Homemade Carnitas

Homemade Carnitas

The Spruce / Christine Ma

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 3 hrs
Total: 3 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 5 to 10 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
496 Calories
33g Fat
13g Carbs
35g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 496
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 33g 42%
Saturated Fat 11g 56%
Cholesterol 125mg 42%
Sodium 231mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 35g
Vitamin C 39mg 195%
Calcium 49mg 4%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 719mg 15%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Carnitas (the word translates as “little meats”) are wonderful morsels of boiled/fried pork that are crispy on the outside and chewy-tender on the inside. In Mexico, they are traditionally cooked outside in huge copper or stainless steel pots over an open fire, but this smaller version is easy to make at home on a regular stove, making it much more practical for the everyday home cook.

Carnitas are tasty eaten with a fork, accompanied by a nice, fresh salsa, or as a filling for tacos, tortas, burritos, sopes, or flautas. The number of servings made with this recipe will, of course, vary widely according to the use you give to the meat.)

Store any leftovers well covered in the refrigerator; reheat slowly in a pan on the stove (they will probably not need any more oil added) or in a microwave oven.


  • 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil, for frying

  • 3 pounds boneless pork (shoulder or butt)

  • 1 quart broth (pork, beef, or chicken; enough to cover meat)

  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 1 dried bay leaf

  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and quartered

  • 3 cups orange juice

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Homemade Carnitas ingredients

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  2. In a large, heavy pot, heat two tablespoons of lard or oil. Brown meat, turning to brown on all  sides.

    pork cooking in a pot

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. Take pot off heat and add orange juice. Pour in enough broth to cover meat.  Add garlic, bay leaf, and onion. Place pan back on stove and bring liquid to a boil.

    orange juice, broth, garlic, bay leaf, and onion in a pot with the pork

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  4. Turn heat down and let meat simmer, covered, for about 2 and 1/2 hours. At the end of the cooking time, take off lid and turn up heat to help evaporate excess liquid.

    pork mixture cooking in apot

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  5. When liquid is gone and just meat and fat are left, remove bay leaf and any remaining pieces of garlic or onion.

    pork mixture cooking in a pot

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  6. Use tongs to break up meat into smaller chunks (golf ball-sized or smaller) and fry, adding a little more lard or oil if necessary. Sprinkle salt on the meat as you fry it to season your carnitas and help keep spattering fat to a minimum.

    shredded pork in a pot

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  7. Meat is ready when the edges of the chunks of meat become browned and crispy. You can serve them as-is (in larger chunks), or you can remove pieces from the pot and chop into smaller morsels—or even shred them—to use as a filling for tacos or burritos.

    Homemade Carnitas on a platter

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

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