The store only had pork butt. Boyfriend didn’t think pork butt and pork shoulder were the same thing. He’s the one who always likes to stick to the recipe, which in this case called for pork shoulder. I usually don’t mind improvising. So he didn’t believe me when I insisted that butt is shoulder and shoulder is butt. The butcher quickly settled this question – phew! – because we were hungry and needed to go straight home and start cooking.

This is a simple recipe that doesn’t create a mess in its making. One pot. One cutting board. One good knife. Then, you’ll wait. Wait and stir. A couple hours later we were rewarded with tender and tasty pork. The crispy ends were incredibly flavorful and had a hint of sweetness. Is it the orange? The condensed milk? Next time we may try shredding the meat for tacos.

This was great for dinner with mashed potatoes. Still really good for lunch with some rice.


If you haven’t cooked much meat before, this is a good recipe to start with. There’s no bone or skin to fuss with, and you just need one pot and a few hours before this is ready for dinner. A couple pieces of orange helps makes the meat tender and finishing it in a hot, hot oven turns the carnitas browned and crisp. Serve with rice or try slightly smaller pieces for tacos with plenty of salsa, queso fresco, and pickled onions nearby.  Carnitas keep in the fridge for up to three days. Recipe adapted from Truly Mexican via epicurious.

4 pounds fatty pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cups water
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 orange, cut into 2 pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or pork lard)
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons fine salt or 4 teaspoons kosher salt

Get your ingredients together, cutting the meat last. Put all the ingredients in a wide 6-to 7-quart heavy pot, and bring the water to a boil. It’s alright if the pork is not completely covered.

Lower the heat to a medium-high setting and simmer vigorously in the uncovered pot until the pork is fork-tender, and the liquid has completely (or nearly all has) evaporated. Stir occasionally. This should take 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Discard the orange pieces and bay leaves.

Heat oven to 450°F. Put the pot in the oven. Cook the pork uncovered for about 20 minutes to crisp up the pork. There’s no need to stir. Done!

Makes 8 servings or 24 to 32 tacos.



13 thoughts on “Carnitas

    • It’s not stupid at all! But actually, yes, leave the rinds on the oranges while everything’s cooking. Just throw the rinds and the bay leaves out before moving the carnitas to the oven.

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