In honor of Cinco de Mayo, here's a recipe that can turn a mundane Monday or a tiresome Tuesday into a fiesta! These pork chops...Read More
Stovetop Pork Carnitas
There are tons of carnitas recipes available online with various spice blends and cooking methods. Yes, a crockpot version is easier because you can plop it in the slow cooker and forget about it for 6-8 hours. My issue with that is the crockpot cannot produce the beautiful, salty, charred, crispy bits available when pork is browned on the stovetop.
The cooking part of this recipe takes about 2-3 hours. I spend plenty of time shuffling around my house reading, writing, and doing laundry, so I usually don’t have a problem keeping half an eye on bubbling pot.
I feel like this recipe, which I cobbled together from some research, has some really nice stuff going for it. The cumin is adequately generous, the cayenne adds just the right bite, and the combo of lemon and lime juice not only does the work of tenderizing the meat, it creates a deep, layered flavor that’s infused through the meat.
Stovetop Pork Carnitas
Serves 8-12 | Prep 5 minutes | Cook 2-3 hours | Alert 15 minutes | Whole30 compliant
3-4 pounds boneless pork shoulder (6-ish pounds if it’s bone-in; you must use pork shoulder or Boston butt)
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 heaping (!) tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Cut the pork shoulder into a few large chunks. You don’t want them bite-sized; I make mine about 3-4 inches.
Mix cumin, garlic powder, salt, coriander, black pepper, and cayenne together in a small bowl. Place the pork chunks in a plastic container with a lid or a Ziploc bag. Pour in the spice blend, then toss the bag vigorously until the chunks are completely coated on all sides.
Place the pork in a large, deep pan. Pour the lime and lemon juice into the bottom, then add water to just cover the meat.
Turn heat to high and bring the water to a rip-roaring boil. You want big bubbles! When it’s rolling, turn the heat to a simmer. Keep the pan uncovered. You want it bubble a fair amount, but not be a roiling boil. While it’s cooking, it will look like uninspired soup. Do not be discouraged!Essentially, you’re waiting for the water to evaporate from the pan, but while the water is evaporating, the powerful acidic qualities of the lime and lemon juice are tenderizing the meat. Yay, science!
At about the 2-hour mark, check the pot. The water should be much lower and maybe even almost gone. Now things get interesting… allow all the water to cook out of the pan and watch as the meat magically fries and carmelizes. It is a thing of beauty. But seriously, you need to watch it at this point.
Carefully turn the hunks of meat–without shredding them–to brown all sides, then remove the hunks to a plate and let them rest for 5 minutes before eating. If you’re into this sort of thing, you can save the pork fat from the bottom of the pan in a glass jar and use it for other cooking projects.
What to do with pork carnitas...
Eat it like an animal.
Serve on a plate with avocado slices, pineapple chunks, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges.
Cut into cubes and use in paleo egg foo yung.
Shred, wrap in butter lettuce leaves, and drizzle with Sunshine Sauce.
Eat alongside creamy cucumber salad made with homemade mayo.
Shred and sauté in your favorite cooking fat with shredded cabbage, onion, and garlic.
Pressure Cooker Instructions
I had a few questions from readers about if this could be cooked in a pressure cooker. My buddy Tom over at Whole Life Eating did an experiment for us and shared his results and recommendations. Thanks, Tom!
Follow the instructions for the spice rub, then put the meat in the pressure cooker with 1/4 cup water, 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1/4 cup lime juice. Pressure cook for 20 minutes, then allow the pressure to come off naturally (about 10 minutes). Heat a pan over high heat and sear the cooked pork for about 2 minutes per side. Voila! Crispy pork carnitas in a fraction of the time.
Instant Pot Instructions
And now, a story of near-disaster…
I’ve made this several times without incident, but one day, I left the pot on the stove while I went to the studio in our backyard to work. I kinda sorta maybe forgot the pork was cooking. By the time I remembered, I could smell the delicious aroma in the backyard… through two closed doors.
I was a little worried.
The bad news: Some of the pork had turned to charcoal in the bottom of the pan, and the bone from the pork shoulder was stuck to the pan like Excalibur in the stone.
The good news: The charred bits tasted like the best bacon ever, and the rest of the pork survived the experience just fine. It turned out to be a delicious batch of carnitas, but for your own peace of mind, you might want to set a timer or tie a ribbon ’round your finger so you don’t forget you’ve got a bubbling pan on the stove.
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Whoa… these look awesome! Been looking for something better than the crockpot version.
May have to try it this weekend!
WOW i love this version it taste great and my family and friends loved it!
You’ve got coriander listed in the indgredients, but you don’t mention it in the instructions.
Is it to be part of the spice rub, or does it go in with the juices/water?
Good catch! It goes in the spice rub.
Damn I went to print this recipe 50 pages, is there a printable one, without all of the reviews ?
These look great! I’m going to give it a whirl tomorrow!
Mark – copy the part of the recipe you want into word and hit print. 🙂
Clay –> I thought the cooking technique sounded nutso when I read it, but it’s so genius. The pork is fall-apart tender inside, but crispy outside, and so flavorful. And it makes the house smell amazing!
This sounds so delicious. I’ve got to go and hunt me down some pork shoulder just what I am craving! Can you read my mind Mel?
I’ve been wanting to make my own carnitas but not sure how to do it..do you think I can cook this in pressure cooker to speed up the cooking time a bit?
thanks for sharing!
Jos, I’m not sure what you’d need to do to adapt this to pressure cooker. Let me ask my buddy Tom and get back to you.
Super-excited about cooking this tonight! Happy belated birthday, Mel. 🙂
Enjoy, Bethany! Let me know how you like it! And thanks for the bday wishes!
It was a hit!!! I think I may have been a *little* heavy-handed with the spices but overall wow. So good and so easy.
Jos, I updated the post above with instructions for a pressure cooker. Let me know how you like it!
Thanks for the update, Melissa! I’ll try it and let you know! 🙂
Trying this now. When you say 20 minutes in the pressure cooker, does that mean 20 minutes of cooking once the pressure is fully there or 20 minutes from the minute your start to hear the hissing? Hope this makes sense. 🙂
WOW! These were awesome! My husband started the carnitas while I was at work. I walked in the door and the house smelled amazing. Thanks for another great recipe!
Susan –> What a treat! Welcomed home by your husband AND dinner (insert your own joke about pork here).
Hey Mel! My brain almost died of happy seeing this so I MUST make it soon. I have some questions!
I’m still sort of new to the cooking so I don’t have a lot of spices. With spices at the grocery store at $5.99 a jar ANYway, I figure I may as well order online from Penzey’s and support a smaller business.
If you don’t already have one (of course, point me to it if you do!), can you maybe make a post about spices that are used frequently in your recipes? I make more stuff from your site than any other food blog and you use all kinds of spices I don’t have so I’ve been reluctant to try some recipes!
A little “essential Melicious spices” shopping guide would be great before I put in my Penzey’s order. 🙂
Some spices I use lots of are FAR cheaper in the section of the grocery store where Mexican and/or Asian foods are. $1 a jar for cumin for example.
Hey, Shelly! You’re about the fifth person in the last week or two to request a blog post about my favorite spices, so I’m definitely going to do that this weekend. Here’s a list with no details, in case you don’t want to wait to shop:
Chinese Five Spice
Madras Curry Powder
Italian Herb Blend
Those are the blends I can’t live without. For individual spices, I always have these on hand:
More detail this weekend, including individual spices and how I use them.
I just came across your blog and I love it, Lebanese food is right up there for me so I’m excited to see some of your Middle Eastern recipies – anyway, I have a question for ya – do you think it’d be OK to substitute the pork with chicken or beef – I’m not a girl who does pork unfortunately!
Hi, Paleo Chick! I wouldn’t recommend this approach with chicken — you need meat that needs lots of cooking time to be tender. So… a big ol’ hunk of beef (like a pot roast) should work. The ingredients and instructions can all stay the same, just swap out the pork for beef. Good luck!
Thank you so much – I’m going to give this a go at the weekend – now I’m off to read your blog on HSPU – I’m hoping I’ll get a tip or two!!!
Have a great weekend!
Thanks again for another ***** recipe! I made this with pork and there was a party in my mouth, so many layers of flavor, YUM!! I made this with some chicken drums today. They were equally wonderful, pull-apart tender and very flavorful, will make them again, love the flavors.
Hooray! So glad you enjoyed the pork — and the chicken sounds yummo. I might have to try that! Thanks for sharing!
you should probably rename this to pork crack-nitas, because i cannot stop making/eating it. seriously the most delicious carnitas i’ve ever had – thank you!!
i made it last night and subbed orange juice for the lemon juice, which was a nice change. the flavor was less citrusy but the meat was still fall-apart tender.
speaking of fall-apart tender, no matter how carefully i turn the hunks of meat, they tend to fall apart. this is obviously good, but it makes me sad to not get that delightful carmelization on the outside of all the hunks. any tips?
HA! Crack-nitas. Love it. I will now always call it that in my head.
I made some yesterday with lemon, orange, and lime juice — yummo.
Maybe make the chunks larger? When I make mine smaller, they tend to become “pulled pork,” but if I cut the butt (heh) into, say, 6 big pieces, they hold together a little better.
