Crispy Tender Pork Carnitas

If you have ever eaten AMAZING pork carnitas they were probably cooked in a large vat of lard. But I bet you don’t have, nor do you want to use, a vat of lard. This recipe, created by my personal chef, avoids lard but does use a bit of bacon fat. Just a bit. And oh my, that “just a bit” keeps it on the side of healthy but takes it to a place that makes you want to sing.


There are some diverse ingredients added to this pork dish….

Over the years we have served these carnitas to many different crowds: high schoolers, graduate students, faith community groups, vagrant travelers,  friends and family. Everyone ends up begging for the recipe. I’m glad to finally get this up here because it is so much fun to share. Make a batch of these and invite your friends over. They’ll be begging you for the recipe too.

Crispy Tender Pork Carnitas
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10
The best way to make these is with the boneless pork spare ribs. You can also buy a 5 lb pork shoulder with or without the bone and cut it into cubes. Dale prefers the flavor of the spareribs because it has juicy fat which is where the flavor resides. The fat helps aid the cooking and keeps the meat tender. If you want these to be truly crispy, tender AND tasty, you need to do what is in BOLD. Don't skip or adjust these things.
  • 5-6 lbs of boneless pork spare ribs cut up into chunks
  • Reserved bacon fat (you can use oil but it simply won't be as tasty)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed not chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped into 8ths
  • 2 poblano chiles, roughly chopped
  • 2 anaheim chiles, roughly chopped
  • 1 dried guajillo chili, stem removed
  • 2 dried smoked seranno chiles (or used dried pasilla), stem removed
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ t. red chili flakes
  • ½ t. Mexican oregano
  • 1 t. cumin powder
  • 1 orange, chopped into 8ths
  • Fresh cilantro, large handful left whole
  • 1 bottle of corona beer
  • ¼ cup of orange juice
  • 1 TB Cholula sauce
  1. In a fairly shallow pan that can go into the oven, do a light sear (brown a little bit) of the meat in some bacon fat. Don’t use a deep cooking pot because you don’t want everything deeply covered in liquid when you put it into the oven. You don’t want stewed meat. You want braised meat. You want to let the fats of the meat become what cooks the meat. In other words, you will be forming its own liquid and you don’t want it to be swimming in its juice, thus the shallow pan.
  2. Add garlic and onion. Add peppers: poblano, Anaheim, guajillo and serrano. Saute a bit to allow the oils to be released.
  3. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.
  4. Add red chili flakes, Mexican oregano, cumin powder.
  5. Stir this all together to warm things through. The chiles will begin to soften a bit and the seasonings are toasting as you gently stir for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add orange chunks, warm for 2 minutes.
  7. Add cilantro and Cholula.
  8. Pour in a bottle of Corona and a ¼ cup of orange juice.
  9. Allow the liquid to simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  10. Cover tightly with foil, sealing it up well.
  11. Put this in a 300 degree oven for four hours. Don’t stir it during this time. Let it lie.
  12. Uncover after four hours. Pull out all the pieces of meat and put in a separate bowl.
  13. Pour the liquid through a strainer, reserving it.
  14. Toss out the veggies,etc.
  15. Remove as much of the fat as possible from the liquid.
  16. Put the liquid back in the same shallow pan and add the meat back in. Put it back in the oven for another ½ an hour, uncovered. The liquid will reduce during this time. Or reduce it by option #2 below.
  17. Right before you are ready to serve it, put it under the broiler briefly. Just long enough to give the meat some rich color and carmelization.
  18. Option 2: When you remove the liquid you can remove the fat, simmer it some more until it is reduced by a ⅓ to a half. It makes the sauce richer. This way you can set aside this reduced sauce and set aside the meat (refrigerating both) and serve it later or the next day, heating both up in the oven NOT the microwave at 350 uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring on occasion.
  19. Serve meat alongside tortillas, cojita cheese, radishes, guacamole, and a bit of lime to squeeze on top.
(1) Chiles and the different heat factors might make you want to adjust accordingly.
(2) When you taste the liquid it might taste much spicier (hotter) than what it will taste when you are eating it as a whole with the meat and cheese and onions, etc.
(3) The amount of spices and peppers in this recipe are a good foundation. But always know that we hope you will use your palate, adjusting things as you go. Learn to taste and test as you go along
(4) We get our dried chiles from the Savory Spice Shop.


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  • Maureen

    I can see why people like to be invited to your place to eat carnitas. I’m printing this recipe now and then heading to the kitchen. I’ve got the pork already!

    • laura

      You do have the pork already?!? Haha! Maureen that is so great. Tell me how they turned out!