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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

Carnitas

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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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 Carnitas - A Family Feast

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    Comments

  • dolores wrote:

    Sorry, confused with this Carnitas recipe, do I mix the Lard with all ingredients and smear the pork butt with it, or spread it in the pan that I’ll be cooking it in?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Dolores – The lard is a solid – just place it in the pan along with the other ingredients (you can put it on the bottom if you’d like, them place the meat over it). The lard will melt in the oven once it is heated. Hope that helps!

  • Amy Dube wrote:

    My husband thinks he is not a fan of pork. I am making this dish now and am thinking he will dive into it! I had to make a few substitutions but will let you know how I make out! I did not have fresh limes so I used some lime juice, I did not have lard so I used crisco, I did not have fresh jalapenos so I used jarred, and I had fresh ham steaks to use up so I cut them into 2×2 chunks. If this cut of meat doesn’t work, I will be trying again and following your recipe exactly! Your photos look amazingly delish!!! Thank you for sharing.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Amy! Please let us know how your version comes out!

  • Lynn wrote:

    This looks delish! I want to do a test run on Thursday before I make it for my Cinco de Mayo party on Saturday. Ive never cooked with lard before. Is Crisco considered lard? Also, do I put the lard in the bottom of the pan first by scooping it out and then placing the rest of the ingredients on top? Probably a silly question, but lard being in solid form has me confused on how to incorporate it into the pan.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Lynn – Lard is beef fat while Crisco is vegetable. So – in a pinch, you could definitely use Crisco, but if possible try to find lard (most supermarkets sell it in the beef aisle – or ask the butcher – they likely have it in back). Lard is less expensive but more importantly it adds some great flavor to the dish! And yes – the lard will melt once the pan is in the oven so just put all the ingredients in the pan and let it bake! Hope that helps clarify – please let us know if you have any other questions!

  • katie wrote:

    Could I deep fry the pork after baking instead of broiling to quicken the process for individual orders

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Katie! I think it would work! Please let us know how it comes out!

  • Athee wrote:

    Sorry, it’s me again! Thanks for replying above. went ahead and bought a glass baking dish and it’s in the oven right now for dinner. I didn’t have fresh jalapenos, so I sprinkled the meat with a bit of jalapeno powder. I cut the meat in 2 inches chunks like you said, which is kind of big, but I guess that’s ok for cooking. Not for eating though, so would you cut in smaller chunks before or after the broiler? I was actually wondering how big the chunks in the picture you posted with the recipe were. Hopefully you see this in the next 5 hours, lol ! 🙂

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Athee – After the meat cooks the 2-inch chunks that you started with will be smaller in size. We broiled them as is and did not cut them any smaller. Hope that helps!

  • Athee wrote:

    Hi, can I use a braising cast iron like the one in this pic? I don’t have another casserole dish.
    Thanks!

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Athee – A cast iron pan should work but the cooking time might be less (since cast iron heats up hotter than a glass dish). Hope that helps!

  • Corinne/CO wrote:

    Love this recipe! Just a few questions? Do you cook in glass or metal pan for the 5 hrs & do I need to use pan spray! I don’t eat jalapeños so can I use the fresh green chilies instead? Can I cut meat into 1 inch pieces rather then 2 inch size & shorten cooking time? I like smaller pieces to eat just my preference. Sorry for all the questions. LOL Thanks for any answers!

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Corrine – Either glass or metal pan will work, no pan spray is needed (unless we state it in the recipe) and yes – you can substitute green chiles. I’d personally recommend cooking as written in the 2-inch cubes so the meat doesn’t dry out – you can always cut it smaller once it is cooked. Hope that helps! Enjoy the recipe!

      • Corinne/CO wrote:

        Thanks So Much for you responding to my questions! Can’t wait to make this.

  • Terra wrote:

    We don’t usually cook bacon at home so I don’t have any bacon fat. I know that would add more flavor, but if I don’t have it, should I just add a tiny bit more lard?
    Thanks! Can’t wait to try these!

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Terra – Yes – a bit more lard can be used instead of the bacon fat. Hope you enjoy the carnitas!

      • Terra wrote:

        Thank you for the quick reply! I ran to the store on my lunch and threw everything into the crockpot since I’m not going to be home and I worry about having the oven on. I will report back on how it turns out in the crockpot! 🙂

        • Martha wrote:

          Great – definitely let us know! You will however probably want to crisp it up under the broiler to caramelize it a bit before serving!

          • Terra wrote:

            Yumm! The pork turned out really well in the crockpot. I put them in with all the ingredients and cooked them on high for 4 hours and the last hour, I turned it down to low. It was awesome coming home to a house that smelled so good! I did put them under the broiler for about 5 minutes and I will say, they were definitely more tender when they were straight out of the crock pot. The broiler dried them out a tiny bit and I didn’t feel like they really glazed that much. So I would say, if you are going to do them in the crockpot, just enjoy it as is. I made some Spanish rice, got some fresh pico de gallo and turned them into pork street tacos so if you go that route, it won’t matter as much if they are caramelized. Next time I cook these when I’m able to stay at home, I am going to do it in the oven so I can get the caramelized effect (my FAVE). But if you want awesome pork tacos, the crock pot is great and you can feel ok about leaving the house without having the oven on for a long time. Thanks for the awesome recipe! I took a pic to show how they turned out but it isn’t letting me attach it. But the tacos looked great! 🙂

          • Martha wrote:

            Thanks for letting us know Terra!

  • sharon wrote:

    Made this over the weekend. So easy! Love just quartering things and leaving them in big chunks. Cuts down on prep time. My family and friends were so impressed. They loved it! I will definitely be making this again. A little healthier way to serve the carnitas, is to use a Romane lettuce leaf as your tortilla. Still delicious and adds a little crunch. Thank you!

    • Martha wrote:

      Great suggestion Sharon! So glad you all enjoyed the carnitas!

  • Kathy wrote:

    So dry!! Put pork on top – was that my problem??

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Kathy – From your comment – it doesn’t sound like you followed the directions to bake in lard or suet? Salt pork won’t render down in the same way as lard or suet… 🙁

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