Crockpot Pork Carnitas with Guacamole and Sour Cream

by Ann Marie Michaels on March 8, 2011

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It wasn’t until I moved to Southern California that I discovered pork carnitas. And what a discovery — they are outrageously good. Unfortunately, restaurant carnitas are typically cooked in water or canola or soybean oil.

Traditionally, carnitas are cooked in lard. Lard is a very healthy fat. It’s one of the very best sources of vitamin D (second only to cod liver oil). Want to know more reasons lard is so good for you? Check out the benefits of eating lard and how to render it yourself at home.

I was shocked at how much lard this recipe calls for, and yes, you really do use that much. And man, are they delicious!

It is so easy to make this in a crockpot. You can let it go all day (set to low heat instead of medium).

And yes, this recipe is GAPS-legal! If you’re doing the GAPS or SCD diet or you are on a grain-free diet, just eat these carnitas without the tortillas. Just put them on a plate with some extra guacamole and lacto-fermented salsa and you are good to go.

Recipe Notes

When it comes to lard, I cannot stress this enough. When switching to using lard, please do not buy the stuff from the supermarket — it is not only full of artificial hormones, but it also partially hydrogenated to extend shelf life. Yuck!

Coconut oil is a stable fat and makes a fine substitute if you do not have a good source for pastured lard. — where to buy coconut oil
I have successfully used leftover bacon grease as well. (Finally! A great use for all this leftover bacon grease!) I typically reuse the bacon grease at least 2 or 3 times when making carnitas. Just strain it after each use and store it in mason jars or other containers in the fridge.

If you don’t have time to make tortillas, I recommend buying sprouted tortillas or organic corn tortillas. Please, remember to buy only organic corn tortillas. Non-organic corn tortilla is undoubtedly from genetically modified corn.

It is traditional to make carnitas with fresh orange slices. The orange slices give moisture that will lower the temperature of the lard while the interior of the meat cooks. Once the moisture from the orange slices cooks away, the temperature of the lard will rise, and the meat browns on the outside. This makes for a dry, crispy exterior, with a moist, succulent interior.

I have made these carnitas with and without the orange slices and the cilantro. If you can’t find these ingredients, go ahead and make the carnitas anyway. Trust me, they will still come out fantastic.

Pork Carnitas

Ingredients

Carnitas
Lard, pastured, with no additives — or bacon grease or refined, expeller pressed coconut oil — or a combination (3 pints — or 6 cups) — where to buy coconut oil
Pork, boneless, butt or shoulder, pastured (3 1/2 pounds) —
Sea salt — where to buy sea salt
Orange, fresh, organic if possible (1)
Cilantro (1 bunch)

Guacamole
Avocado (3)
Lemon or lime, organic (1)
Garlic clove (1)
Black pepper — where to buy black pepper

Sour cream, ideally grass-fed and organic — where to buy starters

Optional: Homemade Sprouted Flour Tortillas — where to buy sprouted flour
OR Homemade Corn Tortillas (How-to: 1, 2, and 3)

Equipment

Crockpot (or stock pot or Dutch oven)

Directions

1. Place the lard in a Dutch oven or crockpot and set the heat to medium-low.
2. Cut the orange into slices. Add to pot.
3. Coarsely chop 1/4 of a cup of cilantro. Add to pot.
4. Cut the pork into 3-inch cubes and lightly salt the meat with sea salt.
5. Once the lard has melted, add the meat to the pot. The melted lard should cover the meat; if it does not, add more.
6. Cook on medium-to-low heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. After about 30 minutes, the lard will begin to boil. Allow to boil gently. As the moisture gradually cooks away, the temperature of the lard will rise, allowing the meat to brown. If the meat has not browned at the end of the cooking time, remove the orange slices and continue to cook.
7. Make the guacamole: Mince the garlic and juice the lemon or lime. Mash the avocados together with the garlic, lemon or lime juice, sea salt and black pepper to taste.
8. Remove the meat and let drain on paper towels.
9. Serve with optional warm sprouted flour or corn tortillas. Top with the guacamole and sour cream.
10. Garnish with salsa, chopped onion, cilantro, and jalapeno slices, if desired.

