Cook Delicious Carnitas: Easy Tips and Tricks

Are you looking for a new recipe to try at home? Look no further than mouth-watering carnitas! This traditional Mexican dish is a delicious and versatile option for any meal. With these easy tips and tricks, you can make your own delicious carnitas right at home. From selecting the perfect cut of meat to mastering the cooking technique, we’ve got you covered. Get ready to impress your friends and family with your culinary skills!

Cook Delicious Carnitas: Easy Tips and Tricks | Eat Urban Garden
Cook Delicious Carnitas: Easy Tips and Tricks

What are Carnitas?

Carnitas are a beloved dish from Mexico that originated in the state of Michoacán. The word “carnitas” literally means “little meats” in Spanish, and that’s exactly what they are – small, succulent pieces of pork that are slow-cooked until they’re crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and bursting with flavor.

The Significance of Carnitas in Mexican Cuisine

Carnitas are an integral part of Mexican cuisine, and they have been enjoyed by generations of people both in Mexico and around the world. They are traditionally cooked in large copper kettles called cazos, which are filled with lard or oil and heated over an open flame. The pork is then cooked slowly in the hot liquid until it’s tender and juicy, and then it’s crisped up by quickly frying it before serving.

Carnitas are often used as a filling for tacos, burritos, and other Mexican dishes, and they’re typically served with a variety of toppings and sauces. They’re also delicious on their own, and they make a great meal when served with rice, beans, and tortillas.

Serving carnitas is often a social experience, where friends and family gather around to share food and conversation. They’re a staple at Mexican feasts, celebrations, and fiestas. Carnitas are so cherished in Mexico that they even have their own annual festival, called the Festival de Carnitas, which celebrates the dish and its cultural significance.

What are the Main Ingredients in Carnitas?

Carnitas, a traditional Mexican dish, typically consists of slow-cooked, shredded pork that is seasoned with a variety of spices and herbs. In addition to pork, the following ingredients are essential in crafting the savory and tender dish:

Pork Shoulder or Butt

The cut of pork used for carnitas is important because it’s rich in fat and connective tissue, which breaks down during the cooking process and adds flavor and tenderness to the meat. Pork shoulder or butt is the perfect choice for carnitas, as the meat fibers are able to break down and become fork-tender after a long, slow cook.

Lard or Oil

Traditionally, carnitas are cooked in lard, which gives the dish a crisp exterior and a melt-in-your-mouth texture. However, you can use oil instead if you prefer. The oil or lard is used to fry the pork towards the end of the cooking process, creating a crispy, caramelized surface on the meat.

Garlic and Onion

These aromatics add depth and flavor to the pork. Garlic is usually minced or pressed, and onion is chopped and sautéed with the pork during the cooking process. Together with the spices, they create a complex and fragrant flavor profile.

Herbs and Spices

Carnitas seasoning blends vary, but typically include cumin, oregano, bay leaves, cloves, orange zest, and cinnamon. The spices are added to the pot early on in the cooking process, and infuse the meat with a warm, earthy flavor. You can adjust the seasoning blend to your liking, depending on your personal taste.

What are the Best Cuts of Pork for Making Carnitas?

When it comes to making delicious and authentic carnitas, the cut of pork plays a major role in the dish’s overall texture and flavor. Here are some of the best pork cuts ideal for making succulent carnitas:

Pork Shoulder or Butt

One of the most common pork cuts for making carnitas is the pork shoulder or butt. It has the ideal balance of fat and meat, making it perfect for slow cooking and achieving the melt-in-your-mouth texture that characterizes authentic carnitas. Plus, it’s an affordable cut of meat that you can easily find in most grocery stores. Just be sure to trim off any excess fat before cooking.

Pork Loin

If you want a leaner option for your carnitas, pork loin is an excellent choice. Although it’s not as fatty as the pork shoulder, it’s still flavorful and tender if cooked properly. For best results, use a bone-in pork loin and cook it low and slow until it’s fork-tender.

Pork Belly

If you’re looking for an indulgent and flavorful option, pork belly is a great choice. It has a high fat content that is perfect for achieving crispy bits and a rich, buttery flavor. However, it’s important to note that pork belly can be difficult to find and can also be quite expensive compared to other pork cuts. If you do opt for pork belly, be sure to remove the skin before cooking to avoid chewiness.

Pork Hocks

Pork hocks may not be the most commonly used cut for making carnitas, but they are worth considering for their rich and meaty flavor. They’re also a budget-friendly option and work well when slow-cooked until the meat is tender enough to fall off the bone. Pork hocks can be a bit tricky to find, but many butcher shops carry them.

Now that you know some of the best pork cuts for making carnitas, you’re well on your way to creating a flavorful and authentic dish that will impress your taste buds and those of your dinner guests.

What are the Tips and Tricks to Make Delicious Carnitas?