Mel- I was just taking my pork shoulder out to cut up, this is my first time buying pork shoulder ever and I got it from the local butcher. It’s gone a big bone in it! Is that normal? I’m baffled and don’t know what to do now! lol
I’ve made this with boneless and bone-in pork shoulder — both work, so don’t fret!
With bone-in, I just cut the meat into chunks around the bone, then throw the bone into the pot, too, because that meat closest to the bone is AWESOME! About 2/3 of the way through the cooking, I can usually pull the rest of the meat off the bone. Then I leave the meat in the pot and toss the bone.
You can also leave the meat in one piece to cook it instead of cutting it into chunks. It will work fine either way.
So here is my experience.
My pork shoulder had a bone in it, so I cut the meat off the bone as best I could and put the bone in the put with the meat chunks. I covered it all with water and the juices and set to cooking. After about an hour or so I pulled the meat off the bone and tossed the bone. It took a total of 6.5 hours for my liquids to cook down and by then everything at the bottom of the pan was so charred I could not turn the meat chunks to caramelize them properly so I just took it all out and put it in a dish to cool for the next day. (By this point it was 10pm) I am eating it for breakfast and it is not only very tasty, but very filling too. I can only imagine how much better they would have tasted had I been able to caramelize them properly! wow!
Hey, Tracy! I’m glad you liked the flavor!
I think because you used an 8-lb. hunk o’ meat, you needed extra water and, therefore, extra cooking time — which lead to the meat to get too tender to brown. Try it again with a 3-4 lb. pork shoulder, and it should be OK.
To make a larger batch, you probably need to do two pots with 3-4 lbs. in each — that way the cooking time is reduced to 2-3 hours.
Thanks for sharing your experience!
Mel first let me say, thank you for sharing this recipe. This carnitas rocks. I feel a bit like a dog that doesn’t know when to quit eating. It is so good and tasty. I used orange, lemon and lime juice. The orange gives it just a bit of sweetness which just adds to the complex flavor profile.
Having said that I too cook a large piece of shoulder, the one with the most fat I could find. It took about 4 hours to cook down. I thought I cut the hunks fairly large but it turned into pulled pork carnitas. I poured off so all the pork fat I could from the bottom of the pan. Put a stainless steel frying pan on the stove got it good and hot, poured some of the pork grease in it and put quit a pile of the super tender pork in the pan. I spread it out flat and put a cast iron panini press on top of it to press it. Cooked it until the stainless steel released the meat. Wow, wow, wow. Super carmalized with crunchy edges with super tender carnitas on the inside. I made a roasted tomatillo salsa, some pico and quacamole. I don’t think food gets any better than this. Thank you again for a great recipe.
I used boneless country style pork ribs. They are long & can be cut in 3-4 inch chunks. They also have just the right amount of fat on them too.
I did not use the whole 8 pound roast. I put half the meat (cut into chunks already) in the freezer for another time and used the other 1/2 of the roast plus the bone. But because the bone was so big I did need a lot of extra water to cover it. Next time I am sure it will go better since I will not have the bone, just the meat and therefore I can have more control over the water level.
There is something I don’t quite understand. When you put the meat and the spices in a plastic container or a Ziplog bag, do you put it back in the fridge for a while? Or is this step just to make sure that the meat is fully covered? Thanks!
Yes, the bag/container thing is just to ensure the meat is coated with the spice blend. You can rub it on the meat with your fingers, if you prefer, but it’s faster, less messy, and really effective if you put the meat in a bag and shake it.
I made the pressure cooker version tonight and it was AMAZING! Have another batch going as I type!
Thanks for sharing!
I’m so glad the pressure cooker version worked for you. That’s excellent! Thanks for letting me know. Enjoy!
I am getting myself to the market today and making this! Another awesome recipe…you saved the day yet again! 🙂
I’m envious! I wish I had a pork shoulder turning into carnitas on the stove right now!
I’m trying a variant of it now. It sounds like part of it is like a recipe I’ve been searching for for 30 years! An old boyfriend made it for me: he told me what he did, but I never saw the recipe. It was just like this, with the water all boiling out and the meat frying in the fat left behind. But then there was some kind of glaze made of tomatillos. So here is the first step, anyway! I will then try to come up with that glaze. I think it’s just something like hot salsa verde and some sugar added to that fat and reduced. Ever hear of that?
Oh, and thank you for this recipe!
I bet if you used water and tomatilla salsa, you would get an affect similar to the fruit juice. Conceptually, it’s the same thing: acidic liquid plus flavoring and sugars to carmelize. Same idea, different execution. That’s what is so nice about these kinds of family recipes — you can play around with them and not really mess them up!
Mmmm def making this for my inaugural Whole30!
I made this pork today, and it is so, so good! Starting early in the day, I followed the Pressure cooker instructions, and cooked the big chunks on high pressure for 20 min, then turned off the burner and left it to naturally release pressure (15-20min). There was quite a bit of liquid, as I upped the water a little so that I was sure that the pot would not run dry. No fear, there was plenty of liquid in the pan when I opened it, so I scooped out the meat, and reduced the liquid alone in the pan to ~1/3 cup. I poured this over the meat, then refrigerated it until this evening. I cut the meat into 2″squares (easy when it is cold and “solid”), and crisped it with the sauce/fat in a pan to reheat it, and it was amazingly good topped with green salsa, and a lime squeeze. If you are thinking of making this, Do It!
Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Green salsa + lime is an excellent idea. I’m making this next weekend for the cookbook photo shoot, and when it’s time to eat, I’m totally stealing your idea 🙂
Got a batch on the stove just now for a day hanging with friends. Second time making it, but this time without the bone so I am hoping the cook time is better for me, will keep you posted on how it turns out this time!
Good luck! I made some yesterday… just BARELY covered the meat with water. It took about 90 minutes, and it came out gorgeous. Can’t wait to hear your update.
Well they did not come out as good this time unfortunately. Last time I used paprika instead of cayenne because I didn’t have cayenne and this time it was WAY too spicy for my taste lol Plus, the lemon/lime was really overpowering this time for some reason. I could barely taste the meat it was so citrus-y. I am going to use it in some stuff instead of eating it like an animal this time, hopefully I can get this figured out lol
I am new to your site but really enjoying it. My husband and I are trying the 30 day challenge with you (although we started on July 5). For this recipe and for the mayo recipe, do you use fresh lemon/lime juice or the bottled stuff? Thanks so much!
Congratulations on doing a Whole30! That’s so great!
For the carnitas, it doesn’t matter — you can use either bottled or fresh. My guilty secret? For stuff like this, I usually use bottled; for salads, I use fresh.
For the mayo, it’s actually slightly preferable to use bottled because the acid content is consistent — and it’s the acid in the lemon that helps the mayo emulsify.
Good luck this month! Shoot me more questions if they come up.
I do actually have one more question unrelated to the pork – is coconut milk OK for the Whole30?
Thank you for the advice and the inspiration!!
Coconut milk is a great fat source for the Whole30 — just make sure you stick with about 1/3 can maximum per serving so you don’t overdo it on fat all at once.
I made the carnitas tonight and they got a big thumbs up across the board! I’m taking the few leftovers and trying the Pork Fried F’rice tomorrow night. Thanks!
I made this again yesterday (and will continue to make it at least once a month for the rest of my life), and have to report that I have a testimony of the lemon and lime juice. (That’s only funny if you know any Mormons.) The first time I made it, I found myself infuriatingly short on citrus, so I used like one lemon worth of juice, but yesterday, the full cup. My husband was pretty excited by the result. Also, I added some Trader Joe’s smoked sea salt, just for kicks.
Love the smoked salt modification! I’m definitely trying that next time. Thanks for the tip!
Haven’t had pork in a white and this have satisfied me greatly. Though my favorite thing about this is the pork skin does not taste icky at all!(even though I’m still not brave enough to eat them all)
I added some milk during the last half hour… Not sure why but it still taste pretty good, heh.
I just made this last night and it was AMAZING! I’ve been looking for a carnitas recipe that’s easy and still has really good flavor and this is it. We made little tacos and served it with cilantro, onions and a pineapple habanero bbq type sauce. I will be passing this onto my friends. Thanks!
Hey, Jodi! Glad you to know you liked it. Your pineapple habanero sauce sounds divine. Share!
Oh my gosh. I can’t cook to save my life, but I just made this and it is the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. I followed almost exactly except instead of water I used chicken broth, and I let it brown after the water was gone like you said. I can’t believe I made something this delicious. Thank you so much for this awesome recipe!!! 😀
AWESOME!! I am just a Guerra, but I became an honorary mexicana after preparing these carnitas deliciosas! Serious!! Thank you!
Right on! Awesome to know you like the recipe, and I’m delighted to add to your cred 😉
I tried the pressure cooker and it was tasty but not as tender as I would have liked. The next week I did the stovetop method. Wow! It was the best I ever made. I changed the seasoning rub a bit and made a classic Spanish marinade, left it over night, cooked it the next day and a 4 3/4 lb roast was fall off the bone perfect after just 3 1/2 hours. I also seared it before marinating, which is unusual I think, and the flavor was better than ever before. This is a keeper! Thanks!
Love the idea of marinating before cooking. Good on you!
