Pork Carnitas

Homestyle Texas cooking made easy!

My husband and I love most kinds of Tex-Mex cooking, and our kids love any sort of meal that they can assemble in a flour tortilla themselves. Pork carnitas are perfect on both counts. If you’ve never had pork carnitas, you are definitely missing out. Basically, you are boiling pork down in a mild citrus and cumin broth until all that’s left are the meat and its fat, and then you are frying it – in its own fat. Hey, I didn’t say they were healthy, although once you top them with avocado, lettuce, tomato and cilantro sour cream, it’s a more well-rounded meal.

This recipe is very loosely adapted from Lisa Fain’s "The Homesick Texan Cookbook" and couldn’t be easier, but it will take about three hours of cooking time from start to finish, so it’s a commitment to make. However, for two of those hours you are NOT touching the meat. It is simmering quietly on its own.  AND, if you cook the pork over the weekend, it reheats well in a fry pan, which then makes for a quickly thrown together weeknight meal – well worth your efforts over the weekend.

3 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
½ cup orange juice (not from concentrate)
¼ cup lime juice, plus 1 Tbsp. (2-3 limes)
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup low fat sour cream or fat-free, plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup chopped, fresh cilantro
Corn tortillas, avocado slices, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese

You will need a heavy pot like a Le Creuset or a Dutch oven for this recipe. Place the pork pieces on the bottom of the pot in a single layer. Toss in the smashed garlic, sprinkle with the salt and cumin, add in the orange juice and ¼ cup of the lime juice, and then add just enough water to cover the meat.

Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat, and then immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered and untouched, for two hours. Before you walk away and forget about it, mix up your cilantro sour cream (or yogurt). Mix the sour cream, last tablespoon of lime juice, and chopped cilantro and refrigerate it to let the flavors build. 

After two hours, turn the heat back up to medium-high and continue to cook for about 45 minutes, stirring and turning the pieces occasionally, until all of the liquid has evaporated, leaving only the rendered pork fat. 

Let the meat sizzle in the fat and get nice and brown and crispy, turning the pieces gently (only as needed) for another 10 minutes, or until all of the pieces are browned. If you like your meat in smaller chunks, go ahead and break it up during this period – it will be more than ready to fall apart!

When the pork is all browned and crispy it is ready to serve. Warm your tortillas and serve as assemble-your-own with the sliced avocados, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese and the cilantro sour cream for a delicious, homestyle Texas meal!

Jeanne Brown January 09, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Amy, would this work in the crock pot?
Amy Simmons January 09, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Hi Jeanne - no, I'm all for my crockpot, and while it would definitely cook the meat to the fall apart stage, you wouldn't be able to keep up the two-hour simmer you need, and then you wouldn't be able to crank the heat up to cook off the liquid and crisp up the meat to get a true carnitas. Sorry! :-(


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