This authentic Carnitas de Puerco (Carnitas Recipe) recipe is deliciously tender, juicy with irresistible crispy bits. The best easiest carnitas recipe you will ever make.
If you have never made carnitas or even worse you have never had carnitas, you are in for a delicious surprise!
They’re incredibly delicious, irresistible and ridiculously easy to make!
This authentic carnitas recipe practically takes care of itself. Take a few initial steps and then its pretty much a set it and forget it type of recipe!
A lot of times people who have never made carnitas at home, “unknowingly” believe they are hard to make! Or think they require a ton of ingredients and a lot of attention to make.
The beauty of truly authentic carnitas is, one, they don’t require a ton of ingredients and two, are incredibly simple to make!
What Are Carnitas de Puerco?
Carnitas are basically Mexico’s version of pulled pork, but soo much better!
They’re excellent in tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tostadas, gorditas, salads, sliders, Mexican pizza, carnita bowls and much more!
Unlike other carnitas recipes that use herbs and certain seasonings, like oregano and cumin, this recipe is quite different from what you may have seen before.
Here in this recipe, just like they do in Quiroga, Michoacán (a small town in Mexico known for its Carnitas), all you really need to make carnitas is a good cut of pork that has quite a bit of marbling throughout (lines of fat), lard, salt, garlic and water. Yep, that’s all!
You will be blown away how incredibly delicious these carnitas are!
What Cut of Pork is Carnitas?
The best cut to make carnitas is pork shoulder and pork butt because of the higher fat content. The fat helps keep the pork tender and juicy and produces the finest of crispy edges in its final stage of cooking.
They’re undeniably, DELICIOUS!
What is the Difference Between Pulled Pork and Carnitas de Puerco?
Both carnitas and pulled pork are cooked slowly for several hours however, there is a difference.
Southern pulled pork is usually made with pork butt, otherwise known as Boston butt, while carnitas can be made with both pork shoulder or pork butt.
Carnitas are also in a sense, roasted and crisped some at the end of cooking, giving this dish a level of excellence unsurpassed. While pulled pork is cooked until tender without crisping the edges.
What Do You Need to Make Carnitas de Puerco?
Traditionally, carnitas are made using lard. Unfortunately, though, lard is not always easy to find for some people.
Although pork lard is best, you can use vegetable shortening, like Crisco, or even vegetable oil to make carnitas.
However, pork lard is best!
Some Work Arounds if You Cannot Find Lard
Sometimes I can find a block of lard at my local Walmart, sometimes, I can’t.
So here’s what I do…
I have grown accustomed to making a replacement for lard, bacon lard!
Yes, we make a lot of bacon in our home and every time we do, I save the bacon grease in a container.
You wouldn’t believe how quickly it adds up and before I know it, I have a “tub” of bacon lard to use in multiple recipes!
Bacon Lard Recipe, soon to come!
But as I previously said, use vegetable shortening or oil if you cannot find pork lard.
What to Do with Carnitas de Puerco
In my opinion, carnitas are best in, EVERYTHING!!!
However, I must say, land in Mexico, and your first stop should be “a local whole in the joint” CARNITAS JOINT, serving carnitas in tacos!
Tacos, definitely is a family favorite.
Luckily though, there’s multiple ways to use carnitas.
Ingredients You Will Need
- pork shoulder or butt
- garlic cloves
Carnitas Recipe Instructions
- Rinse the pork and cut into 2-3 inch chunks.
- Add the pork to a large pot with 7 cups of water, 1/4 cup lard, 6 cloves of garlic and 1 tablespoon of salt.
- Cook covered on medium heat and bring the water to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 45 minutes until pork is almost tender.
- Uncover and turn the heat to medium-high to reduce the amount of water in the pot.
- The meat will start frying in its own fat and lard at this point.
- Carefully brown and crisp the pork at medium heat stirring frequently until pork is evenly browned. About 15 to 20 minutes. (While you are browning the pork, do not cover or over cook the pork as it can get too dry if overcooked.)
- Shred the pork a little bit using two forks.
- Carnitas are done!
Serve carnitas however way you like! Enjoy!
To serve in tacos, serve in corn or flour tortillas and top with chopped fresh cilantro, onion, and you favorite sauce like this homemade salsa verde (green sauce).
Other Ways to Cook Carnitas
While authentic carnitas are cooked in a large pot, today they’re cooked in a variety of different ways.
In the oven, a slow cooker and an instant pot are all great options.
Pork Carnitas in the Oven
Cooking carnitas in the oven is mess free and care free too!
Check out Dr. Dan’s version from 101 Cooking for Two, here.
Pork Carnitas in a Slow Cooker
If you own a slow cooker, imagine coming home from work to the scent of juicy carnitas already done, a delicious dinner ready to be served!
Check out Nagi’s recipe from Recipe Tin Eats, here.
Pork Carnitas in an Instant Pot
If you are like me and love using your instant pot, check out Ali’s version from Gimme Some Oven, here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS CARNITAS RECIPE
Why are there such little ingredients for this recipe?
I have a recipe for Savory Pork Mexican Carnitas with all the ingredients we are accustomed to seeing and using I created back in 2014 (will soon be updated with new pictures and content). However, different areas of Mexico cook carnitas very simply. Using just water, salt and lard allow the flavors of the pork and fat content to meld together producing an incredibly flavorful pot of carnitas.
Can I use pork loin or tenderloin for this recipe?
Due to the lean content of this cut, I do not recommend it for this recipe. True flavorful carnitas is made using a cut of pork with high-fat content such as pork shoulder and butt.
Can leftovers be frozen?
Yes. Allow the carnitas to cool and then place them in an airtight freezer container and freeze for up to 4 months.
To reheat, allow the carnitas to defrost a little and heat in a pot on the stove.
You can also add them to a plate or bowl and microwave them for a few minutes until heated through.
Carnitas de Puerco
- 1 large pot
- 1 cast iron skillet helpful but not totally needed
- 3 lbs pork shoulder or pork butt rinsed and cut into large 2-3 inch chunks
- ¼ cup lard
- 6 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 tbsp salt
- 7 cups water
- Rinse the pork and cut into 2-3 inch chunks.
- Add the pork to a large pot with 7 cups of water, 1/4 cup lard, 6 cloves of garlic and 1 tablespoon of salt.Cook covered on medium heat and bring the water to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for about 45 minutes until pork is almost fully tender.
- Uncover and turn the heat to medium-high to reduce the amount of water in the pot.The meat will start frying in its own fat and lard at this point.
- Carefully brown and crisp the pork at medium heat stirring frequently until pork is evenly browned. About 15 to 20 minutes. (While you are browning the pork, do not cover or overcook the pork as it can get too dry if overcooked.)
- Shred the pork a little bit using two forks.Carnitas are done!
- Serve carnitas however you would like.
For Carnitas Tacos
- Serve in corn or flour tortillas and top with chopped fresh cilantro, onion, and you favorite sauce like this homemade salsa verde (green sauce).