Holy pork carnitas goodness Batman!! Thank you, thank you for sharing this recipe! I just made the carnitas for the first time and, WOW, they rule! I’m half tempted to get out of my cozy pj’s and head to the market to pick up another shoulder and get a 2nd batch going. This one is definitely a keeper. Thanks Mel!
Oh and ps, love your site! I’m madly in love with the comfort noodles and Sunshine sauce, and can’t wait to get my hands on your cookbook!
YAY! I’m glad you’re happy with the results — and thanks so much for the cookbook enthusiasm. We’re really super excited, too. In fact, we’re doing a big proofing session this afternoon. Just a few weeks ’til it will be in all of our hands!
I am going to try and cook this tomororw, but with about half the meat (1-2 lbs). Will I need to make any changes to the cook time?
Hey, Leesa. Since the meat is about 1/2 the quantity, you’ll be using about half the amount of water, so yes, you’ll probably need to reduce the cooking time by somewhere around half. Keep an eye on it…
Oh gosh, this was goooooooood.
Used pot roast (oldest has a pork allergy and pukes ..well. I suppose that visual probably isn’t necessary…). Never had this ish before so not sure what it is supposed to taste like.
Doesn’t matter – it was flippin’ awesome!! I ate it for every meal the following day too, it was so tasty. Licking the bowl with my face in the pot tasty. Yum, paired it with Noni’s cucumber salad too (sorry, I forget proper title)
Cannot wait to make this again
Thanks for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed this recipe! It’s super versatile; I’ve used this technique for beef (like you) and chicken and lamb … all with great results. I love that you called it Noni’s Cucumber Salad because my mom’s name is Roni (and that’s the name of the salad), but her grandchildren call her Noni. You hit the nail on the head!
Just HAD to take a minute to tell you that I made these tonight, and they were so incredibly delicious! I love all the citrus and spiciness. So good!! Despite your warnings about watching the pan, I was about 30 seconds away from burning them, but got there just in time.
They sneak up on ya! Glad you caught the pan in time. Whew!
Mel, just stumbled upon your blog the other day and I love everything on here! I just started Crossfit in November and absolutely am obsessed! I haven’t made the switch to paleo just yet but I am participating in a 12 week transformation challenge and I am so excited to have your yummy recipes to try out! Thank you for being so resourceful and sharing this with the world! You Rock!!!
Hi, Victoria! I’m so glad you found me! Congrats on joining the CrossFit tribe — and food for you for investigating paleo. You’ll be at it in no time because once you start, it’s really not so hard… especially when there are so many tasty food options.
Thank YOU for your sweet words — and definitely hit me up if you have questions about paleo. Or do yourself a solid and start a Whole30 😉
So Mel, I’ve decided you are my new best friend! I’ve been hovering over your website like a vulture circling roadkill, drooling and muttering incoherantly to myself. Last week I made my mind up to cook your carnitas recipe.
I cooked it saturday and served it to my man with half a baked sweet potato (from my garden). It was awesome! Sunday night we had leftovers: Carnitas, fajita veggies (onion, garlic, pepper, carrot, broccoli), and pico de gallo with avocado chunks and lime. It was awesome!! This morning I heated up the final leftover meat & vegs, topped it with a couple eggs, sprinkled on the last of the pico & avo, and it was awesome!!
Now I’m fantasizing about the lamb…Get me to the Greek!
Hooray! I love new BFFs!
Glad you like the carnitas and yes! The lamb version is insanely good. Enjoy!
So we had some leftover pork butt that had been slow-roasted in the oven. Even though it was already cooked, I cut it into the large cubes, sprinkled the spices on it. Then I took the pork juice that I had already skimmed the fat off of, and simmered it with some sliced onion and chopped garlic and the lemon/lime juices and half of the spices. When it got thick, I put in the pork chunks, carefully turning every 5 minutes or so. We served them fajita-style, and there were raves. The kids picked them over pizza. Even our dog, who has cancer and won’t eat anything right now, loved them! They remind me of the fajitas from a well-known TexMex restaurant in Houston where we used to live. Thanks so much for a great recipe!
Thanks for posting and letting me know… love that this recipe is turning out to be so versatile. And, honestly, I kinda want to come to your house for dinner 🙂
Love that the kids chose the meat over pizza — and hugs to your doggie.
In the directions you say to add the 2 peppers but I didn’t see peppers as an ingredient. Did you mean the black pepper?
That’s in reference to the black pepper and cayenne pepper.
oops, I meant to say they remind me of the CARNITAS from a well-known restaurant in Houston!
Just wondering if anyone else has had trouble making this at high altitude (we are way up in the Rocky Mountains). I made a batch and a half based on the cookbook recipe and 4 hours later there was still so much liquid left I ended up ladling out 2 cups of broth. 30 minutes later I poured off the rest, then tried to add back as much fat as possible. I finally gave up on the crispy browning step. I was on my second huge handful of macadamia nuts and had munched up half the cocoa cauliflower (YUM). The flavor was great, but I missed out on the magical caramelizing phase :(. I only ask because I know that water boils at a different temperature here, could that affect the timing?
Hmmm… I’m not sure how to help with that, but I do have another idea. You might cook the meat in a crockpot (just season the pork, put it in the crockpot on low with the fruit juice but no water, cook overnight)… then use the stovetop to brown the pieces.
Thanks for this idea. I will try it next time. Without the water it should work out. At this altitude even my crockpot on low will begin to boil. My best crockpot results happen when I use no added liquid, especially with pork.
So good!! I used a pork tenderloin (because I had one), watched the magic occur. After removing the meat I added a little oil and cooked some peppers and onions then added the meat back in. My tribe loved it.
That sounds super tasty. Glad your tribe liked it!
My husband and I are doing a Whole30 in February and I made this as our introduction to good, clean eating.
It was amazing.
Thank you so much for sharing this and all of your other recipes. Tonight we’re having fried f’rice and I’m super excited about it.
WOOT! Congratulations on your Whole30! Hope you feel great when your month is wrapped up! Enjoy your food — and have fun playing in the kitchen!
So, in a blink of an eye, all my prepared proteins had disappeared. (ok, hungry,growing kids in a growth spurt. Same thing.) what is a good cook to do?
Make PRESTO CARNITOS. Yes, change the name too. It is part of being flexible in life
Anyhow, I didn’t have the time to cook your carnitas properly but I really, really wanted their yumminess. I steamed chicken breasts (gas to the BBQ is off due to a leak, boo). I combined all spices and juices as per the recipe and boiled down. Then, added a splash of water and again boiled down. Once it got to a thick, yummy paste, voila! A spread for my breasts (!!gutter people, get out of it!) and it was like I had slaved all day (*snicker, slaved!).
Thanks for such an awesomely versatile recipe Mel <3
Genius! Brilliant! Thanks for sharing — that’s a great idea in a pinch.
A-mazing! Cooked them up late last night for tomorrow’s meals and when they were done around 11pm I just had to try a taste. I ended up eating much more than a taste! Thanks for the recipe, Mel!
A-mazing! Cooked them up late last night for today’s meals and when they were done around 11pm I just had to try a taste. I ended up eating much more than a taste! Thanks for the recipe, Mel!
Just bought your cookbook and am drooling on my shoe over the recipes. Do you really use this meat for Pad Thai as well? Seems like mexican meat in an Asian dish might be strange.
In a pinch, yes! I do use it in pad thai. Because it’s so citrusy, it works pretty well. It’s kinda cool how it tastes Mexican on its own, but then adapts pretty well to the Asian Sunshine Sauce.
These were awesome, and totally worth the effort of squeezing the bajeezus out of all those limes and lemons.
Advice for anyone who, like me, had a long boil time and needed to eat — I removed the meat from the pot, put all the juices in a shallow frying pan, and reduced it by about half. Then I spread the meat out on a cookie sheet lined with foil, breaking it up a little as I went, and drizzled the reduced juices over. Popped under the broiler for about 5-10 minutes, and came out with nicely browned carnitas. I had to flip about halfway through.
This dirties up a lot more pots, but it gets dinner on the table faster! I’d been boiling for about two and a half hours when I decided to go with this solution.
We loved it on romaine lettuce leaves with cherry tomatoes, salsa, and sliced green onions.
Thanks for sharing your shortcut technique!
Made this this weekend. Was fantastic (a little too spicy for the more intrepid members of the family, but my DH and I loved it), served with big leaves of lettuce, avocado, sauteed peppers and your mayo for dipping / spreading / cutting the heat. Some mango for dessert and we were set!
Glad to know it was a hit! You can back off the cayenne and cumin and it will still taste amazing!
Hi Mel, found this via pinterest, so glad to have found your site! This recipe is amazing!! I have made it three times in the last month. And we devoured every crumb of it!! Can’t wait to try it in Pad Thai. Thanks so much for sharing.
YAY! I’m glad Pinterest sent you my way… welcome! If you like lamb, be sure to check out the “deconstructed gyros” — same technique as the carnitas with different seasonings. SO good.
Another KILLER recipe Mel, thanks! You should write a cookbook! 🙂
Made these yesterday with pork shoulder stew meat as that was the only package of pork shoulder available at the store that wasn’t gigantic. (They need to keep us singletons in mind!)