Photo credit: Dugsong on Flickr
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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Mallory March 8, 2011 at 9:29 AM

so if i win this will be my FIRST recipe to try, i love me some pig

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Tara March 8, 2011 at 11:02 AM

This is making my mouth water!! I’m going to try this out for a sweet friend of mine who just had a baby. I saw this recipe, called her right away and said, “hey, want carnitas this Friday?” She’s excited!

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cheeseslave March 8, 2011 at 12:55 PM

Aw how sweet!

My best friend is pregnant and due in April. I’m going to whip up a huge batch of carnitas for her when the baby comes!

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Christy Butch March 8, 2011 at 11:09 AM

I can’t wait to cook these. I know my husband will LOVE them. Thanks!

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Julie March 8, 2011 at 11:21 AM

Would it be safe to make the assumption that one needs almost as much lard/coconut oil as the meat? For example, if I had 2 lbs of meat, then use approx. 1.75 lbs of oil?

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cheeseslave March 8, 2011 at 12:54 PM

I think that sounds about right. Just make sure the oil completely covers the meat.

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City Share March 8, 2011 at 11:31 AM

I love carnitas. I grew up in AZ, but now live in New York City. It’s really hard to find decent Mexican food here. Thanks for the recipe! I’m looking forward to trying it.

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Lovelyn March 8, 2011 at 12:15 PM

That is a shocking amount of lard. I have to try this recipe though.

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cheeseslave March 8, 2011 at 12:56 PM

LOL! I know! But you can reuse it a bunch of times.

Seriously, this is my absolute favorite recipe to use up the massive amounts of bacon grease we accumulate around here.

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Bebe March 8, 2011 at 10:44 PM

So you use bacon grease rather than plain lard… or in combination? I wish we got more fat from our bacon. It is so yummy but very lean and I just leave the tablespoon or two that remains right in the pan and throw handfuls of spring greens in to braise. That’s what we eat under our fried eggs these days since we’ve nearly given up grains and cut way back on potatoes. Soooo good… I call it a power breakfast!
I need to rustle up some lard so I can try this recipe… it sounds like the bomb.

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cheeseslave March 10, 2011 at 7:44 AM

Yes I have used all bacon grease before, as well as half bacon grease and half expeller pressed coconut oil (not regular coconut oil — you don’t want the coconut flavor). All expeller pressed coconut oil would also work.

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Karen March 17, 2011 at 11:19 AM

This reminds me that i CAN purchase the less-expensive refined CO to use for frying and not use my expensive unrefined CO… great!

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Bebe March 23, 2011 at 10:48 AM

O.k… I am making it today! I will have to use the coconut oil because I have no lard :( but I am confident that it will be divine in its own right. My family is going to be swooning tonight! Thanks…

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MAS March 8, 2011 at 5:54 PM

Let us say hypothetically that the one food you loathed was oranges. What would you use as a substitute? :)

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cheeseslave March 8, 2011 at 8:11 PM

You will not taste the oranges.

But if you really loathe them that much, just leave them out.

Good both ways.

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Helen March 8, 2011 at 7:57 PM

I am really curious about that class!

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Kristin March 9, 2011 at 5:23 AM

I don’t think most people realize how much lard is used in traditional cooking world wide. I’ve been studying French cooking and plan on making both Rillons and Rillettes in the next day or so. Both involve braising pork in significant amounts of lard.

Thanks for the great recipe, Ann Marie!

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Sandra Mort March 9, 2011 at 6:21 AM

I guess I’ll have to make these on the stove! My crock pot died a sad death a couple of months back, making broth, beans and other stewed things more time consuming and annoying. Will a fresh ham work okay? I’ve got two, one pork and one boar, to make side by side for taste testing purposes.

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cheeseslave March 9, 2011 at 10:07 AM

I’m not sure about a fresh ham… this recipe is really for the shoulder (also called the butt) which does well with slow-braising.

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cheeseslave March 9, 2011 at 10:08 AM

You could also do this on the stove or in the oven on low

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jeanmarie March 9, 2011 at 7:43 PM

This is the recipe I have been waiting for! I adore carnitas. Thank-you thank-you thank-you!!

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cheeseslave March 9, 2011 at 8:08 PM

You are so welcome Jeanmarie!

