This Authentic Carnitas Recipe is the real deal and yields perfectly tender and crispy carnitas for tacos, salads, burritos, bowls, enchiladas, and more!
This Authentic Carnitas Recipe is simply the best, better than all the rest, better than any pork, any pork we’ve ever ate… does anyone else sing in the kitchen, but change the words around to describe your meal, or are we just weird? Actually, don’t answer that…
Whether you serenade as you marinate or not, the first bite you take of these carnitas may make you squeal like David Lee Roth and dance like Tina Turner. At least that was our reaction.
Seriously though, the first bite of these authentic carnitas made us question everything we thought we knew about food. How could something be so crispy, yet so incredibly juicy at the same time? We’ve had carnitas before, but nothing like this.
All the carnitas we have tried pale in comparison to this version. The problem with some recipes for carnitas is they end up too dry, and the final product needs a sauce. Or the carnitas are not crispy and just taste like pulled pork which is not the point of carnitas. You can see that we're super passionate about this. Read on for the in's and out's of this recipe!
Can the recipe be scaled? Do I have to use a Dutch oven?
This recipe is super scalable. We’ve made anywhere from 1 pound of carnitas to 6 pounds all in the same dutch oven. This has sort of become a meal prep staple for us. It makes its way into our favorite Keto Breakfast Hash, tacos, enchiladas, and so much more.
We used an enamel dutch oven (like this one) for this recipe, which is a great option to have in your kitchen. We love our cast iron skillets and we take pride in how well-seasoned they are, but it takes effort and attention to keep them slick. We’ve also made this recipe in our normal cast iron dutch oven and it works just as great.
That being said, if you are on the lookout for a lower maintenance non-toxic option for a large pot, enamel cast iron is the way to go. The enamel coating is non-reactive so it is a completely safe non-stick option, unlike many non-stick options that contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Using quality non-toxic cookware is an easy switch to make for your health (regardless of any other dietary choices), as PFOA’s have been linked to the development of certain cancers, infertility, and liver damage. No thanks.
Ingredients in this Authentic Carnitas Recipe
- fatty pork shoulder (NOT trimmed!)
- lard (yes, lard) PLEASE do not use Crisco or vegetable shortening. You can read more here about the risks of toxic vegetable oils and shortenings
- sea salt
- garlic cloves
- jalapeños or another pepper
That's it! Super simple and completely natural. These carnitas are Keto friendly with lots of healthy fats.
OK, But Do I really have to use lard?
While we recommend using lard we have also had success using avocado oil, coconut oil, and algae oil all of which are great for high heat cooking and are considered healthy fats.
Wondering where to buy lard? If you have a butcher nearby you can probably find fresh leaf lard pretty easily. This pure white lard is perfect for making authentic carnitas. You can also find lard at most grocery stores or on Amazon. This one from Fatworks is great, so is this one from Epic Provisions.
How to make this authentic carnitas recipe:
- You'll start by cutting the pork into large pieces. This helps the pork cook more evenly.
- Next, add the pork to your Dutch oven along with the remaining ingredients. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Cover.
- Cook for 45 minutes, uncover, turn to medium-high to burn off the remaining water.
- The pork will now start to cook in its own fat (both the fat from the pork and the added lard).
- Continue to brown the meat until your level of crispiness is reached (we like it SUPER crispy!)
How to store:
We store the carnitas in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to one week. We have also frozen the carnitas which makes an easy way to have a protein option on hand from busy days. Simply freeze the carnitas in a freezer-safe container (we love Stasher Bags!), for up to 6 months.
Authentic Carnitas Recipe
- 2 lbs fatty pork shoulder
- ¼ cup lard
- Enough water to cover
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1-2 jalapeno or poblano or anaheim pepper
- Place all of the ingredients in a large cast-iron dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for about 45 minutes until pork is tender.
- Remove the lid and turn the heat to medium-high to reduce the liquid. Once the liquid is reduced the meat will start to fry in its fat.
- Brown the meat over medium-low heat stirring frequently and breaking the pork apart with the back of the spoon or spatula until pork is evenly browned and crispy, this takes about 15 minutes. Taste for salt and serve.