It worked SO WELL. Because the meat was in small pieces it took less water (and so, less time to cook). Now I have smallish cubes of carnitas in the fridge, perfect for packing to work, and as I found out after taking them out of the pan, perfect for snacking on… maybe too perfect…
Delicious, as always. 😀
This recipe was fantastic. I have a 2 and 5 year old, a very picky husband, and two dinner guests who all approved! Yum! I used considerably less of the hot pepper (due to the picky husband) but it was still amazing.
Just made the pressure cooker version using boneless country style pork ribs (something like that). Very yummy. I was too impatient to eat so I didn’t do the searing at the end. Thanks for the recipe plus pressure cooking instrux!
Melissa- So funny to find you here! I wanted to write and thank you for your wonderful info about Prague, but after I left Farmhouse I didn’t have your email address. Thank you so much – we had a fantastic time!
As for the recipe… I’m searching for a good carnitas recipe using lots of liquid. I actually have wild boar, not domesticated pork. Do you think I need to add fat to this to help keep the meat moist? My boar has virtually no fat on it, but seems to tenderize well with slow cooking.
Hope you’re doing well!
JESSE! I was wondering how your trip to Prague went down. Did you eat dumplings and schnitzel?! Email me at email@example.com
If your boar is very lean, maybe try using the spice blend and cooking the boar in a slow cooker… more like this recipe:
I’m worried about boiling very lean meat — I think it will get like shoe leather.
Hi Melissa. I made this today and accidentally used cardamom instead of coriander. It turned out OK, but I’m sure quite different than intended. The cardamom is too strong for the mix. The meat chunks are pretty big, so that might help once it’s shredded. But…do you have any suggestions for taming the cardamom taste? Oops.
Oh, dear. I’m not sure what you can do… sorry about that! Did it taste better after it was shredded?
Well, I didn’t like it enough to take the chance. Decided to trim the edges off, so most of the pork wouldn’t go to waste. Then shredded the pork. Used it for root veggie hash and bbq pork with broccoli slaw. These were great. Will definitely try the REAL carnitas again!
Tried these again (with the proper seasoning) and they turned out great! Accompanied it with this…reminded me of your avocado salsa. Good combo!
YAY! Glad you gave it another go.
Thanks for the link to Simply Recipes — that salad looks so good. She’s my favorite non-paleo recipe source. Everything she makes is so yummy, and I love her personal story.
Made up the recipe this evening and twas a success. I’ve been walking by the bowl of carnita cubes & having a bite. Makes for a great snack attack.
Thanks for letting me know you like it. YAY!
Made this last night and it was ridiculously good! My non-Paleo bf is a professional chef and he loved it too. I used your side suggestions and made a pineapple, cilantro, onion and lime juice salsa and served in butter lettuce “tortillas”. Tonight I will use leftovers to try your fried rice recipe. I’m not totally new to Paleo but am on my first whole30 and your cookbook is making it so easy I can’t believe I’m on a “restricted diet”. Thank you! While I’m on the subject of how much I love your cookbook, the weekly cookup is saving my life. I love to cook but the labor intensive nature of converting to a Paleo lifestyle was getting to me and I was slipping. The cookup made so much sense to me and I’m more on track nutritionally than ever. Couldn’t be more grateful,
WOOT! I love when the non-paleo peeps realize it’s all just really yummy food. YAY!
Glad to know Weekly Cookup is helping! Wishing you many happy, healthy, fun meals. Thanks for stopping by!
There are things in this world that you simply have to experience to fully appreciate. These carnitas are in that category.
The moments during which the bubbling mass-o-meat on the stove transforms into a luscious, crunchious (yep, I made up a word) and spice-filled pork wonderland is magical. Eating this pork actually made me groan with pleasure.
Make it. And love it.
BTW, this is the third recipe I’ve made from your book and each of them rocked. Huge fan…and 15 pounds lighter too. More to lose and flavor to gain!
Right on! I’m glad that you like the carnitas. They are really good, aren’t they? And I’m with you: I love that it looks like the worst soup ever and then it turns into caramelized magical goodness.
Glad you’re enjoying Well Fed — and congratulations on your weight loss. Good on you!
Just wanted to let you know I barreled ahead with my experiment and made the carnitas with wild boar. It was awesome!!! I just cooked it more gently in the beginning and it got so tender. I also added a little fat since there was none in the meat. And… I made a veggie version. I cooked down the juices, tossed some fake meat in the spices and glazed the fake meat. Not paleo, but my veggie friends went crazy for it.
Thanks for the great recipe!
Right on! That’s awesome. Glad you enjoyed it — and very sneaky with the veggie friends. Well done!
I have a very lean boar roast in my freezer, and I’m not sure what to do with it… so maybe I’ll try this and adopt your technique. YUM!
got your cookbook this week YAY! this is my first recipe and yes they are freakishly awesome. yum.
now i just need to not eat the whole batch at once!
thanks so much!
WOOT! So glad you like the recipe!
I only have aluminium pots. Would the acid react negatively in this recipe?
I did some quick research and found this: http://www.ehow.com/info_8314394_there-dangers-cooking-aluminum-pans.html
You might try making this recipe in the oven, instead of on the stovetop. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Coat the pork in the spice blend, put it in a baking dish (Dutch oven or glass roasting pan), add the citrus juice to the pan.
Roast for 20 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 325 degrees F for about 4 more hours. Remove the pork from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes.
If it’s not as brown/crispy as you’d like when you take it out of the oven, you can quickly brown the pieces on the stove top and at that point, the aluminum pan should be OK.
thanks Mel for the link. Sorry for the late reply
In one word…..AMAZING! Made this for Sunday dinner and it was incredible! The flavor from the citrus and spices really permeated the pork and it was crispy and succulent. Thanks so much for posting Mel 🙂
Hooray! Glad you enjoyed it — thanks for stopping by to let me know. This technique works with beef, too — and you can play around with seasonings. Very versatile. Happy cooking!
We had these today and they’re great! My husband actually made them (and he never makes anything so this is a great recipe for people with no cooking experience :)) and we both loved them. Thanks for the recipe!
I love when non-cooks take over the stove and succeed. YAY! Thanks for letting me know!
Of course! 🙂 And we’re still eating them and they’re just as good leftover! Thanks again.
So I tried this on Cinco de Mayo, and it was super yummy! My only thing was, I’m not sure if I did something wrong, maybe used a pot too big? Half of the pork was fork tender, and the other half was…not fork tender lol. How do I fix that? I loved the flavor, and plan on making it again later this week. Thank you!
Without being in the kitchen with you, it’s hard to know. Two possibilities:
1. The meat needs to be covered with water when you start, so if some of it wasn’t submerged, that might explain it.
2. I’ve had shoulders that had tough spots before. It’s just how the piggie grows sometimes, I guess. Nothing to be done about it, as far as I know.
I made them yesterday in a smaller pot, and rotated the chunks every 30 minutes, they turned out FANTASTIC! My favorite carnitas recipe ever, every bit was fork tender and exploding with flavor. When I was shredding the meat I kept shoving forkfuls into my mouth lol, I was suprised to have any leftover to serve to my hubby haha. Thanks again!
These are delicious and easy. I did not quite get the carmelized on the outside however they are falling apart. Thanks for sharing.
I was not getting caramelised bits either and it was sticking to the pan and fallen apart already. So I scraped it all into another medium hot pan ( a hotplate/griddle plate actually). They coloured very quickly and tasted terrific.
I have been attempting to make a successful dish from the grass-fed pork shoulder we have been buying for quite some time now. Not only was this a smash hit, it is one of the most DELICIOUS I have ever tasted!! Holy crap! THANK YOU!!
I made this twice in one week. The first batch I did not even share with my husband. MINE MINE MINE.
I’ve been telling all of my friends that they simply must make this recipe.
YAY! Love repeat recipes. So glad you like it! Now… let’s talk about how nice people share 😉
This recipe is bubbling on my stovetop as I type and it smells AH-MAH-ZING. Can’t wait to serve to my family tonight! I just downloaded the Kindle version of Well Fed and am so excited about all of the fab recipes.
Making Turkish Chopped Salad to go with to use up some cukes and tomatoes from the garden.
Mmmmmm… have a great dinner tonight with that carnitas! I’m excited ’cause I have 5-Spice Beef Ribs in the slow cooker.
Thank you for buying Well Fed! Hope you have lots of fun in the kitchen with the recipes!
Just started simmering on the stove … my 4 year old son (a budding chef) just snuck out of bed and whispered to me, “Mommy – I smelled something and had to get out of bed to sniff it – It smells like GOOD FOOD!” He’ll definitely have sweet dreams tonight! Can’t wait to try it … also can’t wait to get your book. Will it be available at Barnes & Noble?
Thanks for all of your amazing recipes & inspirational words.
That is an adorable story. Thank you for sharing!
Well Fed should be in Barnes & Noble… sometime. We just started working with our distributor, so it will take a few weeks (months?) to get the book into the stores.
You an buy from Amazon with their payment and fulfillment, via Smudge Publishing (my publishing company) at this link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/061557226X/?ie=UTF8&tag=roltheboo-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957&condition=new
Or you can order directly from me — just send me an email and we’ll get it going. firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m always looking for new recipes, this one sounds soooo goood that I’m trying it tonight! If alls well, my husband and girls will be thanking you!!!( they can be sooo picky)
Back for the review, I have tons of cookbooks & recipes pulled from the net…I always have to ajust or use part from here and there. Followed yours to the “T” and my family LOVED it!!! In my household (because they are picky) I made a rule… if you complain about my meal, you WILL be cooking the next night. Thanks?!? It looks like with your recipes I’ll be cooking EVER night!
