The Best and Simplest Pork Carnitas

I’ve never been impressed by any of the Carnitas recipes I’ve tried online or in books…UNTIL NOW! This method by Diana Kennedy, requiring only pork, water, and salt, is the simplest AND most delicious carnitas recipe I’ve ever had. It’s crispy savory goodness.

Diana Kennedy's Pork Carnitas Chunks In A Green Dish With Avocado Slices, Cilantro On A Wooden Cutting Board

Carnitas are a common food to rave about, and it’s no wonder why.

Crispy, savory chunks of tender pork…what’s not to love?

I’ve had some pretty incredible carnitas at Mexican restaurants and taco joints, and have long tried to recreate them at home, but with lackluster results.

I searched endlessly for “authentic carnitas,” “best carnitas,” etc, trying to figure it out, and honestly most of the recipes that turn up on Google are versions made in the slow cooker.

I love my slow cooker as much as the next person, but I’ve tried those versions, and it’s a far cry from the carnitas I’ve had dining out.

Well finally, I’ve settled on a recipe I love and want to make again and again, and it’s by Diana Kennedy, a long time Mexican cooking authority (she’s 94 years old)!

I’ve only discovered her work recently after coming across this recipe in the Genius Recipes cookbook, and I’m excited to look at some of her own cookbooks.

The Best And Simplest Pork Carnitas Chunks In A Green And Orange Bowl With Cilantro And Avocado On Wooden Cutting Board

You may have noticed that a lot of carnitas recipes call for orange juice, lime juice, oregano, and so on.

But here all we’ll need is pork, salt, and water.

Begin by cutting strips of pork shoulder, and place them in a high-sided skillet:

Thick Slices Of Pork Shoulder Cut Into Strips In Stainless Steel All-Clad Skillet

Add enough water to cover the pork:

Pouring Water Into Stainless Steel Pan With 3-Inch Slices Of Pork Shoulder

Season the water with plenty of salt:

Sprinkling Sea Salt Into Pan With Pork Butt Slices And Water

Simmer the pork for about an hour and a half until the water eventually all cooks off.

Beware that it will look like there’s more water than there actually is, because a fair amount of rendered fat will be left over in the pan.

Partially Cooked Carnitas With Water And Rendered Pork Fat In Stainless Steel Pan

Eventually when the water is all gone and the rendered fat (or lard) is left, the pork chunks will brown and crisp in their own rendered fat:

Diana Kennedy's Simple Pork Carnitas Fully Crisped and Rendered In Stainless Steel High-Sided Skillet

It’s recommended that you don’t shred the carnitas, but leave them in their chunk form.

Pork Carnitas Chunks In Michoacan Style From Diana Kennedy

I throw these carnitas into my breakfast burritos, I saute green beans with the rendered fat and pork shreds, I make huevos rancheros with the meat, and so on. There are so many ways to use it up, and you may even just want to eat it by itself, it’s so good!

Carnitas Tips & Tricks:

  • Can Carnitas be frozen? Yes, the meat will freeze beautifully! Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months.
  • Can Carnitas be made with boneless pork loin, pork chops, or another cut? Not really. You need the pork shoulder (aka boston butt) because it has fat that will render down and eventually fry the pork chunks. Pork loin and pork chops are pretty lean.
  • How long will carnitas keep? Refrigerate for 5 days, or freeze for 2 months.
  • How to serve carnitas: Carnitas are wonderful as the protein for recipes like tacos, burritos, rice bowls, etc.

Simple Pork Carnitas

This method by Diana Kennedy, requiring only pork, water, and salt, is the simplest AND most delicious carnitas recipe I've ever had. 

The Best And Simplest Pork Carnitas Chunks In A Green And Orange Bowl With Cilantro And Avocado On Wooden Cutting Board

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs boneless pork shoulder (aka boston butt)
  • 1.5 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Cut the pork into strips about 2 inches by 3/4 inches in size (do not trim any of the fat).
  2. Place the pork strips in a high-sided skillet, and add just enough cold water to barely cover the pork.
  3. Add the salt, then bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to bring the water back down to a simmer (medium low heat), and simmer until the water has evaporated, approximately 90 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat more, and keep cooking the pork for about another 30 minutes, turning the meat every 10 minutes or so, until the fat has rendered out, and the pork is browned all over.
  5. Serve and enjoy!

by

Recipe Notes

Diana Kennedy's recipe says you should brown the pork for 70 minutes at the end, but I found that it was plenty browned and tender after 30 minutes of final browning.

This recipe is adapted from Diana Kennedy' Carnitas recipe.

Nutrition Information Serves 6     adjust servings
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per ServingAs Served
Calories 535kcal Calories from fat 367
% Daily Value
Total Fat 41g63%
Saturated Fat 14g70%
Cholesterol 161mg54%
Sodium 527mg22%
Protein 39g

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs:

Calories2000
Total FatLess than65g
Sat FatLess than25g
CholesterolLess than300mg
SodiumLess than2,400mg
Total Carbohydrate300g
Dietary Fiber25g

Did you make this recipe?


I'd love to know how it went!


Leave a comment or share a photo on social media tagging me @fifteenspatulas.

All images and text ©.

This post contains affiliate links.