I go through stages of dishes I like to order at a Mexican restaurant and one of my favorites has always been carnitas, which literally means “little meats”. Braising pork in lard makes carnitas soft and tender. Rather than lard, I substituted with vegetable shortening and used only a couple of tablespoons. You do not need gallons of lard and a huge copper cauldron in order to make authentic, delicious, and tender carnitas.
This recipe is delicately flavored with a hint of orange, onion, warm herbs, and spices. I also added a couple of tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, which helps the pork caramelize as well as balances the smoky and spicy chipotle peppers.
This recipe is very simple and only takes one hour of cooking time on the stovetop. By the time you make a sidedish and some salsas your carnitas will be fork tender and ready to serve.
You can pull apart and shred the meat by hand or fork or chop with a cleaver, taqueria-style, which is what I prefer.
If you like carnitas dark and crispy on the outside, you can place the cooked pork pieces in an oven-safe dish and bake in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them. I like mine soft and tender, so I skip this step and serve immediately.
Carnitas can also be used as an ingredient in tamales, tortas, and burritos making this pork dish versatile and creative. For tacos de carnitas, place the meat and serve in corn tortillas with toppings such as sour cream, salsa of your choice, and lime wedges.
I made these tacos de carnitas on National Taco Day, Saturday, October 4 for my family with pico de gallo, avocado and tomatillo salsa, cilantro lime rice, and frijoles de la olla. It was an amazing Mexican feast.
Carnitas is a way to experience pork like no other. I used pork shoulder to make this dish making it very affordable and a great dish to feed a crowd. For more pork recipes and inspiration be sure to visit porkteinspira.com.
Tacos de Carnitas
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 3 ½ pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 5-inch chunks (do not remove fat)
- ½ onion, rough chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 ½ cups water
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 5 whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
- 1 orange, juiced
- Salsa of choice
- Crema Mexicana or sour cream
- Lime wedges
- In a large skillet or stock pot heat vegetable shortening on high heat and place pieces of pork and brown meat.
- Place in a blender onion, garlic, water, chile peppers, thyme, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and cloves. Blend until well blended.
- Turn the meat over and brown second side. Once meat is browned on both sides, pour in braising mixture over the pork.
- Add condensed milk over the pork and fresh orange juice. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 1 hour.
- Once cooked, shred pork or chop into bite-sized pieces.
- Optional: If you like carnitas dark and crispy on the outside, you can place the cooked pork pieces in an oven-safe dish and bake in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them.
- Heat corn tortillas on a griddle. Fill with the carnitas and serve with salsa, crema Mexican, and a squeeze of lime juice.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the National Pork Board. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own and based upon my personal experience.