Can’t wait to re-visit your site and waiting for the cookbook (I’ll try a couple more recipes and my husband will be BEGGING me to buy it) Love and Thanks!
Love love love the “no complaining or pay” rule. Well done!
Glad you enjoyed this recipe. Happy cooking!
Yum! I asked the butcher to cut the meat into five big chunks, so when I got home, I just threw the spice mixture in the bag with the meat chunks, shook it up, and dumped it in the pan. I made these in a cast iron skillet as pictured in the book, but it wasn’t quite deep enough to completely cover the meat with the juice and water. I turned the chunks every 30 minutes so all sides could enjoy the citrus bath. Also, I only had 1/3 cup of lime juice, so the other 2/3 of juice was lemon. I think it would be better as written or with orange, lemon, and lime as some people have described. Next time, I will use a deeper pot and experiment with the juice combination, but I’m not complaining! For breakfast, I had carnitas-egg scramble topped with fresh tomatillo salsa – Green Eggs and Ham! Thank you so much for making my life more delicious!
Glad you had fun — and yumminess — playing around with the recipe. The castiron skillet in the cookbook was purely for beauty shot. I use a deep pot when I cook it for real. Your breakfast sounds AMAZING!
Wow my wife made these for me when i came back form a work trip. I think its the best pork i have ever had, yum yum yum.
Yes everybody even better than bacon!!
we are both really enjoying all your recipes but this one stands out for me, thanks and thanks linda for making it for me.
Thanks for letting me know you like it — and I like it more than bacon, too!
I love this recipe! Only time my DH and I fought over meat. Too bad we wasted some of it on the three kids. Lol. Next time, definitely need to make double the recipe and probably triple the sunshine sauce next time. Seriously, I can’t believe how great all the recipes
are and I hope you have a sequel coming to well fed. My whole family and three kids have really enjoyed it.
I hope you won the fight 🙂
I’m working on the recipe list for Well Fed 2 right now. YAY!
Hope you continue to enjoy the recipes. Thanks for letting me know you like them!
My wife made these last night — WOW! Really awesome recipe, thanks!
This recipe is very similar to the one I have used from “The Homesick Texan”. She uses orange juice instead. Anyways, it produces the BEST carnitas ever! Can’t wait to to try your twist next time! Thank you for all your amazing recipes!!
In terms of technique, I thought this was a fantastic recipe; it turned out tender, yet crispy hunks of pork, just as advertised.
My problem, however, was the extreme tartness and acidity left in the meat. I found that the powerful bite from the lemon/lime mixture overshadowed the flavor of the pork and the seasonings, which was a bit of a disappointment. I think if I make this again, I’ll either use far less lemon/lime and more water, or sub in some OJ instead.
I’m definitely glad I tried this, though. It never would have occurred to me to make carnitas on the stovetop instead of in the oven or a slowcooker. Thanks for the recipe.
This was so easy, I ALMOST felt guilty claiming I “made dinner.” It was flat out delicious, and went really well with okra sauteed in coconut oil with cumin and chili powder. As an added bonus, I think I can finally justify buying a bigger Le Creuset pot because it would have produced better browning and been much easier to clean than my stainless steel pot. Thank you, on all accounts!
WOOT! Glad you liked it! I made a batch today, forgot they were on the stove, and burned the bejesus out of the bottom — but it still tastes great ’cause it’s PIGGY!
I just made this recipe this afternoon. I love carnitas but always assumed it would take an entire day slaving in the kitchen to get it right – I am SO HAPPY to say I was wrong. It came out absolutely delicious.
I’ve tried about 10-15 of your recipes since starting my first whole30 on August 27th and every last one has turned out perfectly. You are amazing! Thank you!
Right on! I’m glad you enjoyed it — and yes! It’s sneaky. So easy, do crazy-good, makes you seem like a kitchen expert. Love that!
Hi Mel – Thank you for your blog and your book! I recently decided it was about time I learned to cook (yeah, I’m 40). After learning some basics, I decided learn via a Paleo route and now I’m on day 16 of the Whole30. I made this last night and had the best time. Seriously, you have played a huge part in my transformation toward really enjoying cooking. My mom has never seen me in the kitchen and when se visited me last week I blew her away with your Pad Thai. For this dish, my pork was the perfect texture and had wonderful carmelizarion, but my palate was sensitive to the citrusy flavor. I very much want to make this again and again – any advice you can give on getting the same wonderful results but a little more mellow on the citrus? It may be a very simple answer, but for someone who has to watch videos on YouTube about how to cut an onion, nothing is simple!!
I’m so glad you’re learning to have fun in the kitchen — and congrats to you for doing in while transitioning to paleo. Fantastic!
I see that you found a way to eat the carnitas that you like, but if you want to tinker with the recipe itself, you could cut back on the citrus during cooking. You could try reducing the juices to 1/3 cup each — or even 1/4 cup each.
Okay, right after I wrote this, on a whim, I mixed it with salsa and put it over lettuce. Amazing! It cut the tart so well I can now taste the spices!
Hi, I just got your book. Do you think this recipe would work with pork loin? Thank you.
Loin is too lean to use with this cooking method. For a loin, you probably want to sear it in a hot pan, then finish it in a low oven. This looks like a good Mexican-flavored recipe — just use melted coconut oil instead of olive oil and skip the black bean salsa: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Mexican-Pork-Tenderloins
Thanks, Mel. I will go out and get some pork shoulder. We made the sheperd’s pie from your book last night, and it was delicious!!! Really enjoying just flipping through your book, too. Good writing, good pictures, good recipes!
Your cookbook is changing my life! Thank you so much for your culinary wisdom! I have a question- how do you buy a pork shoulder? The only thing I can find says picnic- is that what I want? I should note that we just can’t afford good quality meat yet, so grocery store is the bet I can do at ths point.
Picnic should work just fine. Another option is “boston butt.” You want something fatty-ish, so definitely not loin.
Mel, I made this with a 2.75 lb Boston Butt. Squeezed fresh lemon, lime and orange. The flavor from the spice was awesome but the meat was dry. It took 3.5 hours all told. At the end there was a thick dark char in the bottom of the pan (soaking the pan as I type).
The meat crisped up fine but the meat itself was dry, not tender. My roast was pastured pork; is this recipe for conventional pork? Or could it be because I juiced fresh fruit instead of using bottled juice (which I only noticed after the fact when I scrolled down through the comments to post my question here).
Look yummy & I can’t wait to try. I just copied and pasted it to my yahoo email and email the recipe to myself for those of you wanting a copy.
Thanks so much for this recipe! I am on Day 3 of my Whole 30 and I was feeling pretty discouraged yesterday, until i tried this last night – we had it on lettuce wraps with tomato, avocado, and some salsa- makes me think maybe I can actually finish this…as long as I have a steady supply of these carnitas!
You can TOTALLY do 30 days. You can.
Glad this recipe helped!
Can pork tenderloin be used in place of meat?
No, tenderloin is way too lean for this technique. If you want the FLAVOR of this recipe, I recommend using the spices as a rub on the tenderloin, then follow these instructions:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 13 x 9 x 2-inch roasting pan with foil. Place pork, fat side down, in prepared roasting pan. Roast pork 30 minutes. Turn roast fat side up. Roast until thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 155°F., about 25 minutes longer. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes.
Pressure cook for 20 minutes, then allow the pressure to come off naturally (about 10 minutes).
Is that 20 minutes from when the little black things starts bobbing around or when you close the lid on the pressure cooker? I’m new to pressure cooking but want to give it a try. How do you let the pressure come off naturally? Turn the stove off?? I’m the cook of the house so I’m sneaking paleo into our life and I truly desire to get the right!!
Tried this last night. Since I didn’t have everything in the recipe, it didn’t turn out like yours, but it was really good. I’m going to try it again next week making sure I follow the recipe exactly.
Thans for this recipe! Made it today and had it for dinner tonight. I think I added to much water in the beginning. I covered the meat a little too completely. After about 3 hours, I got impatient and drained some liquid off to start the carmalizing. I was worried that it would be too spicy for my kids, but they didn’t seem to mind, and one of them had seconds :). The hubs added tobasco sauce, but I thought the flavor was just right!
Glad you liked it — and that it all worked out in the end. It’s pretty foolproof that way. Next time, just BARELY cover the meat with water — or use a slightly shallower pan. Happy eating!
OK, so I’ve never made carnitas before and have very little experience cooking pork period, so the fact that these turned out SO yumbolicious is a total credit to you. I added about 1/2 cup of orange juice, used garlic cloves instead of powder and added a cinnamon stick. I also finished them under the broiler and they were so good I couldn’t stop eating. Hubby & I wrapped them in butter lettuce and topped them with homemade salsa. Thank goodness I made as much as I did and there are leftovers because I can’t wait to eat more. Thanks for the recipe, Mel!
Right on! Glad you enjoyed it. I’m kind of having a love affair with butter lettuce right now… cannot get enough of the stuff. And when there’s pork inside, well… heavenly!
