I’m kind of new to the Mexican food world. I mean, I’ve been eating and enjoying Mexican food for a while now, but I definitely did not grow up eating Mexican food, other than the rare hard shell taco night. I LIVED for crunchy taco night. I thought it was the most delicious thing ever and I really loved the ritual of everyone assembling their own tacos right at the table. Now I know, real Mexicans don’t do the hard shell taco thing, and I have a lot to learn about Mexican food.
Case in point: I’ve never ever made carnitas. I feel like I’ve eaten a million carnitas tacos, in the streets of Mexico – Mike and I spent a very long time in Playa del Carmen a million years ago – but I’ve never attempted to make my own. I don’t know why though, because it’s really one of the easiest things to make. It’s low effort and huge reward.
Because I’m no expert on Mexican food, I did a deep, deep dive into the world of carnitas. I learned that like almost any popular recipe, there are a million ways to make it. Some people insist on a bottle of coke. Some say bay leaves are the secret. And, some people keep it simple. But wait! Am I getting ahead of myself? Do you know what are carnitas are? According to wiki, carnitas means “little meats.” The little meats are made by simmering/braising pork in lard. Essentially, it’s pork confit! The meat is combination of incredibly tender and crisp due to the cooking process. Slow cooking over low heat means that the meat breaks down, making it easy to shred and crisp up at the very end, where it’s essentially fried in it’s own fat.
I kept it super simple with just 3 ingredients: pork, fat, and salt. No spices, no seasonings, and certainly no coke. Since it was my first time I figured I’d go clean and classic. This recipe is based on a Rick Bayless recipe. I figured, if it’s good enough for him, it must be good.
Even though there are only 3 ingredients, one of the ingredients is something that you probably don’t buy a lot of – the pork fat. Just ask your butcher if they have any pork fat, they’ll usually have some in the back! It’s a lot easier than finding lard, plus the lard that they usually sell in blocks isn’t usually great. After you’ve got your pork fat and pork butt, you’re ready to carnitas!
The pork fat gets cut up small and the pork gets cut up into 2-3 inch pieces. Everything goes in a slow cooker with some salt and gets cooked on high for 4 hours. At the end, the pork will be lusciously tender. Pull out the pieces, roughly shred them, then crisp them up with the help of some of the pork fat. Seriously so good. We had the carnitas in tacos, so many delicious tacos! We still have a bit left over and I’m excited to do something fun with them.
PS – Do you have a favorite carnitas recipe? I’m excited to hear about how you guys carnitas!
PPS – How cute are the baby tacos?!??! 😀
The Ultimate Easy 3 Ingredient Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
makes a lot of carnitas
- 1 pound pork fat
- 3 pounds pork shoulder/butt
adapted from Rick Bayless
Cut the pork fat into small cubes and place inside a slow cooker on high mode.
Cut the pork into 3-inch pieces and sprinkle generously with salt. Add the pork in with the fat. Cover and cook until thoroughly tender, for 4 hours.
Remove the pork to a cutting board, leaving behind as much fat as possible. Refrigerate the lard for other uses, or discard.
Shred the carnitas into very large, coarse pieces. Heat a skillet (I prefer nonstick)ia over medium heat. When the pan is very hot, spoon in enough carnitas-cooking fat to fill the bottom generously. Scoop in the pork, spreading it out in an even layer. Cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes, until brown and releases easily. Gently turn the pieces to brown the other side. Enjoy in tacos, with rice, nachos, burritos, or however you like carnitas!