Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
January 05, 2013

Crispy Carnitas

By Worker Bee
146 Comments

Step 2As if slow-cooked, tender, succulent pork wasn’t tempting enough, carnitas takes it one step further by caramelizing the pork in its own fat until the outside is perfectly browned and crisp. The crispy, tender morsels of pork that come out of the oven are hard to resist; it’s not unusual to eat so much meat right out of the pan that you’re full before the carnitas make it to the table.

Cooking meat that is both tender and crispy might sound tricky but the only trick to making carnitas is getting out of the way so the meat can cook itself. The less you intervene, the better. Seasoned pork is braised in a pot of water until the meat is tender and the water is gone. Then the pork fat takes over, essentially frying the meat into a crispy, fatty, salty masterpiece.

Carnitas is a great dish to cook ahead of time for quick weeknight dinners or large parties. Served with avocado, salsa or sautéed peppers it’s a meal that satisfies every time.

Servings: 6

Time in the Kitchen: 20 minutes active cooking time, 3 to 4 hours in the oven

Ingredients:

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder/butt cut into five pieces. You can trim off a little bit of the fat or leave it all on. (1.4 to 1.8 kg)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (7 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (5 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (5 ml)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped or thinly sliced
  • Water, for braising

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 ºF (177 ºC).

Mix together the salt, cumin and chili powder and rub all over the meat.

Place the meat in a large, heavy pot with the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, garlic and onion. Ideally, the pot is large enough so that the meat is in a single layer. Add enough water to almost, but not entirely, cover the meat.

Step 1

Put the pot in the oven, uncovered, and braise for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Stir the meat just a few times while it cooks. You’ll know the pork is done when it’s really tender, slightly browned and most of the liquid is gone.

Step 2

Remove the pork from the oven. Put the meat on a cutting board and cut or shred it with your hands into thin strips.

Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf from the pot. Add the shredded meat back to the pot and return it to the oven.

Step 3

Roast the meat, mixing occasionally, until the meat is as dark and crispy as you like it. (This process will go even faster if the meat is spread out on a roasting pan or baking sheet with any remaining liquid that was left in the pot. If time is tight, you can also put the meat under a broiler).

If you’re making carnitas ahead of time, cook the meat for 3 hours until tender. The final crisping up in the oven can be done right before serving the meat.

The entire cooking process for carnitas can also be done on a stovetop but the oven is a little easier. A slow cooker can also be used to cook the meat until tender (add only about 1/2 cup of water). The meat can then be transferred to the oven to brown.

Carnitas

greek_640x80
evao_640x80
clmayo_640x80
fuel_640x80
mayo_640x80
dcab_640x80
honey_640x80

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

146 Comments on "Crispy Carnitas"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Violet
Violet
3 years 8 months ago

Looks really good!

Liesel
3 years 8 months ago

I hate the taste of pork normally – but this looks like a great way of cooking it!! Will have to try!

Mark A
Mark A
3 years 8 months ago

If you don’t like pork, you will probably hate carnitas. The pork flavor is intensified in the cooking process. Some of the seasonings might mask that a little, but the best carnitas have minimal seasoning. I’d just find the best quality pork shoulder possible and then have at it. You may find that you like pork more than you thought.

Jennapher
Jennapher
3 years 6 months ago

I wouldn’t shy away even if you don’t like pork.. I made this for dinner tonight and I put a pinch of extra cinnamon and it was reeeallly good. Sweet and it didn’t have a very distinct pork taste. Everyone loved it, my 17 month old twins cleaned their plates and even ate their tomatoes 😀

Onge
Onge
3 years 8 months ago

This is just what I have been looking for!

George Mounce
George Mounce
3 years 8 months ago

I absolutely love carnitas. Thanks for this awesome recipe!

SugarKill
3 years 8 months ago

I’ve been waiting for this all my life… well, since I went to Vallarta last and I saw those CARNITAS. But of course, avoided since they’re probably cooked in corn oil or something…

Ugh, so EXCITED to make this.

Nancy
Nancy
3 years 8 months ago

Good Mexican food is usually cooked in lard.

tb
tb
3 years 8 months ago

I do something like this with my slow cooker. No water necessary — I just throw in the spice-rubbed meat with some onions and cook it overnight. It cooks in its own fat. Then I wrap it up in small packages that i freeze for later use. For taco nights wit my son, I just thaw a packet and cook it on the stovetop in my cast iron pan. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside.

Bob Geary
Bob Geary
3 years 8 months ago

Ditto here – a pork shoulder has more than enough water in it so that you don’t have to add more in a mostly-sealed environment like a slow cooker.

I always felt a little WRONG making “pulled pork” sandwiches out of slow-braised pork – pulled pork is barbecue, it’s smoked, not braised, etc. – but no such conundrum with carnitas 🙂

Adrianna
Adrianna
3 years 4 months ago

How long do you cook it for in a slow cooker and at what tempature?

Paleo App
3 years 8 months ago

There are so many recipes out there, it’s hard to fine one that stands out…

Well until this one!

Todd S.
Todd S.
3 years 8 months ago

Hmm. I’ve always cooked my pork roasts in the slow cooker, then transferred to the broiler for crisping. I never knew that’s what made carnitas. I just knew that crispy bits are better than non.

Lucy
3 years 8 months ago

MMMmmm sounds supper yummy!Thanks 🙂

Bayrider
Bayrider
3 years 8 months ago

I love carnitas and all Mexican dishes which is just one reason why primal is so easy and happy for me. Just got a large iron skillet and this will be the first dish to be done in it. Thanks.

Alex
Alex
3 years 8 months ago

I love carnitas, and this looks amazing. However, does anyone have some ideas on to serve it with (especially for leftovers) for someone avoiding tortillas or carbs in general? What else does it go well with, besides just eating it on it’s own (which I am not opposed to)

Alex
Alex
3 years 8 months ago

*on what to serve it with

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
3 years 8 months ago

Try making cauliflower rice and using that as a bed for the carnitas.

Pat
Pat
3 years 8 months ago

I eat mine like a taco with no tortilla – I add black olives, avocado, sour cream, a bit of cheese, salsa or tomatoes, lettuce – or you could put it on a bed of lettuce, like a taco salad… Or throw a bit in some vegetable soup… Or add some Paleo barbeque sauce for pulled pork and wrap it in a lettuce leaf… Or stand at the stove and gobble it up with your fingers!!!

Shamra
Shamra
3 years 8 months ago

What a great idea! I’m always looking for quick and tasty meals to take to work. Now that you mention it, this would be perfect!

Allison
Allison
3 years 8 months ago

+1

Alice
Alice
3 years 8 months ago

I use a lettuce leaf to make the taco or a steamed cabbage leaf and make a roll by turning the sides in and filling with your ingredients like a burrito.

jrVegantoPrimal
3 years 8 months ago

grill some peppers & onions, toss it on a big ass salad, serve it next to the Brussels sprout dish from a couple weeks ago, or maybe the sweet potato/bacon dip from his new recipe book, or just any mixed veggies!!!! The world is your oyster!

Stacey K
Stacey K
3 years 8 months ago

I make a different carnitas (from clothesmakethegirl.com) that has citrus, and it’s really good over mashed sweet potatoes. I bet this one would be, too.

Alyssa Luck
3 years 8 months ago

Ahh yes I’ve made those and they are delicious!! Seeing this post made me think of her recipe (:

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
3 years 8 months ago

I bet it’d be good with some steamed cabbage (sliced so that it’s in strips) tossed in olive oil (or cabbage made into a tangy slaw!), or even with some roasted + mashed sweet winter squash. Or on a salad with a lot of fresh cilantro and a lime dressing…

Karen P.
3 years 8 months ago

I put it on salads with pumpkin seeds, guac, and salsa.

Or on a cabbage slaw.

With eggs, scrambled or frittata.

Lettuce wraps.

You could get some PureWraps (made only with coconut) and wrap it up.

On top of crispy plantains fried in coconut oil.

I lurve carnitas, if you couldn’t tell. 😉

mars
mars
3 years 8 months ago

We use large romaine leaves as taco shells.

I would love to make this but sourcing clean pastured non-antiobiotic-fed pork butt or shoulder is very pricey! May try this technique with beef instead.

Joshua
Joshua
3 years 8 months ago

Make sure to use a very gristly piece. And fatty of course but that should go without saying. The miracle in carnitas is the collagen that melts into gelatin and bastes the meat from the inside. Plus it’s pork.

Mark A
Mark A
3 years 8 months ago

You can make a “tortilla” by thinly slicing rounds of jicama. If you have a mandoline, you can slice the jicama very thin so that the slices are flexible. If not, slice them thicker to they are stiff enough to act as a “tostada.” (Disclaimer: I stole this idea from Richard Blais on Top Chef.)

Pearl
Pearl
3 years 8 months ago

Try cutting a large red bell pepper in half and either roasting it or grilling it. i love to put carnitas in each half (add salsa, cheese, sour cream… avocado… whatever you like) or I’ll use big pieces of romaine. I personally love carnitas on lettuce with lime and home made hot sauce.

the cats mother
the cats mother
3 years 8 months ago
there is a recipe on here for a primal version of tortillas made with coconut flour, very yummy. look for Primal Tex Mex Tortillas and Taco Seasoning. otherwise, yes I agree with Ron, cauliflower rice. You could make a kind of paella with it; crisp it up in a LG skillet, remove from pan, add some peppers, onions, a cubed sweet potato, chicken stock and then cauliflower rice (add some saffron if you like), cook thru and then add the meat back in, then reduce so it thickens. I do that with lots of left over meats. the sweet potatoes… Read more »
the cats mother
the cats mother
3 years 8 months ago

oh, you could use it in the cassoulet recipe that was on here (think it’s the one before this one) that would give that dish an interesting flavour.

Pat
Pat
3 years 8 months ago

Just made this last night using a different recipe. It is amazingly simple and really delicious! There’s just one problem… Make two times as much because you will love it so much, you’ll want to tuck some in the freezer for when you are busy and you need an amazing meal! We used the leftovers in omelettes this morning with a bit of colby-jack cheese and salsa on top!

CrazyCatLady
CrazyCatLady
3 years 8 months ago

Making my own (as planned yesterday) for tonight. Really very easy to do. I tend to cook mine in the crock pot first, then shred and put in the oven in a deep dish stirring as parts get brown.

I use left overs for all sorts of Mexican style dishes, as well as curries for meals during the week.

Jessica
Jessica
3 years 8 months ago

Second on serving it on a bed of cauliflower rice, and topping that with some salsa and guacamole, maybe some sour cream too (if you do dairy) or plain Greek yogurt.

JD
JD
3 years 8 months ago

Sounds very tasty!

Dano
Dano
3 years 8 months ago

Making it now…got a late start, so we’ll be eating dinner at around 10:00pm…oh well. Will report back. Great ideas for side dishes too. Thanks!

Bruce
Bruce
3 years 8 months ago

I like it hot on a salad….

trackback

[…] As if slow-cooked, tender, succulent pork wasn’t tempting enough, carnitas takes it one step further by caramelizing the pork in its own fat until the outside is perfectly browned and crisp. The crispy, tender morsels of pork that come out of the oven are hard to resist; it’s not unusual to eat so much meat […]… Mark’s Daily Apple […]

trackback

[…] As if slow-cooked, tender, succulent pork wasn’t tempting enough, carnitas takes it one step further by caramelizing the pork in its own fat until the outside.More By Worker Bee […]

NMCynthia
NMCynthia
3 years 8 months ago

I can’t believe that I’ve lived in New Mexico for 35 years and have never made this. The recipe looks so easy! Pork Shoulder is now on my grocery list for tomorrow.

Thanks Mark!