I’m so pleased that you are pleased. And I do hope you enjoy it (I don’t see how you wouldn’t.)

xoxo

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jeanmarie March 9, 2011 at 9:18 PM

I just have to get my hands on more lard! I’m trying to get some from the guy we bought half a hog from last August and somehow we didn’t get the lard we thought we ordered. I think we have one more package of frozen lard in the freezer that still needs to be rendered. This weekend’s project!

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cheeseslave March 10, 2011 at 7:41 AM

Expeller pressed coconut oil works great, too, as does bacon grease.

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Magda March 10, 2011 at 6:39 AM

I love carnitas. And I have a fabulous local source for lard (I use it for my beef stew and to cook potatoes for my picky 6 YO). I usually have a lot of fat render out of my pork so I may start out with less lard. Thanks for the fabulous recipe – I haven’t made these at home before.

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cheeseslave March 10, 2011 at 7:43 AM

You can’t start out with less lard – the fat needs to cover the meat.

You can use expeller pressed coconut oil and/or bacon grease as well — any combination of these 3 fats works great, and you can reuse the fat — just strain it after you make the carnitas and store it in the fridge.

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jeanmarie March 10, 2011 at 9:37 PM

Oh, now that sounds like an incredible fat combo to have on stock. That’s it, I’m going to go find the lard that’s buried in the freezer.

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Karen March 10, 2011 at 12:49 PM

Would you be leaving the lid off the pot or on? Just wondering since you are trying to evaporate away liquid?? THanks. Can’t wait to try, my husband is from Mexico and here in Illinois our local carnitas aren’t the greatest! He will be so happy! THanks again.

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cheeseslave March 10, 2011 at 4:17 PM

You don’t want to evaporate the liquid. You want to let it cook in the fat.

The fat will not go go away — you can reuse it.

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cheeseslave March 10, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Oops I meant to add – leave the lid on.

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Jenn V. March 10, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Do you have an idea of the volume measurement (like in cups) would be for 3 pounds of lard? Thanks for the recipe! Sounds dreamy… Mmmmm….

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cheeseslave March 10, 2011 at 4:16 PM

Since lard is liquid when rendered, I should have said 1 pint (16 oz), not a pound.

So, 3 x 16 ounces = 6 cups.

I’ll go fix that.

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Tara March 11, 2011 at 2:08 PM

Are they supposed to kind of shred while they are cooking? I’ve had them in there for 2.5 hours, and they are still big tough chunks. Do I take them out and chop them? Help!

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Tara March 11, 2011 at 7:51 PM

Ok, I took it out and chopped it up. It was a hit! Only bummer was I left the guacamole at home…so now I’ve just eaten a ton of it all by myself. To waste guacamole would be sacrilege!

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Rachael Mae March 11, 2011 at 8:51 PM

So about lard. I get it from Mexican markets in a container. It is brown, kinda liquid at room temperature and has a smokey flavor. As far as I understand it is not hydrogenated. The guys behind the counter told me that the brown one is for beans and the white hydrogenated one is for tortillas, although I won’t touch that one and the brown work fine for tortillas. Does anyone have any insight? Obviously it is from conventionally raised pork but besides that?
I’m excited to make these!!!!!

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Laura March 13, 2011 at 8:53 PM

This looks amazing!!! I live in SoCal too and was wondering where you get your lard and/or pork. Sorry if you’ve already answered this, but I’d really like to make some yummy carnitas!

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Calvin March 14, 2011 at 4:57 PM

I got my coconut oil in bulk from tropical traditions, I got it at buy one get one free 1 gallon tubs, it was only $50 total.

I don’t know where to buy local pastured pork as many ‘pastured pork’ still are grain fed so I bought my pork from Sprouts farmers market. No hormones, etc…

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Karen March 17, 2011 at 11:23 AM

Calvin – which kind do you buy? I know I get their “specials” but have only purchased for consumption as opposed to frying…

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Calvin March 14, 2011 at 4:54 PM

I just wanted to say, I used this meal idea recipe last night and my friends LOVED it.

I think I may have made the carnitas too salty by themselves but with the tacos, it was tasty.

I love your simple and healthy meal ideas, thanks!

