on low.

    – 4 + lbs pork butt
    – Several bottles of mexican beer, enough to almost cover the meat (we use Corona)
    – 1 jalapeno- cut in half
    – 2 limes- cut in half (juiced over the meat)
    – cilantro (I love cilantro, so I use a lot, but you can use as much or as little at you like)
    – several garlic cloves halved
    – salt and pepper

    The meat will be fork tender when done. We shred our pork instead of cubbing it and mix the shredded meat back in the pot with a small amount of the cooking liquid remaining to help keep it moist.

    We serve the same way as your post mentioned.

  • Dan

    Growing up in East Los Angeles, I’ve sampled a lot of carnitas. All of the receipes that I’ve heard from chefs that would share their technique involve having the pork cooked in lard. It’s not fried but simmered in a roasting pan with rendered pork fat. Carnitas to me is Mexican Pork Confit. However, Googling “Carnitas” shows that most sites show your method the prevalent one. Maybe it’s a regional thing.

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