Carnitas without the Fat

With it being my 30th birthday and all, Claire thought it only fitting to have a party for me. I liked the idea, not only because it was my birthday, but also because it would allow us to have people up to our house.

As we discussed what we wanted to serve, I thought tacos would be a great idea considering people could make them how they wanted and we could hopefully feed everyone without going broke. We settled on carne asada and carnitas, which would be accompanied by a slew of sides, including homemade red salsa, roasted corn salsa, guacatillo from Cardenas Supermarket, homemade Mexican pickles, cheese, lime wedges, guacamole, onions and cilantro. (Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of our lovely table with all of the great food.) The only issue remaining was how to make carnitas without slow cooking them in lard.

I found a recipe in Cocina de la Familia by Marilyn Tausend with Miguel Ravago for carnitas that looked good, so I decided to give it a try. The carnitas turned out amazing. The pickled jalapenos provided a nice vinegary component to the dish, while the coke and orange juice gave it a little sweetness. I decided against making them to spicy figuring with salsas and such people could make them as spicy as they desired. The recipe is quite easy – the most tedious part being breaking down the pork into cubes.

Thus, I figured I would share the recipe, because who after all does not enjoy some tasty pork tacos every now and then? The only adjustments I made to the recipes were after boiling the pork, I shredded it in the food processor (a great suggestion by my wife), and I left out the orange peel.

Bon appétit!

Carnitas (from Cocina de la Familia, pp. 116-117)

  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, butt or meaty country-style ribs
  • 2 white onions, quartered
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 2-3 canned whole pickled jalapeno chiles
  • Sea salt
  • ¾ cup Dr. Pepper or Coca-Cola
  • ¾ orange juice
  • Zest or peel of ½ orange, cut in narrow 1-inch-long strips (a vegetable peeler works great for this)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Trim off much of the excess far from the outside of the meat but leave the thin inner strips. Cut into irregular chunks approximately 1 ½ inches square.

Place the meat in a wide, heavy pot, such as a Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet, with a lid. Cover with water by ½ inch—no more. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and skim off any foarm that may rise to the surface. Add the onions, garlic, oregano, chiles, and salt to taste. When the water begins to boil again, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, about 1 house, until the meat is almost tender. A bit more water might be needed if the pork is still tough. Stir occasionally. If there is liquid remaining in the pan when the meat is ready, turn up the heat and boil until it is all evaporated, but watch the meat so that it doesn’t scorch. (Andrew’s note: a lot of the water remained after an hour and the meat was tender. I decided to shred the meat in the food processor, and while shredding, I reduced the liquid and poured that onto the meat as well as the orange juice and soda.)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Remove the chiles from the pot. Add the soda pop, orange juice, zest, pepper, and any needed additional salt, and mix well with the pork. If the meat is not in a single layer, it should be put into a flatter pan so that it can brown evenly. Bake, uncovered, about 30-40 minutes, until the meat is crispy and glazed with syrup. The meat will have to be stirred often because the sugar in the soda and orange juice will burn easily.


2 thoughts on “Carnitas without the Fat

    • Monica – I am sure you could get away without them; however, they did add a slight vinegar tang that I really loved. I wonder if you could add fresh jalapenos and then also a little vinegar as well…say like rice or apple? Just a thought.

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