Dano
Dano
3 years 8 months ago

OH..MY..GROK! So easy and so delicious. Carnitas has always been our favorite food when we’ve gone to Mexico and this recipe rocks! Will be making a lot of this.

Melissa
3 years 8 months ago

I LOVE carnitas, I can’t wait to try these

Rob
Rob
3 years 8 months ago

The way that looks, 4 lbs would only serve one!

Harold Crews
Harold Crews
3 years 8 months ago

This looks a lot like pork bbq. Pork that is cooked for hours over low heat preferably over a wood fire. It’s wonderful and is my favorite thing to eat. But I’d be certainly willing to try crispy carnitas.

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
3 years 8 months ago

Nothing brings people together like good food.

Mike Mahoney
3 years 8 months ago

That is happening this week!!!

Patrick
Patrick
3 years 8 months ago

This looks like a great recipe. I love Carnitas, but have been limiting my pork consumption because of a few sources I have recently read about the connection of cancer to pork. Apparently, cancer cells happily grow with the presence of pork that has not been cured or processed in a traditional manner. For example, the Okinawans traditionally soak pork in an acidic brine overnight before preparing. We can replicate this with apple cider vinegar. Studies have shown this process to reduce the cancer-cell growth. Any thoughts?

Joelle Bonifacio
Joelle Bonifacio
3 years 8 months ago

I’ve heard that, too. I have a good cookbook, and because of the connection, they don’t offer any pork recipes. Maybe try that. At worst, it’ll just make it more tender.

Debra
Debra
3 years 8 months ago

I am so making this!!!

Adrienne
3 years 8 months ago

My favorite Mexican restaurant in Houston didn’t shred the pork. It was just served in big chunks with sides of guacamole, sour cream, and such. This was back in the 60’s so they’re probably not there any more. If you wanted to wrap it in tortillas you could, but most people just ate it as is. Shredding it turns it into pulled pork. But……..either way, it’s delicious!

karen
karen
3 years 8 months ago

I’m surprised that nobody else commented on the cinnamon stick. Does that make it taste cinnamony? I have a friend that makes spaghetti sauce with cinnamon and it’s terrible so I’m afraid to put it in a savory dish.

Tonixtonix
Tonixtonix
3 years 8 months ago

We didn’t notice a cinnamon flavor at all; cumin took center stage I think. (and I am gagging at the idea of cinnamon in spaghetti sauce! :-&)

the cats mother
the cats mother
3 years 8 months ago

yeah, EWWWWWWWW!!!! My father in law (had an Italian restaurant for 37 years) would have a conniption at the thought of that!

Julia
Julia
3 years 8 months ago

I am making them right now and my house smells incredible!!!

Jen
Jen
3 years 8 months ago

Hey all!

Long time lurker, first time poster. Had an unfortunate run in with bad Mexifood last night (fajitas totally drenched in bad oil 🙁 Needless to say, I was really happy to stumble upon this recipe! It was so easy and turned out fantastically. I used chipotle for the chili. I’m with Julia – the house smells awesome (could have something to do with the lard I just rendered too 😉

Siobhan
Siobhan
3 years 8 months ago
Made this today, it is delicious. My house smells amazing. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the cinnamon stick, not because of the taste, but because generally sticks are considered to be lower quality cinnamon than a good ground cinnamon. I don’t have the time or the will to do research on this presently, but I will say that I used ground cinnamon and it was great. Use very little as it goes a long way in a recipe like this. I used approximately 1/4 tsp and it just adds a little complexity, not an identifiable cinnamon taste. You can… Read more »
karen
karen
3 years 8 months ago

I did ask about the cinnamon up further and was also surprised that there wasn’t any mention of it. Glad to know that it doesn’t leave a strong cinnamon taste. I’m still afraid to put it in, though. I plan on making this next week and may leave it out.

