Authentic Tex-Mex Carnitas
This authentic carnitas recipe is the perfect way to learn how to make carnitas! You’ll love how simple these are, but oh my gosh, the flavor is just out of this world!
Can we talk for a minute?
I mean, yes. I’ve said before that Mexican food is my life, but I want to, like, pound that into your head with a hammer or something.
Sad little fact: I live in the middle of the United States, surrounded by corn fields and soy beans. The majority of Mexican food in my part of the country? Not fabulous.
I’ve never been to Mexico or Texas (but I’ll be hitting up Austin and eating my way through the city in June!), but I took one bite of these and I was instantly speaking Spanish and wearing cowboy boots and doing all of those other Tex-Mex-y things that one does when they have an out of body experience eating crispy, flavorful pork.
You guys. I have never been able to pinpoint my one favorite food. I mean, there are so many options. So many different flavors. Who am I to say that my favorite food is a strawberry when there are all of these peanut butter cookies in the world? How can you choose one over the other?
Let me just clarify: These carnitas are my absolute favorite food in the entire world. I’ve made them twice in the past 5 days. I plan on making them again next week. And the week after that too. In fact, I should probably move to a pig farm now, because I never want to be without pork again. In fact, these Carnitas inspired me to add a new category to the blog. “Buns In My Oven Favorites.” I should technically have nothing but these carnitas in that category, but I went ahead and added anything from this blog that I truly love and make again and again in my home.
The flavor is obviously my favorite part of this meal, but you guys. The ease! And the magical-ness of it all! It’s just so much fun to make these!
You basically simmer chunks of meat for a couple of hours without stirring, then you crank the heat a bit, stir to your hearts content (shred the meat or leave it in chunks, your choice! I prefer shredded, so I do a lot of stirring.), and let the liquid boil away. The next part is where the magic happens. All the glorious fat from the pork butt (which doesn’t actually come from the, um, butt of a pig…it’s the shoulder. No worries.) just magically starts frying the meat. I’m not sure why I find this so fascinating, but I do. I mean, the fat just melts and then fries the meat! You don’t need any oil or shortening! It’s so FUN.
One more thing, because I know I’m getting exceedingly wordy (but you guys, these carnitas! I could write a novel about them!) please resist the urge to top your tacos with every single taco topping in the land. I kept it perfectly simple with this southwestern slaw from Perry’s Plate (even my slaw haters ate this up…it’s simple and fresh and the perfect compliment to any sort of Mexican food), a small amount of Monterey Jack cheese, and a spoonful of salsa verde. I served these on warmed corn tortillas. You can do flour, but the corn really works well with the carnitas!
(You’ll probably have leftovers, about which you should be exceedingly happy. They reheat like a dream. Then again, they make a fabulous Carnitas Pizza. Try it live it, love it.)
4-5 pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes, fat left intact
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice (from about 2 to 3 limes)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus more to taste
For serving: corn tortillas, cheese, Southwestern Slaw or shredded lettuce, and salsa verde
Place the pork in a large, heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. Add the orange juice, lime juice, garlic, cumin, and salt. Add just enough water to the pot to cover the pork.
Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered, without stirring, for 2 hours.
Increase the heat to medium high and stir/turn the meat occasionally. The more you move the meat around the more it will fall apart.
Continue cooking for 45 minutes or until all of the water has evaporated, leaving only the pork fat. Let it fry, turning as needed, until the pieces are somewhat crispy and browned.
Add more salt as needed and serve on tortillas with garnishes.
(Do not fear the bottom of your pan. It will be a black, thick layer of horror, but fill it with water and leave to soak over night. Everything will wipe right out in the morning.)