These are SO delicious! We ate them in a big salad topped with guacamole. I’ve even eaten them leftover the last 2 mornings. I shred some up, cook it in a skillet until it’s nice and crispy, then add a couple of eggs and scramble. Topped with tomato, avocado, and some salsa, it’s amazing! Thanks for such an awesome recipe. 🙂
Lovely recipe. I cooked it for my wife. Unfortunately I converted pounds to kg incorrectly and only used one pound of meat. So it was very acidic, but still a very nice flavor and after taste, will do again for sure, so easy!
Hi. Didn’t have time to get to my regular butcher and all Whole Foods had was pork butt (not shoulder). Will this work? thanks! looking forward to trying this so I hope so! 🙂
That will totally work!
YES! On it.
Wanted to let you know I made this for the first time last night, and am eating it now with some mashed sweet potato for lunch. Dear Gawd, it is awesome. We’re doing a New Years paleo challenge at my gym, and my copy of Well Fed is getting even more dog-eared. I love to cook 9and eat), and Well Fed makes my life easy.
If you do another cookbook, I will buy it.
There’s nothing better than a well-loved book, and I’m so happy to know Well Fed is dog-eared. Glad you like the carnitas, too!
A friend raved about your recipe, so I’m eager to try it! One itty bitty concern, though, is whenever a recipe writer says cayenne gives “just the right bite”. What is “just right” to that person? I, for example, have the “heat” tolerance of an infant! Lol How would you recommend modifying the cayenne, black pepper, etc. for wusses like me…if it’s even possible without destroying the awesomeness of the recipe? Thanks so much!
Skip the cayenne the first time. It will still taste great. You can ALWAYS leave the cayenne out of recipes because it doesn’t really add flavor, just heat. And if heat isn’t your thing, why add it?
You might also want to cut the black pepper to 1/2 teaspoon.
Hope you enjoy it!
amazing recipe! looked decidedly uninspiring for about the first hour, I was a little worried, but once it all starts to caramelise its just delicious. I added a garlic clove and an onion to the pot for flavour- the soft fried onion was great with the pork as a little extra.
I have made these twice in the two weeks since I got Well Fed! They are simply AHHHHH-MAZING!
Been laying the chunks over a bed of lettuce and topping with an avo, orange, red onion, and cilantro slaw. Doesn’t get any better!
I like the way you think — your “pile” sounds awesome. Thanks for letting me know you like it!
This sounds delicious. Is the coriander in your recipe ground coriander or fresh cilantro? I am writing from Boston, MA
Ground coriander. Enjoy!
In the photo, you show lime and lemon wedges with the meat. After extracting the juice, do you leave them in the pan with the pork while it cooks?
The lemons and limes in the photo are just to make it look pretty. The meat is cooked with only the citrus juice — not the fruit itself.
Thanks! I’ll try it this weekend. Everything else I’ve made from your book has been wonderful, and this recipe just caught my eye.
I am so sad!! I bought 2 1/2 pound beautiful pork shoulder and following the recipe to a T yet my water was evaporated by 1 hour and the pork was still super tough. I therefore added a bit more water to cook longer, and only a few little pieces fell apart – the rest is hard. Had to turn in the towel because I was pushing 3 hours for only 2 1/2 pounds. So sad!! What do you think happened? Is there a reason my water evaporated so quickly? Thanks 🙂 Love all your recipes so will have to try this again haha
Sorry… without being in the kitchen with you, there’s really no way for me to know what happened. It’s possible, I guess, that your pork wasn’t very high in fat — if it’s too lean, this cooking method won’t work very well.. but if it was shoulder, it was probably not super lean? Also,, if you used a shallow pan instead of a deep pot, that would account for the water evaporating quickly. But again… not sure ’cause I wasn’t there 🙂
As planned, I made this over the weekend, and it was SO good. Amazing, even. I didn’t have the granulated garlic (just made a Penzeys order to remedy that), so I minced up a whole head of garlic and tossed it with the pork before I put in the dry ingredients. Worked just fine.
I froze some for later, and have been gnawing on the rest all week. Yum!!
Too many comments to read them all. Sorry if this is a repeat. Trying this in the pressure cooker tonight.
Thought i had a stash of lemons–wrong!
Substituted some juiced clementines. And I’m always a high-elbowed season sprinkler.
Really excited about this. I think it’s gonna be great!
Okay here’s My Version – what always works for me: either carnitas (like yours, but I use chicken broth and 1 tall can of Guiness Beer) or Savory Roast in broth to make gravy. Guiness is the real secret. I par broil My ribs similarly – but omit broth and use beer, water (mostly) onions, garlic (whole ok) Mrs.Dash, and Bay leaves; along with your same spices plus sage. Cooked in slow cooker. For Carnitas I cook in liquid in slow cooker and when done, remove it from pot, put on cooking sheet, on high 400degrees to make prok crunchy. Yum serve with cilantro, fresh diced onions, lime and salsa with tortillas.
Oh, Mel! I truly love you! I am halfway through Whole30 number four since the beginning of the year, and I have been missing Mexican food.
These carnitas were fantastic. I used the pressure cooker instructions, and it was super easy. My six-year-old said “I can’t believe how good that meat is!” The bonus with the pressure cooker? When you get done cooking the meat, the cooking liquid is left over, so I thickened it a little with some arrowroot, and had a tangy little gravy to pour over the meat. Sigh. Life is good.
This may be mentioned, but there is a lot of interchanging of the word “pot” and “pan” here and in the book. In the book the first reference is to a “large, deep pot” (here it says pan) but I thought that sounded silly if I was to sear/brown at the end, so I went with a deeper pan which worked out well.
Just wanted to throw that out there 🙂
Also, this was the best yet of your recipes, and that’s saying something considering we make your chili and rogan josh each every couple of weeks. Soooo good. I really could just eat a huge plate of this and be satisfied. YUM
Oh. My. Goodness! This is the BEST carnita I’ve had. So esay to cook, fast, and oh so yummers. This will now be in my regular rotation! Thanks!
Hi Melissa:) What are the right amounts to use if using lemon, lime, and orange juice in this recipe? Wasn’t sure if I added an extra 1/2 cup of orange juice if that would be too much liquid to start out with. Thanks!
You want a total of 1 cup fruit juice, so you can make that any combo of citrus juices that you desire.
Do you use a cast iron skillet? When I use my skillet the juices get caramelized at the bottom and it becomes a bear to clean…any suggestions or would it be easier to use a stainless steel pan or perhaps a crockpot would be better?
Hello! Do you use your cast iron like the pictures shows or do you use more of a stock pot or smaller covered pan? Thank you!
That photo is purely aesthetic 🙂 I use a standard size, nonstick soup pot.
MEL OMG. This is THE ONE.
I basically got to eat the whole thing myself (I only used 2 lbs pork though) because my lovely wife DOESN’T LIKE SOUR STUFF. WTF, who have I married?!
Anyway, I don’t think my pork had enough fat to fry, so I took it out and crisped up all the sides in a cast iron skillet with coconut oil and bacon grease. Whipped up some roasted tomato salsa and a big bowl of guac and stuffed it all into romaine heart leaves. LORDY. I want to make it again today. There was one tiny piece leftover this morning and I just ate it cold with my hands like a damned heathen. Look what you’ve done to me.
PS- Super excited that WF2 is only days away!
OH I forgot to mention- there was so much yummy stuff in the bottom of the pan that looked like it was going to burn, so while the pork was crisping up, I deglazed the pan with a bit of water and some of the salsa I made. It made this thick gooey luscious tart caramelized to-die-for sauce, so after I shredded the meat, I stirred it all back in the sauce to coat it. *dies*
OK. Everything you did with this recipe sounds CRAZY DELICIOUS! I’m so glad you like it. Thank you for sharing so other readers can follow your tasty lead!
Ok that sounds amazing! I’ve made this a few times before but haven’t tried a sauce like that before. I’m going to try that tomorrow!
I made this tonight and it was to die for. I didn’t read through ALL the comments, but have you made this with other meats? Chicken or beef?
It works really well with lamb shoulder, too. I wouldn’t recommend it with beef or chicken; they’re a little too lean for this cooking technique.
Absolutely fantastic! Thanks 🙂
All I can say is “Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!!!” The flavors in this carnitas recipe were bold and wonderful. The meat was tender, tender, tender!
Is it redundant to wonder if reversing the cooking order would work? Could you apply the spice rub, sear the meat, then crock pot it?
I tried this in a modified “taco” on butter leaf lettuce with avocado and tomato. DELISH!!!!
Glad you liked it! If you want to crockpot it, I would recommend coating the meat with spices, then putting in the crockpot with 1/2 the amount of citrus juice for 12 hours on low or 8 on high — then cook the meat in a skillet to get it caramelized and crisp. It won’t be exactly the same, but it will be close.
I just made this today and it was delicious. The only thing I did not like was that the pork was cut into large chunks rather than standard cubes because there were threads of fat in the large chunks that did not get rendered during the initial simmer process. I ended up cutting up the large chunks that I had simmered and fried, and re-simmering and frying small cubes to get rid of the rest of the fat.
I recently ordered and recieved both your cookbooks and cannot wait to try the recipes. Quick question about this one: I dont eat pork, what other meats can i substitute? Would chicken do or should i try some boneless beef? Thanks in advance.
