Five Star Carnitas

This recipe is the result of our quest for the ultimate carnitas. It is a mash-up of Smitten Kitchen’s Homesick Texan Carnitas, and Tacolicious’s Carnitas Taco. Where one triumphs for depth of flavor, the other wins for method. So we did what any curious and inventive home cook might do: we combined them!Behold ….

Five Star Carnitas


  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into 2 to 3-inch cubes. Note: get a cut of meat with good layers of fat; the pork will reduce as it cooks, and the extra fat in the meat itself will allow you to forgo the use of lard.
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons David’s kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano (the Mexican one really does make a difference)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ yellow onion peeled and cut in quarters, but with the root end intact to preserve it while cooking
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup lime juice (from 2 juicy limes)
  • Corn tortillas, warmed in a cast iron skillet
  • Fix-in’s: chopped fresh cilantro, diced white onion, shredded cheddar, lime wedges, your favorite hot sauce


  1. The night before you plan to cook the carnitas, place the cubed pork shoulder in your favorite dutch oven along with the garlic, sugar, salt, oregano, and cumin. Toss to coat until the seasoning is evenly distributed. Add the onion and bay leaf, followed by the orange and lime juice. Cover and refrigerate for approx. 12 hours.
  2. Bring the pork to room temperature. Add enough water to the pot so that the meat is just barely covered.
  3. Set the pot on the stove over medium high heat. As soon as it reaches a gentle boil, reduce to a very gentle simmer. Continue simmering uncovered for two and a half hours. Do not touch the meat at all during this time, but do check every twenty minutes or so to make sure the liquid is not reducing too quickly.
  4. After two and a half hours, remove the bay leaf and onion quarters. Increase the heat to medium-high and while occasionally stirring and turning the pieces, continue to cook for about 45 minutes, or until all of the liquid has evaporated, leaving only rendered pork fat.FullSizeRender(2).jpg
  5. Let it sizzle in this fat long enough to brown at the edges, turning the pieces gently and only as needed. When the pork has browned on both sides, it’s ready. Remove from the pot to a heat-proof bowl, and pull the pork apart with two forks.
  6. Serve with warmed corn tortillas and preferred fix-in’s.

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