Home-Style Pork Carnitas

Carnitas Caseras
A note about flavorings: You’ve probably all seen recipes for carnitas that call for oranges/orange juice, cola beverages, sweetened condensed milk, herbs (sometimes just bay leaves), garlic, onions and spices. They can all find their home here, but don’t have to. Primarily, the orange rind can add fragrance to the fat, but the juice, the cola and the sweetened condensed milk are added primarily to promote browning of the meat. Herbs, garlic and cracked black pepper add a little something, too, though mostly only to the lower temperature versions (the second and third); high-temperature lard will obliterate everything but the most robust flavors. Honestly, carnitas made with just pork and salt are really good.
Servings: 11/2 pounds of finished carnitas, enough for about 15 tacos


  • A 3-pound pork shoulder roast, cut in 2-inch slabs (no thinner)
  • Salt
  • 1/2cup cup orange juice or water
  • Optional Flavorings
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 4 bay leaves
  • A heaping teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • For serving
  • 2 1/2cupsGuacamole (you’ll have extra, but you’ll be glad you do)
  • About 1 1/2cupsSalsa Verde OR
  • About 1 1/2cupsChopped Tomato Salsa
  • 2 or 3 limes, cut into wedges
  • 15 (or a few more) warm corn tortillas


Bake the pork.   Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Lay the pork on a cutting board and sprinkle all sides liberally with salt (you’ll need at least 2 teaspoons).  Nestle the meat into a baking dish just big enough to hold it (it usually fits in a baking dish about 7x11 inches) and drizzle the water or orange juice on and around it, lifting to allow liquid to run under the meat.  If using the optional flavorings, nestle the garlic and bay leaves around the meat (both should be in moist places), then sprinkle with oregano and black pepper.  Cover tightly with foil and slide into the hot oven.  Set the timer for 1 1/2 hours.

Brown the pork.  Remove the pan from the oven and uncover.  Test the pork:  it should be almost tender when pierced with a fork.  (If the meat is still very firm, re-cover and bake for an additional 20 minutes or so, then re-test.) Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees.  Slide the uncovered pan back in the oven and roast until all the liquid has evaporated and only the rendered fat remains, about 30 minutes.  Use a large metal spatula to turn the meat over, break  it into large chunks, return to the hot oven and roast for another 20 minutes or so, turning the meat every 7 or 8 minutes, until the carnitas are richly golden all over.  

Serve.   Arrange the carnitas on a warm serving platter and sprinkle with salt (a good finishing salt is welcome here—I’m particularly fond of Maldon).  Serve with the guacamole, salsa, limes and warm tortillas.  Encourage your guests to pull apart the golden pieces of deliciousness, fitting several pieces on each tortilla, before topping with guacamole, salsa and lime.  

Working ahead: Once the carnitas have been browned, you need to serve them right away. You can, however, braise the pork up to a couple of days ahead, cover and refrigerate it.  On the day you’re serving, let the pork come to room temperature, and, an hour before serving, roast it. 


  1. I used this technique tonight to use some country style ribs that I got from a farm share. It was excellent! I’ll definitely do it again.

  2. I made this yesterday for a Super Bowl party. This is a very straightforward, easy to follow, and rewarding recipe. I served it with homemade guacamole following Rick Bayless’ traditional recipe (see his youtube clinic on guac); Frontera’s Tomatillo and Chipotle Salsas; and, served it with Mission corn and flour street tacos. The small tacos allow for greater sampling combinations. Turned out fantastic. Big hit.

  3. When Rick says, “Honestly, carnitas made with just pork and salt are really good,” you can believe him. Mine were. Thank you, Rick.

  4. Good outcome, would recommend it and would make it again… BUT, i have 2 issues: 1) the cooking took about 4+ hours (maybe it’s my oven? Maybe the meat was cut too thick) and, 2) the meat turned out dry, so next time I will buy a mix of shoulder, belly and ribs. I’m actually serving it as tortas de carnitas! Looking forward to it.

  5. Made this in the oven and then finished it on indirect heat in the charcoal grill. Fantastic recipe. Thank you Rick!!! <3

  6. They were very good and turned out like presented, recommend! One modification I made (which is a MUST for carnitas) is adding some cinnamon to the orange juice mix…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *