Carnitas is ultra tender pork that is either pulled apart or chopped. Lightly crisp outside, very tender and moist inside, carnitas is a dish by itself. It is also a traditional filling for tacos and torta. Insanely simple yet amazingly delicious.
Some cooks make carnitas by braising the meat in salsa and frying it afterward. Others simply season and roast the pork. I’m not a fan of laborious recipes that punish the cook. I prefer simplified procedures but without cheating. This is a very easy carnitas recipe. No braising, no stirring, no frying.
Don’t flinch but carnitas is best made with a pork cut that comes with a generous amount of fat as the fat will allow the meat to remain moist during the long cooking process. Pork shoulder is ideal and the most often recommended.
The following recipe was originally published in January of 2011. There is a second recipe after it — Alex’s version which was served with her own homemade pita.
Carnitas: Mexican "little meats" dish
- 1 kilo of pork with a generous amount of fat
- black pepper
Start by cutting the pork. I suggest two- to three-inch cubes. Season liberally with salt and black pepper. Place in a covered container and allow to sit in the fridge overnight.
The next day, roast the pork. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Arrange the pork cubes in an oven-proof pan in a single layer. Add some crushed garlic and bay leaves. Cover the pan tightly with foil and cook the pork for an hour and a half to two hours. Take the pork out of the oven. Turn up the oven temperature to 425F and set to broil (i.e., top heat on).
Here's the part where you can get rid of all the excess fat. Separate the meat from the fat. I suggest, however, that you do not dispense with all the fat.
Take the meat (with a little fat) and transfer to a large tray. Using two forks, pull the meat apart to create shreds.
Return the pork to the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the meat is nicely browned and lightly crisp.
Serve the carnitas as a main dish (great as rice topping) or a filling for tacos, burritos or enchiladas.
So, that’s the recipe that was originally published on January 13, 2011.
My younger daughter, Alex, made her own version of carnitas today which we served with pita bread that she also made.
The pita is amazing (recipe next time when she makes another batch); Alex’s non-traditional carnitas over homemade pita was simply magnificent.
- 500 grams pork chops with a generous amount of fat
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 4 tablespoons rice wine divided
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 onion chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon black bean and garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee)
- 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Japanese mayonnaise
Cut the pork into slices. Mix with the salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, two tablespoons rice wine, lemon juice and bay leaf. Cover and let sit in the fridge overnight.
Drain the pork. Reserve the marinade. Cook following the procedure in the original recipe.
Meanwhile, pour the reserved marinade in a pan. Heat. Add the chopped onion, chili powder, black bean and garlic sauce, hoisin sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. Simmer until thick. Strain.
Pour the sauce over the carnitas and toss well.
To serve: Place lettuce, sliced tomatoes and cucumber on pita. Top with carnitas. Drizzle with chili sauce. Serve at once.