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

These carnitas are not made in the slow cooker, which is a good thing.

Carnitas Recipe - Served in Low Green Bowl with Avocado

I love my slow cooker as much as the next person, but so many of the carnitas recipes online are slow cooker versions, with results that are a far cry from the truly crispy chunks of tender pork that you normally get at Mexican restaurants and taco joints.

But this method? It will give you perfect carnitas at home.

What is Carnitas?

It’s basically crispy, savory chunks of tender pork. They are particularly great for filling tacos and burritos.

This particular Carnitas Recipe is from 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 because so far I’m pretty enamored with her, hah!

Pork Carnitas - Served in Green Bowl with Cilantro and Avocado

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, which is traditional.

How to Make Carnitas:

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

Pork Shoulder Chunks in Saucepan

Add enough water to cover the pork:

Pouring Water Over Pork Butter Chunks in Saucepan

Season the water with plenty of salt:

Adding Salt Over Pork Shoulder Chunks in Saucepan

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.

Simmering Pork Shoulder Carnitas Chunks in Saucepan

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:

Carnitas Meat in Saucepan with Brown Caramelized Bits

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

Chunks of Pork Carnitas Meat in Green Bowl on Wooden Board

I throw these carnitas into this breakfast burrito recipe, 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!

What to Serve with Carnitas:

Recipe Tips:

  • 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.
Carnitas Served in Low Green Bowl with Avocado

Pork Carnitas Recipe

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

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

Instructions 

  • Cut the pork into strips about 2 inches by 3/4 inches in size (do not trim any of the fat).
  • Place the pork strips in a high-sided skillet, and add just enough cold water to barely cover the pork.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Serve and enjoy!

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

Calories: 288kcal, Protein: 51g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 136mg, Sodium: 703mg, Potassium: 857mg, Calcium: 16mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.

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