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To Make the Porkiest Carnitas, You Need Only 3 Ingredients

And two of those ingredients are pork.
By Published Jan. 16, 2023

At their best, carnitas hit a balance of soft, moist meat and crispy edges. They are an ultraflavorful ode to what pork can be—savory, well seasoned, and, of course, ultraporky.  

We had a version we loved at Carnitas Uruapan in Chicago. Their carnitas are so delicious that they sell 8,000 pounds of pork per week. (Read more about their version here).

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

We learned a few lessons from the professionals at Carnitas Uruapan that helped us build a recipe for pork carnitas that hit a peak of porkadise. And it takes only three ingredients!

Start the Carnitas with Lard 

As a lard lover, I can testify that using lard as a cooking medium imparts a deeply savory flavor to the meat. It’s important to start with a good-quality lard. Start this recipe by melting 2 pounds of lard in a Dutch oven until it’s liquid. Yes, it seems like a lot of lard, but you need enough to cover the meat. And like frying oil, lard can be strained, refrigerated, and reused once or twice before being discarded. 

Add Cubes of Pork Butt (and Salt)

The cooks at Carnitas Uruapan use a combination of pork butt or shoulder, pork ribs, and pork belly for their carnitas. It’s delicious, but you can also get really delicious results with just an easy-to-find pork butt. Pork butt is naturally well marbled and packs a ton of flavor. Cut the pork butt into large chunks and season them with the third ingredient: plenty of kosher salt. Then transfer those chunks to the Dutch oven with the melted lard. 

Let Time Transform the Carnitas

Transfer the dutch oven to a 300-degree oven, and let time do the work. After 2½ hours the pork will be silky tender on the inside and the edges of the chunks will begin to turn brown and crisp lightly. Let the meat rest in the lard and then chop it into small shreds. You get this mix of tender meat with frizzled bits on the edges, perfect for stuffing in warmed corn tortillas.

Pork Carnitas

It took 86 pounds of meat (and 26 pounds of lard) to crack the deceptively simple code.
Get the Recipe

These carnitas are delightful enough on their own, but serving them with chopped onion, cilantro, and a Quick Tomatillo Salsa makes for a meal you won’t forget.