This works best with fattier meats — both beef and lamb stew meat would work, but I don’t recommend chicken.
The meat was tender and delicious, the taste a little too sour for me. The technique is awesome though and will make these again with either broth or less citrus.
Oh my, how did I miss this? I have now reserved a pastured boneless pork shoulder from a local supplier – but! it could take a 1-3 weeks to come in .
(Finding pastured pork is hit or miss around here.)
So, I’ll wait patiently, and tape the recipe to the fridge in the meantime.
The anticipation! Let me know what you think after you try it… enjoy!
Thanks, Mel! I shall now console myself and reward my patience with a ginormous pot of chocolate chili. (Making it, not eating it all at once).
Er… well… I’m doing my first Whole30, so I’ll at least have to break it up into 3 meals!
Made the carnitas last night, was super simple AND house smelled amazing! The meat was fall apart tender and very flavorful – love the citrus flavor, will use more lime than lemon in the future. A little on the salty side, I will omit the salt completely next time. Using the pork in egg foo young tomorrow night – can’t wait! Thanks!
First, this was totally delicious and even my 11 year old “I try nothing new” daughter was forced to admit how good it was.
I had one problem–by the time my water was done cooking down, the pot was black on the bottom. I stood there watching and waiting for the water to disappear so I didn’t forget about it. Dinner wasn’t ruined in the end but I’d like to know what I messed up so I get it right next time…which will be very soon!
(We are loving both the cookbooks–even my parents who are entrenched in meat and potatoes have loved everything I’ve made. Thank you!)
I’m glad it was a hit! If you have a non-stick pan, try that next time. There’s really no way to avoid the bottom of the pot getting sticky and cooked-on — the fat + citrus juice is going to do that every time, but a non-stick pot helps a lot!
Not sure if you have every tried it, but I added the juice from half a grapefruit into the citrus mix (in addition to the lemon and lime) and it cut a little bit of the zingy edge and made it slightly sweet. My 20 month old loved it, too!
I found this recipe about 2 years ago and cook it about every couple of months or so. It is amazing! I have experimented with the spice blend and citrus flavors when I have been short on the exact ingredients. Each time it is like magic in a dutch oven. My family knows when it’s a carnita night and they make sure they don’t miss it. Thanks Mel.
I’m so glad this recipe is a hit with your family! Thanks for letting me know… happy cooking!
My husband usually makes the pork carnitas, but this time our work schedules were switched, so it was my turn. He usually makes his very simply, just pork+salt+water cooked down until the water evaporates after 2 hours. They get very crispy but are still a bit tough, and he’d been experimenting with adding more water at the start and increasing the cooking time. Figured since it was my turn, I’d find a new recipe.
I didn’t have enough lime juice for a half cup, so just substituted more lemon juice from the rest. When I told my husband about the spice rub+acid combo, and then subsequently tasted it, he said it was waaaay better than the carnitas he makes. The acid really does make a big difference in softening the meat. I don’t keep coriander on hand so I just left it out, and they ended up tasting quite a bit sour from the lemon juice, but still crazy delicious.
Next time we make it, we’re going to try using pineapple juice for the acid instead, with some of the hawaiian pink salt our friends brought back for us from their honeymoon. I bet it’s gonna be even more amazing!
Glad you and your husband like this recipe! Have fun experimenting with it!
I made these today. And also fell in love with myself. Coincidence? I think not.
That’s awesome! Whenever I make something I really like to eat, I say to my husband, “Dang! I want to marry myself right now.”
Glad you liked it!
Making these tonight. I had an 8 lb butt (Lord I wish it was only 8 lbs), so I used 2 pots… one with a few pieces and the bone (with a butt load of meat still on it) and about 3.5 lbs in the other). I did 1/3 each of lemon/lime/orange juice… then enough water to just cover. Brought to a boil and those little suckers keep popping up above the water. I am going with it and going to flip the top couple of pieces in one pot every so often but the bone/fat is popping from the other pan. I’m hoping it won’t make a huge difference. I spent some time in San Antonio and Mexico, so I have missed real carnitas with the crispy outside. Thanks again Mel, you are amazing!!!
Follow up… holy balls this is good! I was so worried, as I’m sure many are, but I can’t believe how quickly things just came together. Once all of the liquid evaporated, the meat started carmelizing very quickly. I was pulling out bits that had fallen off and shoving them in my mouth with glee! Yes, GLEE! I ended up putting the bone portion in the oven to finish off because it was taking up valuable browning room. I kept thinking how valuable it would be to see a video of the various stages because I was terrified of ruining a $30 piece of meat LOL, but really… your instructions were perfect and all ended well! I will post a pic to your FB page this evening. This is going to be a staple!! Double batch of mayo being made shortly as well as sunshine awesomesauce and tomorrow balls balls and more balls! I <3 you!!!!
I’m glad it all worked out — congratulations! Happy BALLS cooking! Thanks for stopping by to let me know you like the recipes. Very nice of you 🙂
Made the Pork Carnitas tonight, It was so easy and yummy. Even my picky nine year loved it. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Glad it was a hit! Thanks for letting me know… happy cooking!
I made these, and while I knew that acid + cast iron is a terrible idea, I guess I thought the pork fat would protect it somehow. Not only did my teeth turn black, I got a healthy coating of terribly bitter iron with each bite. It literally took off all the seasoning. If you make these, DO NOT do like the picture and use cast iron.
Love these!!! I’ve been in adoration of a very similar crockpot recipe for several years, but oh, the charred crust on your version. My 13yo declared it to be the best meat she’s ever eaten! Yum. Thank you!
I made these tonight in the pressure cooker it was amazing. The whole family loved it, 4 kids and hubby. For reference just incase anyone wants to know, I didn’t have a pork shoulder but I had a 3 lb boneless pork loin left over from the 6 lber I purchased at Costco, I just cut it up in chunks as the recipe says….we used the pressure cooker method and it left quite a bit of liquid, instead of tossing the liquid, we saved it and I served it over the meat, delicious! Thank you so much.
my boyfriend loved these! Thanks for sharing!
This sounds amazing! Could you give some specifics about the pan, please? Seems like the mass, the dimensions, and/or the surface would be important.
I use a standard chili pot. If you use a soup pot and just cover the meat with water, you’ll be good to go.
I think I died today! I’m Mexican and carnitas are a traditional dish, you eat it as tacos, with corn tortillas, lots of limes, hot salsa, cilantro and onion, so I was scared of not having my childhood traditional way of eating but as a matter of fact, I loved iit! I ate it with cabbage, onions and sunshine sauce, I cooked them with the pressure cooker method and they were absolute fantastic!! I won’t miss the tortillas and still be able to have one of my favorites dishes! Thank you Mel!
I have a question. When I get to the last steps, where the liquid is evaporating away, the caramelized goodness sticks to the pot instead of the meat. Of course the meat still tastes fine, but I am always reduced to scraping out the yummy cracklin with my fork, leaving my pride in the dust. What
What am I doing wrong?
Try reducing the heat during the last few minutes of cooking and gently flipping the pieces of meat with a spatula once in a while — this will prevent the meat from sticking to the pan and make sure the crispy parts are attached to the meat.
attempted this recipe yesterday, my boyfriend and i love to order carnitas whenever we go to a mexican restaurant so i wanted to try to make them homemade.i followed your instructions but almost all of the liquid was gone after only 75 minutes. ended up with quite a bit of charcoal lol had to toss about half of the meat and the other half was only edible after scraping the burned outer layer off for an hour. the only thing i can think is maybe when the instructions say to turn to a simmer i didn’t turn it down enough so the water evaporated too fast and the outsides got way burned? thoughts? this recipe sounds so great and has so much positive feedback i would love to nail it next time 🙂
Yes, it sounds like your heat was too high. You want it to be barely bubbling to give the meat time to get tender and to slowly evaporate the water. Also, definitely keep an eye on it during the simmering process so you can catch it before it turns to charcoal 😉
Since this is such a popular post, I’d like to suggest/request that you shoot some photos of the process and update or create a new post!
Mine turned out very, very sour! Anyone else have this issue? I used a half cup of fresh squeezed lime juice, half cup fresh lemon juice and 2-3 cups of water… Thoughts?
Love love LOVE your site, Mel!
You probably need to increase the water or reduce the amount of citrus juice. Sounds like maybe you’re using a small-ish pot? I usually have about 4-6 cups of water in my pot because of the size/shape. Try cutting the juice in half next time; that should do it.
Mel! I make this all the time and I’ve fallen in love with putting it atop a garden salad for lunch.. but..
I never have any dressing with it! I feel like I should. Any suggestions?
I have two ideas for you:
1. Creamy — This cumin-lime would be great: http://meljoulwan.com/2011/02/24/southwestern-cumin-lime-dressing/
2. Acidic — Mix equal amounts lime juice and extra-virgin olive oil, then add some minced cilantro, a garlic clove, and a pinch or so of chili powder.
My sister raved about this recipe so I made it last weekend. Important note: do not use pork loin! I didn’t know the difference and realize now that the fat in the pork shoulder is what keeps the meat moist. I will try again but pork loin turns into a leather-y type substance. Boo!
