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!

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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  • Sylvia wrote:

    Martha, this is my first Pinterest review. These Carnitas were so delicious. My husband and daughter couldn’t stop saying how good they were and I agree. Once I cut the meat the prep was very easy. I used a quarter cup of canola oil in place of lard because I didn’t have any. Believe me if I could just run out to the store these days I would so I had to substitute. The pork had fat that I cut and cooked it along with the pork chunks so I think this helped the flavor. I followed all the other aspect of the recipe and used the parchment paper and tin foil and I think this was key to the cooking process. I only had to cook it for 3 hours as my oven runs hot and it was juicy and tender. I also did the last step of broiling and it was perfection. I will be is recipe again and again!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Sylvia! So glad the recipe was a hit!

  • BETTY wrote:

    I have a question, how much oil do I use use to replace the Lard ? Thank you

    • Jack wrote:

      2 1/4 cups Betty.

  • Shannon wrote:

    Hi Guys, Big fan from Marblehead here. Quick question about making this a couple of days ahead of time. After cooking should I strain the meat before refrigerating, or just refrigerate it all together and strain right before broiling the meat? Thanks!

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Shannon! (I lived on Prospect Street for a few years right out of grad school…I love it there!) As long as you tightly wrap the meat before refrigerating, you can strain most of the lard before refrigerating. Also, if you plan to prep this more than a day or two ahead of time, I’d suggest freezing the meat. Then thaw and broil the day of serving. Hope that helps!

  • David Higgins wrote:

    Was great .

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks David!

  • SandySue wrote:

    Pork Carnitas
    I know that you put 1 lb of Lard in the ingredients of the recipe, but I don’t see them in the Instructions. Could you please tell me, do you mean to include it in the ingredients for baking?? I will be making this soon, and I want to make it right. Thanks

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Sandy Sue – Yes – in step 2 it is included as part of the “all ingredients”. The pork cooks in the lard (which melts in pan from the heat of the oven). Hope that helps!

  • Jamie wrote:

    I’m currently making this, I’m using a big pot with a lid, do I use the lid or use foil

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Jamie – If your dutch oven is oven-safe, you can definitely use the lid instead of foil.

  • Amy wrote:

    I see we can do chuck roast. You said less time. About how long do you think ? I have already made the pork version 2 times and love it. Going to a family dinner and want to make both kinds.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Amy – Jack suggests checking for doneness around the 3 hour mark (assuming the same 2 1/2 to 3 pound roast size). It may still take a little longer but it should be close after @ 3 hours. Hope that helps!

  • Rose wrote:

    Is there a healthier recipe for carnitas without using all thay colesterol clogging fat?

    • Martha wrote:

      I don’t know Rose – you might try doing a Google search to find one that suits your needs. FYI – you won’t actually eat the lard in our recipe, it’s just the cooking/braising liquid and once you brown the meat in the oven at the end of the recipe, it will drain off. Good luck!

  • Karen Boydston wrote:

    I made this once and it was fabulous. Last two times, meat has been dry. Can you suggest anything?

    • Jack wrote:

      If you used the same cut of meat and followed the same method using the same ingredients, I’m struggling to understand why. Is your oven temperature off? Did you broil them too long? Did you change butchers? Was the meat lean or fatty? Too many variables to be able to proof positive identify the culprit. If I was a betting man, and I’m not, I would start with the meat. I always look for a nice fatty pork butt when making this dish. Sometimes supermarkets pull a fast one and call a meat one thing when it is actually something different. I have personally seen my local market try to pass of a spoon roast as chuck. Suggest that you get your roast from a reputable butcher. If the meat is very lean, it may dry out. Second place I would look is your oven temperature and how long you broil. This dish is typically not that sensitive to minute changes so again, hard to understand why it would be dry.
      To summarize, I would get cheap oven thermostat to test the true temperature of your oven, then look for a good butcher and stay away from supermarkets. We were lucky to find a small independent butcher the next town over with reasonable prices and have seen an enormous difference in quality.
      Wish you luck,

  • Cecilia wrote:

    Can this be cooked in an enameled cast iron with lid?
    Please advice.
    Thank you.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Cecilia – Yes – you can use that. The cooking time may vary depending on the size of your pan.

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