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Crispy Pork Carnitas

These pork carnitas with a secret spice transport you from the table to Tijuana!
Prep Time30 mins
Active Time3 hrs 30 mins
Total Time4 hrs
DIET: Gluten Free
Yield: 8 servings
Calories: 239.75kcal


  • Sharp Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Tongs
  • Heavy fry pan
  • Platter
  • Paper towels
  • Baking dish
  • two forks


  • 4 to 5 pounds pork shoulder bone in cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled and thinly-sliced


  • Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for 1 to 3 days. (You can skip this step if you want. Just be sure to salt the pork before searing the meat in the next step.)
  • Heat the oil in a roasting pan set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single layer, cook them in two batches. Do not crowd the pan or the meat won’t crisp up.
  • Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits.
  • Heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) degrees.
  • Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are ⅔rd’s submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powders, bay leaves, cumin and garlic.
  • Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid has evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.
  • Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, about 2 inches (7 cm), discarding any obvious big chunks of fat if you wish.
  • Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them.


What a great dish to feed a crowd or save time and make more than one meal! Taking that extra step to make the meat crispy at the end makes all the difference. If you like this dish, why not try my healthy and delicious plant-based version?
Keep in mind, replacing this recipe with plant-based ingredients is not only healthy, but easier on your wallet and the world : ).  Check out the carbon foot print for this recipe and compare it to our plant-based version here.


Calories: 239.75kcal | Carbohydrates: 1.06g | Protein: 27.23g | Fat: 13.5g | Saturated Fat: 6.29g | Cholesterol: 92.69mg | Sodium: 985.9mg | Potassium: 490.97mg | Fiber: 0.45g | Sugar: 0.06g | Vitamin A: 161.45IU | Vitamin C: 1.5mg | Calcium: 29.62mg | Iron: 1.95mg