That’s why it specifies to use pork shoulder in the instructions 🙂 I’m sorry you had a leathery experience. The cut of meat is SUPER important. Pork loin is VERY lean, and it’s tender when cooked gently. Pork shoulder has pockets of fat that break down and tenderize the meat as is cooks slowly. I hope you’ll try it again with the right cut.
I have to tell you that this recipe is like my secret weapon! I’ve been using it for the past three years and it was even one of my two-year-old’s favorite words (she called them “nitas”). Thank you so much for this recipe! Making them right now and my two girls are doing a happy dance lol!
Right on! It’s so awesome to have those go-to recipes that save the day, and I’m honored this recipe is one of yours. YAY!
I put off making these for a couple months and I have no idea why? This was my “I gotta try these” recipe that I kept putting off. I FINALLY made them about two weeks ago and am hooked! My second batch, I needed to remove myself from the house in fear of eating 3 1/2 pounds of pork on my own. Holy smokes they are good. With avocado in lettuce wraps… sweet lord!
Hooray! I’m glad you gave it a shot — and doubly glad that you like it!
I have a very hard time not eating ALL THE PORK MYSELF when I make it, too.
I just made this and it’s so good it must be illegal!!! I made a few changes, I cut slits into the meat in various places and inserted quartered garlic cloves and by accident added more cayenne. It’s a bit spicey, but delish!!! I’m new to paleo (and trying to follow a keto diet), so your site is a lifesaver!! Thanks!!
Right on! Glad you enjoyed it!
Holy smokes! Not only was this recipe simple but the carnitas taste amazing!
I have chowed down on them several times in the last few days and every time is a new experience. They pair well with guacamole, or pineapple, or cucumber salad.
I am afraid I mistakenly shared how good these were then I had to share my special diet food! (It’s my first whole30). Now she is after me to make more.
Hooray! Glad this was a hit!
Getting very concerned, my pork has been simmering for 90 min and the water is barely cooked down. I filled the pot with water to just cover the meat.
I had this recipe noted since my first Whole30 last July. So sadly, it took until this week to finally make it. I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. Don’t get me wrong, i love my Chipotle, but this is flipping amazing. I grabbed their guac recipe and made my own salad bowl. Er. Mah. Gerd. I kid you not. Even my picky picky husband LOVES it. Thank you!!!!
This will be a staple in the house!
Hooray! I’m glad you both enjoyed it. Who needs Chipotle?!
I luv this recipe! Even my cumin hating husband liked it! Who needs bacon, indeed!
I’m not sure how anyone can hate cumin 😉 but I’m glad it was a hit! YAY!
Every time I make this it takes like 4-5 hours. I use a big stock pot so I wonder if that is why?
Yes, the depth and width of the pot dictate how much water you need to cover the meat, and the amount of water influence how long it takes to boil down. Try to use a pot that *just* accommodates the meat with a little wiggle room around it and cover the meat with just enough water so it’s submerged. If you want to use the big stock pot, don’t completely cover the meat with water and PARTIALLY cover the pan with the lid to keep some of the heat and moisture in (to make up for not submerging the meat in water).
3-4 pork shoulder pork shoulder, boneless or bone-in……..
does that mean 3 to 4 pounds? or do pork shoulders come a certain way? just a bit confused and i really want to try it because it looks so good! thanks!
Yes! Sorry about that typo. 3-4 pounds, after removing any bones.
How many pounds of pork should we is required for the recipe? It only says “3-4 pork shoulder.” Is that 3-4 POUNDS?
Yes! Sorry about that typo. 3-4 pounds of meat, after removing any bones.
I have a rolled pork shoulder with rind on. Should I remove the ring to cook?
I have a rolled pork shoulder with rind on. Should I remove the rind to cook?
For the carnitas, yes, you should probably remove the rind… but you can roast the rind in the oven to make cracklins, I think!
Pressure cooker on. Excited
So good. So tasty Great crackling. Lovely tasting pork with a great salad Everyone in our house is happy. And we have leftovers. Perfect meal
Just made the second attempt ever yesterday with 4 pounds o’ pork, 3 fresh-squeezed limes, 2 whole lemons, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Actually no partridges were harmed.) It was about a layer and a half of meat with about 2 cups of water – possibly too much?
It took a fair bit longer than the expected 2 hours to boil down the water, even uncovered, possibly since the meat didn’t all sit in one flat level in the dutch oven. I didn’t even let all the liquid boil off, since the meat wound up really dry when I did that last time.
It’s definitely tasty and goes great with guac, but honestly came out pretty dry except for the big juicy fat chunks that the butcher also gave me, which I think means we’re friends now. Turning to sear all the pieces was tight so I went pretty fast on that part, but it seems like it was either too fast or not fast enough. Also, not sure if it’s “searing” if there’s still liquid in the pan?
Is it supposed to be kind of dry? If not, what am I doing wrong? I’m pretty sure I’m doing it wrong because this looks like it should be the holy grail of pork, but it’s more of an adequately functional goblet at the moment.
TL;DR: Smells great but came out dry, please advise!
Without being in the kitchen with you while you’re cooking, there’s no way for me to know what the issue might be. Having said that, this recipe works best with fairly fatty pork. If you think yours came out too dry, you might need either more liquid (so it cooks even longer) or less liquid (so it cooks faster). Without seeing/feeling the pork, I can’t say. You might prefer this method, if the stovetop version isn’t working for you: Salt the pork and plunk it in a slow cooker with 1/2 cup water and juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime for 8-10 hours on low (for 4 pounds). It will be cooked but not probably not browned. Break the meat into hots and crisp it in a skillet.
Also, you said you used two lemons and 3 limes. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup lemon juice… 2 lemons is only about 6 tablespoons, or 1/3 cup lemon juice. And 3 limes is only about 3-4 tablespoons, which is around 1/4 cup… so you were low on citrus juice. The citrus helps tenderize the meat, so that might have had an effect, too.
I see, thank you for explaining more! So the accurate chemistry really is important in this recipe… I also don’t have a good liquid measure at my house, so I was eyeballing the amounts in a “1 cup”-sized pyrex container. The lemon juice looked about right but definitely was low on lime juice. That factor at least is a silly issue with an easy fix, so hopefully having the proper tools will help for the next attempt.
I’ll give the slow-cooker option a try next and see how that goes. Thank you again for the input, I really want to get this one down!
I have been looking for a recipe that did not require oven or frying, and this one is the best one I could find. Came out crunchy and delicious. Closest to authentic I can get.
This is one of my family’s favourite recipes – we all love it. We’ve been a bit wary of cooking it since we forgot it was on until the smell of smoke made it upstairs though. Last week I adapted it for the electric pressure cooker, then finished it off on the stovetop. It worked well.
We’ve been making the stovetop version for at least 4 years and loved it every time. Recently got an Instant Pot and followed the pressure cooker instructions this time. OMG so delicious!!! Save us a ton of time too. Thanks!!
Okay, so I’ve had these on my “to do” list for way too long. I FINALLY made them tonight and some of the comments from my boyfriend after having some: “OMG! You have just elevated yourself in my eyes.” “I declare there should ALWAYS be a container of these in the fridge for when we get hungry, have the munchies or start craving Taco Bell because this is sooooo much better than any late night run for the border.” (*I* don’t run for the border but he does)
So….it’s a huge hit. I love them too! We will definitely be making them again and again and again!!
YAY! I’m glad you both enjoyed this one! NO RUNNING FOR THE BORDER 😉
Made this tonight and had it with butter lettuce/zucchini slices/sliced onion/sunshine sauce. DELICIOUS!
I made this on a cook up weekend that went a bit pear shaped, so I overcooked the pork and it was a quite dry. Also, the lime and lemon was over powering. Nonetheless I had all this cooked pork so I pushed on and had this on a bed of raw baby spinach, drizzled some of your garlic sauce from your plantain recipe but blended some apple into it and then finally some cucumber and pineapple salsa on top. OH MY WORD!! Best flopped cooked dish ever. I’m such a fan, thanks for continue to share your recipes and experiences with us.
For a laugh on a Monday – since there is talk of eating real food all the time and breakfast food doesn’t have to be just for breakfast, etc. On Sunday I made this for lunch – one daughter was ready to nominate for Mom of the year for making real food for lunch and the other teenager was horrified I was making dinner for lunch! I obviously need to mix things up more…. BTW – love your cookbooks and I am using them to teach the cook up strategy to my teens, so as they get off on their own – they can cook without too much fuss. Just prepare some basics in advance (while watching netflix) then pull stuff out of the fridge as you get hungry. It’s that simple.
How dare you make dinner food at lunch time?! 🙂
I’m so glad my cookbooks are helpful to you and your kids. Love that you’re teaching them how to cook. I’m so grateful to my parents for making me feel at home in the kitchen.
Holy *&^% This is the BEST meat I have ever made. Fall apart tender, crispy bits, blasting with flavour, you have definitely outdone yourself with the spices in this recipe!! I followed it exactly ( something I rarely do ) and it came out amazing. Thank u!!
Hooray! I’m so happy you liked. Thanks for trusting my recipe 🙂
Hey! I’m wondering what kind of pan you would suggest using for this recipe? It seems like you’d need a deep pot, but I wanted to double check before making!
You want a deep-ish pot so the meat can be covered by 2-3 inches of water.