Crispy Pork Carnitas – These “Little Meats” are Special Treats

There’s nothing like carnitas. Cubes of fragrantly spiced pork are slowly cooked in lard until they’re crispy on the outside, while at the same time remaining soft and succulent inside. Bust some up on a warm tortilla, drizzle with braising liquid, top with a little salsa, onion, and cilantro, and you’re probably enjoying the world’s best taco.


I said probably, since these things can be debated forever, and who has that kind of time when there are carnitas to make? This is a very simple recipe to adapt to the home kitchen, and as long as you cook the pork until it’s fork tender before crisping, you’re almost guaranteed a gorgeous pile of memorable meat.

I show how to do a whole pan at once under the broiler, but you can just as easily crisp up small batches in a frying pan set on medium-high heat. Just spoon in some reserved fat, and cook until crisp. Either way, this is a very important step, and not to be skipped.

There are hundreds of different spice combinations you can use here, and I often switch things up. I always include the salt, pepper, orange, garlic, and cinnamon, but then see where my mood takes me. Having said that, this is a pretty typical ingredient list, except for maybe the Chinese 5-Spice.


Mine contained cinnamon, fennel seed, clove, ginger, and star anise; so if you can’t find any, just add a pinch of each of those things instead. It seemed to add a little extra sweetness to the meat, and I may even use more next time. Besides that, oregano and/or thyme are nice additions, as are various chili powders.

If you’ve never tried to make carnitas at home, I really hope this inspires you to try. If you’ve never had carnitas at all, I need you to call in sick tomorrow, and make this recipe immediately. It’s that good. And don’t forget the fire-roasted salsa. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 6 servings Carnitas:
3 pounds boneless pork butt (shoulder), rind removed, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tbsp kosher salt (this needs to be salted generously!)
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice
1 orange, peel and juice
8 cloves peeled whole garlic
2 bay leaves, torn in half
1/4 cup olive oil
Roast at 275 F. for about 3 1/2 hours or until fork tender

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