Monday, June 12, 2023


Pork carnitas.  A Mexican classic that is so good and yes, you can make them yourself.  Traditional carnitas are made this way, fried in a kettle in lard.  There are others made in the oven and basted over and over (we've done that and they are good) and some are cooked in a crock pot and other are pan friend in oil.  We've done them that way too but this is the most authentic way (short of outside in copper over a fire!).

Pork carnitas
There are not many ingredients, but again you will be frying these in lard.  You can use other oils but because you are adding liquids and odd ingredients, you could burn yourself or cause a big mess in your kitchen if you try this with regular oil (look online for those versions if you'd rather try it that way, they are out there).

Lard doesn't react to having coke and orange juice being poured in as other oil might.  It is sold in stores right next to the other oils.  We get the Morrell Snow Cap brand and before you think lard means greasy, if you do these right, not greasy at all.

But again, if you'd rather not use lard, just look for some recipes that use oil.

Carnitas ingredients
Believe it or not, these are all the ingredients.

 5 lb pork shoulder butt
3 medium oranges cut in half and 1/2 cup of the juice
3 bay leaves
6 garlic cloves
1 8oz bottle/can Coca Cola
1 can evaporated milk
3 or 4 lbs of lard

Ours was bone in and about 8 lbs total, but the bone is part of that.  We probably ended up with about 5 lbs of meat after deboning. 

Pork in pressure cooker
 Now this is a step we do to make the cooking time a bit shorter and make them fall apart tender.  We take the meat off the bone (unless you have boneless) and cut into about 3 inch size chunks.  Add 1/2 cup water and salt to taste and pressure cook on high for 30 minutes.

Carnitas precooked
This is what it all looks like after the 30 minutes of pressure cooking.  Falling apart tender.

Prepping carnitas ingredients
While the pressure cooking is going on (if you choose that option), it's a good time to melt the lard in a large dutch oven or other heavy pot/cast iron.  Go ahead and open the coke, the can of evaporated milk, cut the oranges in half and squeeze out the juice of them until you get about 1/2 a cup of orange juice and have everything ready to go.

Frying carnitas
When it has reached 350 degrees, place the chunks of pork in.  Be careful, hot oil!

Next drop in the bay leaves and garlic cloves.

Orange juice in carnitas
Pour in the orange juice.

Evaporated milk in carnitas
Pour in the evaporated milk.

Coke cola in carnitas
Pour in the Coke.

Carnitas boiling in lard
This is what it will look like.

Frying carnitas
Finally add the chunks of orange (yep, more flavor).  Keep the temp around 250 (the added liquids will of course cool it down) but you don't want it back up at 350, now you want it to be somewhat low and slow and for about 30 minutes it will look like this, foaming and not clear.  Regularly move the pork around so it doesn't stick to the bottom (it will if you're not careful).

Frying carnitas
After about 30 minutes, it just clears up and looks like this!  Let it go for about 10 to 15 more minutes, still moving the pork around to make sure it's browning nicely.  The meat is cooked but you just want to get it to the point you like it, you want the exterior bits to be crispy and then super tender on the inside. 

Cooking carnitas
Fish out the oranges and bay leaves (the garlic has mostly dissolved), and then there will be little bits of pork that are floating around or in the bottom... by the way, these little bits are REALLY good, ha. 

Mexican pork carnitas
This is what they look like.

Put them on a rack while you get everything else ready.  We sprinkle a little salt on them at this point.  They don't get greasy, you are essentially braising them in the lard, not frying them.

Carnitas tacos
They are served simply.  We chop up an onion, add cilantro, a squeeze of lime and some sour cream (we like Mexican Crema).  You can of course eat them on a plate just like you would chunks of meat with appropriate sides like rice and beans.

Carnitas tacos with flour tortillas
Carnitas tacos can be on flour tortillas (my favorite)...

Carnitas tacos with corn tortillas
Or corn tortillas (2nd Man's favorite)...

If you are not wanting to use lard, as we said there are other methods online, even oven cooked, whichever way you do them, try pork carnitas, they are SO good.


  1. What an interesting recipe!! Thanks for sharing.

  2. These carnitas look absolutely fantastic! 2nd Man is an amazing chef!

  3. Boy ... Putting all that extra stuff into hot oil ... never heard of such a thing! I have never eaten carnitas, so I can't imagine what they taste like other then deep fried pork! They do look tasty!

  4. My Robert used to make those almost exactly like that except he used Dr Pepper instead of Coke. And, yes, the little chuncks and bits I think might actually be the best part of the entire thing. The were always reserved for me. Second Man and corn tortillas has my vote.


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