Are you planning to cook carnitas for the first time and want to make sure they turn out delicious? Or are you a seasoned cook looking for some new tips to make your carnitas even better? Regardless, this section provides practical tips and tricks to consider when making carnitas.

Selecting the Right Cut of Pork

The first step to making perfect carnitas is choosing the right cut of pork. The traditional cut used in Mexico is pork shoulder or Boston butt. This cut has enough fat to keep the meat moist and creates a meltingly tender texture when slow-cooked. Avoid using lean cuts of pork such as loin or tenderloin, as these cuts tend to dry out during cooking.

Using Appropriate Spices and Seasonings

While there are endless possibilities when it comes to seasoning carnitas, some traditional spices and seasonings are a must. The most common aromatics used are garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves. For additional flavor, you can also add achiote paste, which gives the meat a vibrant red color and a hint of earthy flavor. Salt is also essential to help bring out the flavor of the meat and season it properly.

Cooking Techniques

When it comes to cooking carnitas, there are two main techniques: stovetop cooking and slow cooking. Stovetop cooking is faster and gives you more control over the cooking process, while slow cooking yields a tender, juicy texture. If you prefer stovetop cooking, cook the pork in a skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. For slow cooking, use a slow cooker or a Dutch oven and cook the pork on low heat for several hours until it is fork-tender.

Frying the Carnitas

After the pork is cooked, it’s time to fry it to get that crispy texture that is characteristic of carnitas. Use a deep skillet or a Dutch oven to fry the pork in batches until it’s crispy and golden brown. To make it easier to fry, you can shred the pork into small pieces first. Be careful when frying, as the pork may splatter and cause burns.

Pro tip: For extra flavor, you can fry the carnitas in lard or vegetable oil that has been infused with garlic and onion.

What are Some Common Side Dishes to Serve with Carnitas?

When serving carnitas, it’s important to balance out the rich flavors of the dish with complementary side dishes. Here are some of the most common side dishes to serve alongside carnitas:

Frijoles Refritos (Refried Beans)

A classic Mexican side dish, frijoles refritos are a great complement to the savory flavors of carnitas. The creamy texture of the beans provides a nice contrast to the crispy texture of the carnitas. You can make refried beans from scratch using pinto or black beans, or opt for canned refried beans for a quick and easy option.

Arroz (Rice)

Rice is an excellent side dish to serve with carnitas, as it absorbs the juices and flavors of the meat perfectly. Mexican-style rice, also known as arroz rojo, typically includes tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spices like cumin and oregano. Alternatively, you can opt for a simple white rice or cilantro lime rice.


Guacamole is a refreshing and flavorful addition to any Mexican meal, including carnitas. The creamy avocado and fresh herbs and vegetables in guacamole pair perfectly with the rich and savory flavors of the carnitas. You can also use guacamole as a topping for the carnitas tacos or burritos.

Pico de Gallo

Another fresh and vibrant side dish that works well with carnitas is Pico de Gallo. This simple salsa typically includes diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, jalapenos, and lime juice. The acidity of the tomatoes and lime juice helps to cut through the richness of the meat.

Cebollitas Asadas (Grilled Green Onions)

Cebollitas Asadas are a popular side dish in Mexican cuisine and are often served as a side dish to grilled meats like carnitas. The charred and caramelized green onions provide a nice smoky flavor that complements the meat perfectly. You can also serve them alongside grilled peppers and tomatoes.


Of course, no Mexican meal is complete without tortillas. Whether you opt for corn or flour tortillas, they make the perfect vessel for carnitas tacos or burritos. Warm the tortillas up on a hot griddle or in the microwave and serve them alongside the carnitas and other side dishes.

Thanks for Reading! Bon Appétit!

And that’s it! You’re now ready to cook some delicious carnitas using our easy tips and tricks. We hope you found this article helpful and that your next carnitas meal will be a big hit with family and friends. Don’t forget to come back later for more easy-to-follow recipes and cooking tips!

Cook Delicious Carnitas: Easy Tips and Tricks

Our easy-to-follow tips and tricks will help you cook delicious carnitas right in your own kitchen. You’ll be amazed by how easy it is to make this flavorful Mexican dish!

  • 3 pounds pork shoulder (cut into 2-inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 orange (juiced)
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F.
  2. In a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the pork cubes in batches and cook until browned on all sides. Remove from the pot.
  4. Add the chopped onion to the pot and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the minced garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and black pepper, and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  6. Return the pork to the pot and pour in the orange juice, lime juice, and chicken broth.
  7. Stir to combine, bring to a simmer, cover, and place in the oven.
  8. Cook for 2-2 1/2 hours, or until the pork is tender and falls apart easily with a fork.
  9. Remove the pot from the oven and use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to a large bowl.
  10. Using two forks, shred the pork into bite-size pieces.
  11. Return the shredded pork to the pot and stir to coat in the cooking liquid.
  12. Serve immediately with tortillas, avocado, cilantro, and lime wedges.
Main Course
carnitas, mexican cuisine, cooking tips

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