Joshua
Joshua
3 years 8 months ago
Go ahead and leave the cinnamon in. IF you have cinnamon and not cassia. The cassia sticks are the hard thick dark colored ones. Real cinnamon (Ceylon) sticks are light-colored, somewhat fragile, and a much rounder, gentler, almost floral flavor. Regarding the quality of stick vs powdered cinnamon. You may have that backward practically if not technically. Once ground, the volatile oils are much less protected. Even if the higher quality stuff is chosen for grinding, by the time it gets to you, and you actually use it, the quality is of course markedly lower. Carnitas, because of all the… Read more »
Leannne
Leannne
3 years 8 months ago

Just pulled my carnitas out of oven. Looks and tastes GREAT. Yes, you can smell the cinnamon. There is a faint hint of cinnamon, but in my opinion it is the perfect hint. The flavor of the meat is much more pronounced!! Thanks for posting this recipe.

Suzanne
Suzanne
3 years 8 months ago

Made this today and it was hard to stop picking at it. It’s everything I love about pork ribs without the bones.

Jenny
3 years 8 months ago

I’ve never had carnitas, but this sounds pretty amazing!

Vanessa
Vanessa
3 years 8 months ago

Well I went for it tonight, it was great and even my two kids 10 and 13 ate it with no complaints. I loved that the onions disappeared so I didn’t have to apologize for their being there. I could go either way on the cinnamon, I used about 1/4 tsp. and might consider 1/8th tsp. next time, otherwise yum.

trackback

[…] crispy carnitas de Mark […]

Pea
Pea
3 years 8 months ago

Has anyone made this with beef, say with chuck?

Kyle46N
Kyle46N
3 years 8 months ago

We used the same recipe last night but used grass fed chuck roast and round roast instead. Used the crock pot, and then pulled all the meat apart, spread out on baking sheet and broiled it to add the crispiness. Used the juice from the crockpot to pour over the meat before eating. It was stupid good.

Rebecca
Rebecca
3 years 8 months ago

How important is the cut of meat in this recipe? I have pork loin in my freezer, can I use that?

Thanks!

Mark A
Mark A
3 years 8 months ago

I wouldn’t use loin. It doesn’t have as much connective tissue or fat so doesn’t do as well slow-cooked.

Karin
Karin
3 years 8 months ago

I am using a crockpot and it is currently cooking away at home to be ready for dinner. I am also going to try and make Marks tortillas to go with it.

Leanna
Leanna
1 year 10 months ago

How long did it cook in the slow cooker and for how long? 🙂

Anna
Anna
3 years 8 months ago

Looks great and easy to make. Can’t wait to try it.

Wallace
Wallace
3 years 8 months ago

I made carnitas this weekend, and would highly recommend it! I like to add a red cabbage slaw with it: shredded red cabbage, shredded carrots, cilantro, garlic, lime and a touch of white wine vinegar. It adds some wonderful crunch to the slow cooked pork.

Casey
3 years 8 months ago

Making this Saturday. My whole family is excited to try it.

Sara
3 years 8 months ago

This looks amazing, I can’t wait to try it! Only lousy thing is I’ll be making a nightshade-free version…

Laura
Laura
3 years 8 months ago

Made this yesterday and it was super easy and yummy!!!!

Tee
Tee
3 years 8 months ago

How long would you cook the final crisping up part if it is on a baking sheet?

Tonixtonix
Tonixtonix
3 years 8 months ago

I cooked mine for 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven. That gave them a good amount of crisp with no drying of the meat.

Tonixtonix
Tonixtonix
3 years 8 months ago

These were AMAZING! I made them in the crockpot with 1/2 cup beef broth instead of water then cooked two hours on high, then about 3-4 hours on low. I removed the meat with a slotted spoon and used my kitchen aid mixer with the paddle attachment to shred the meat; added one cup of the liquid back into the meat and baked till crispy on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven. Served over mashed plantains.

Scott
3 years 8 months ago

I don’t eat much pork but this recipe looks great, Mark. Of course it’s even better if you can find humanely-raised, pasture fed pork. Support your local farmers people!

Amber
3 years 8 months ago

Nom nom! This looks delightful.

wpDiscuz