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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:

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 Carnitas - A Family Feast

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  • Stephanie wrote:

    Does the jalapeño make the carnitas spicy? Also about the bacon fat! Can I buy bacon fat or do I just cook bacon and drain the fat? I feel like that is the silliest question ever but I really want to make this and make it to the “T”! It sounds super yummy!

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Stephanie – The jalepeno adds a little bit of heat but it doesn’t make it overly spicy. If you are worried about too much heat, I’d suggest leaving out the seeds but still including the rings from the peppers. And yes – we cook bacon and save the rendered fat for recipes like this! I don’t think I’ve ever seen bacon fat sold in the store – but it’s possible that some markets do! Hope that helps – and please let us know if you have any other questions!

  • Sandra Boone wrote:

    Hi Martha. I am preparing you recipe and am wondering if I am using half of the pork do I cut the rest of the recipe? Should I use a smaller baking dish?

    • Martha wrote:


  • Jen Sawyer wrote:

    Hi, Martha! This looks amazing, however we have friends coming over who don’t eat pork. Can this be made with beef instead, and what type?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Jen – Yes – you could. The equivalent beef cut would be a chuck roast. We’re thinking that the beef will take less time to cook than the pork so you might want to cut back on the cooking time. Hope that helps! Let us know how it comes out!

  • Kim Porter wrote:

    One HUGE complaint! There was not enough to make everyone happy! Will most definitely be making double the recipe next time around. Growing up in Southern California, we always had plenty of great Mexican restaurants nearby. Now we live up in the Pacific Northwest and it’s just not the same. I’ve made several recipes for carnitas in the past two years, and this is the very best of the bunch! Thank you so much for a truly great meal.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Kim! We’re glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Dawn wrote:

    I am going to make this in an hour or so. I probably won’t get a response in time. During the 5 hours, do you stir it at all or just let it cook?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Dawn – No stirring required! Just let it cook!

      • Dawn wrote:

        Thanks for the quick response.

  • jebs wrote:

    Do u squeeze the juice out of the orange and lime or just quartered it?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Jebs – just quartered is fine!

  • Tricia wrote:

    This looks amazing, but have you tried anything less fattening than lard. I have a wedding dress to fit into in less than 2 months lol. Would some good olive oil work?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Tricia – We haven’t tried olive oil – the lard adds a lot of great flavor to the dish (the meat doesn’t soak up the oil)! But if you do try it – I’d recommend a light olive oil (or even canola oil) rather than extra virgin – the EVOO has such a strong taste that will definitely impact the flavor of the finished dish. Hope that helps!

  • Eleisha wrote:

    I use Le Cruset cookware, can I use the cast iron pots with lids instead of foil & parchment paper?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Eleisha – For the carnitas, you really want to use a wide, flatter and more shallow pan so the meat will caramelize. I’d be worried that in a dutch oven for example, the meat toward the bottom of the pan would not cook in the same way. We’d recommend cooking as written in the recipe for the best results.

  • Lorraine Pawelec wrote:

    My mother -in-law who was born and raised in Portugal made pork similar to carnitas called (don’t know correct spelling) but pronounced re joins wish I had gotten the recipe. I’ll have to try this and see if it tastes the same!

    • Martha wrote:

      I hope you enjoy it Lorraine! Let us know how it compares to your mother-in-law’s recipe!

  • JC wrote:

    While this is not an authentic recipe for Carnitas, it is a lot easier and I am definitely going to try it ( with the exception if the jalapeno).

    • Martha wrote:

      We hope you enjoy the recipe JC!

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