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Carnitas - A Family Feast

Apparently we’ve been holding out on you!  One of the most searched-for terms on A Family Feast is “Carnitas” and we are finally sharing our recipe today!

Our carnitas are another recipe inspired by The Edgewater Café, a North of Boston Mexican restaurant that my husband Jack worked at years ago which was hugely popular among the locals!  While carnitas were actually not offered on The Edgewater’s menu, the head chef liked to talk and share recipes, and Jack listened well (and wrote the recipe down)!

To make carnitas (which literally means “little meats”), cubed pork butt is cooked low-and-slow in lard and citrus – then browned under the broiler.  The result is an extremely moist texture with an amazing, flavorful caramelized crust!

Carnitas - A Family Feast

Serve carnitas simply in a warmed, soft flour tortilla with some cilantro and chopped onion – or you can really go wild and smother it with toppings just as you would for a taco!  But we actually like the carnitas simply served – the meat is SO good!

One last note – don’t be scared by cooking with lard! The lard, which can be found in many supermarket meat departments, is simply the cooking medium that helps keep the pork tender, and all is discarded after cooking.  The pork does not retain the fat from the lard – and in fact, it gives up some of its own – and all you are left with is amazingly tender, delicious carnitas!

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Carnitas - A Family Feast


  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Total Time: 5 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 3 pound pork butt, cut into large pieces at least 2×2 inches in size
  • 1 pound lard (if you cannot find lard at your local market, use suet)
  • ½ orange, skin on, quartered
  • 1 lime, skin on, quartered
  • 4 medium garlic cloves skinned and left whole, slightly smashed
  • 1 jalapeno stemmed and sliced into ½ inch rings, seeds left in
  • 1 medium onion, skinned and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ cup bacon fat
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
  2. In a 9x11x2 casserole dish, or similar volume oven-proof vessel, place all ingredients. Cover with parchment and foil and bake for five hours.
  3. Remove from oven and scoop out meat with a hand strainer or spider strainer. Dispose of remaining liquids and solids.
  4. Place cooked pork on a foil-lined sheet pan brushed with the olive oil and place under broiler for five minutes. If the bottoms seem too wet, flip the pork and broil the other side for another minute or two. This step needs to be watched – you want the meat to caramelize without burning it or drying it out.
  5. Serve simply in a warmed flour tortilla with chopped onion and cilantro.

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Craving more pork recipes? Check out these recipes from my fellow bloggers:

Caramelized Onion & Bacon Smothered Pork Chops – All Day I Dream About Food

Pork Chops with Balsamic Glaze – Kalyn’s Kitchen

 Carnitas - A Family Feast

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  • Lisa wrote:

    Which color of onion is used? A white, yellow or red?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Lisa – we used Vidalia but a white onion will work just as well.

  • Tracy wrote:

    Rats! I bought a pork shoulder instead of a pork butt? Think I could substitute the shoulder?
    Dying to make this, too Ö

    • Martha wrote:

      Yes! You should be fine – both cuts are from the shoulder (even though its called pork butt). Hope you enjoy the recipe!

      • Tracy wrote:

        You’re so sweet to answer my plea! Love your website! I truly appreciate all your time, effort and sharing that you both put into it. I emptied my black ink cartridge the day I found your site.
        Have a great weekend!!

        • Martha wrote:

          Thanks Tracy! We’re glad you found us!! Have a great weekend too!

          • Tracy wrote:

            Wow! My second batch is browning in the oven as we speak. I’ve never had true carnitas before but I can’t imagine them tasting any better than this! Absolutely tender yet caramelized goodness means this is an eternal “keeper”.
            Thanks, again!!

          • Martha wrote:

            So glad you enjoyed the recipe Tracy!

    • Kimberly Cohen wrote:

      Pork shoulder and pork butt are the same thing. Slow cook by smoking, crock pot, or low heat oven roast.

      • Martha wrote:

        Thanks Kimberly!

  • Chelsie wrote:

    I have made these twice now, and have bought multiple roasts of pork butt and put them in the freezer specifically for this recipe. I live in San Diego, home of some of the best Mexican food, and have NEVER had carnitas as spectacular as these. This recipe is now a staple in my home. I followed the recipe exactly as it is written. SOOOO easy, even more delicious. And the smell for the five hours it is cooking is divine. I never comment on recipes, but had to for this one. Thank you for sharing this recipe, my family will be forever grateful.

    • Martha wrote:

      Wow Chelsie!! Thank you so much! You have made both of our days with your kind words – but especially my husband Jack who is so thrilled when our readers love our recipes! Thank you for taking the time to comment!! Martha

  • dee wrote:

    Can you cover it with just foil? I don’t have parchment.

    • Martha wrote:

      Yes – you can use just foil if necessary. The parchment prevents the foil from touching the food at it cooks (the acids from the peppers, etc could make the foil disintegrate) so just be sure that the foil is pulled taut across the pan.

  • Jeannie Ramos wrote:

    I just read aloud this recipe to my husband. His response”So when you gonna cook it” ! lol
    Tomorrow ok with you I said ? lol !

    • Martha wrote:

      LOL Jeannie! We hope you both enjoy the recipe!

  • Laurie wrote:

    My oven is on the fritz. Can I use a slow cooker on low for the five hours?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Laurie – Yes – the slow cooker might take longer but it will still work. You do want to brown the meat at the end to get the caramelization – so if your broiler isn’t working as well, you can brown the meat on the stove top in a pan. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

    • Danielle wrote:

      This is exactly what I came here to ask! Did you ever try it; if so how did it turn out?

      • Martha wrote:

        Hi Danielle – Hopefully Laurie will respond! We haven’t tried it ourselves in the slow cooker.

  • Michele wrote:

    Do you bake it with the whole 1 lb of lard for the 5 hours? Do you just dice it up?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Michelle – Yes – The pork gets cut into cubes and is baked with the lard (which is soft like shortening so you would just measure that out and it will melt). If you are using suet (if lard isn’t available) that would be cut into cubes as well so it will melt quicker. Hope that helps clarify! Let us know if you have any other questions.

  • Cyn wrote:

    You did not just post a picture of fried pork—Ok, let me take a moment to wipe this side drool…
    OMG, this looks authentically divine, I’m in the process of moving so I’m a little bummed that I can’t cook this now but I will be sure to test this recipe out next week.

    • Martha wrote:

      LOL Cyn – I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do!! Good luck with your move!

  • Trish wrote:

    Is there anything you can substitute the lard for?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Trish – If you can’t find lard, most supermarkets sell packages of suet which can be used instead. Hope that helps!

  • mike wrote:

    wow,these sound really good,,,,will try sunday….

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Mike!

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