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Karen March 17, 2011 at 11:24 AM

Two questions: would this work if you DIDN’T cut up the meat prior? Perhaps I’ve not gotten the ‘right’ kind of pork in the past when I tried this, but the thought of having to cut up the meat put me off trying it.

Also, is the orange whole (as in, unpeeled)?

I’ve got to get more pork fat to render more lard! :-))

Thanks! Love your site and recipes!

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cheeseslave March 17, 2011 at 12:14 PM

Hmm I don’t know I have never tried making it without cutting up the meat. I supposed you could do it but it would probably take a lot longer to cook.

And yes the orange is unpeeled.

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Maggie @ Maggie's Nest March 22, 2011 at 9:06 PM

I made this tonight and it was fantastic! The meat was a little dry, but probably because I cooked it on high for six hours…yeesh. :) How do I reuse the lard? Just strain it and put it back in the fridge?

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cheeseslave March 23, 2011 at 9:37 PM

Yes just strain it with a strainer and paper towel or coffee filter and put it back in the fridge.

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Adriana March 23, 2011 at 2:54 AM

Do you have a good source for padtured lard?

As an alternative, I’m thinking this would be a great use for that container of red palm oil I’m having a tough time incorporating into my diet…

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cheeseslave March 23, 2011 at 9:38 PM

I have not tried this with red palm oil. My fave use for red palm oil is making homemade soaked peanut butter.

I don’t have a good local source for pastured lard. But you should try http://www.eatwild.com — I have bought lard on there before.

You can also use refined coconut oil and/or bacon grease. I use a combination of these and it comes out great! And I reuse a few times.

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riceinmay July 3, 2011 at 10:11 PM

Red palm oil and beef liver go really well together- I know, weird right? Here’s how I do it- and it’s killer :-D

Cook 1/2 a pound of bacon. Set bacon aside. Slowly cook down several large onions thinly sliced in the bacon grease (if you need more fat add the red palm oil). Set onions aside. Put several tablespoons of red palm oil in the pan and sear the beef liver. Be careful not to overcook! In fact- under cook- it’s going back in the pan again anyways. Pull liver out and slice thinly. Crumble bacon. Add everything back to the pan and saute for a min with about 2 tbs of balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!!! (it’s even good cold the next day :-D

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Karen March 24, 2011 at 9:55 AM

I bought pork fat at a local grocery store (we do have a high percentage of Hispanics in our area so not sure if that is an important factor) but it was only $0.89 lb. Of course, you have to spend time cutting it and rendering it, but that is going to be way cheaper than using any kind of coconut oil, even the cheapest kind. 8-9 lbs will fill a 5-qt pot and give 2-4 qts of beautiful lard.

You’ll be so happy to have rendered your own lard, anyway. You can then fry your own potatoes for fries or chips and make your own chicken nuggets. :-)

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Sarah Dickinson March 25, 2011 at 10:35 AM

Hey there, so after reading all the comments I have noticed from one near the end, that we should be cutting up the pork? So is that BEFORE we cook in the crockpot or AFTER? Am making this tomorrow for guests and want to be sure. Thank you!

Sarah Dickinson

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Sarah Dickinson March 26, 2011 at 10:58 AM

sorry I see now in the instructions to cut the pork, sorry for the miss! Am making this now. My slowcooker only does low or high so confused there but with good ingredients it will turn out well either way I am sure. Thanks!

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Bebe March 25, 2011 at 12:48 PM

So I made this yesterday and we ate it for dinner I may have crowded the crockpot… mine never got brown, at all, even after several hours, and most of that time the temp was set on high. I did increase the amounts because my roast was over six pounds and I used about 3/4 of it. We have seven in our family: Grandma, Mom, Dad and four kids 17-11, so everything gets cooked in bigger-is-better amounts. I just put in what the crockpot would hold. The meat was completely covered in oil. (I used all coconut oil because that’s what I have.)
Do you think it was just too much volume? My crockpot is probably 15 years old too but it seems to still cook everything fine. It came out very tender and succulent, definitely needing more salt, but today it is GONE. ;)

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Bebe March 25, 2011 at 12:57 PM

This morning I mixed the soft pork in with lentils that had been cooked in bone broth, stirred in some salsa brava, made a bed of this mixture on a plate and topped it with fried eggs just gathered from our hens yesterday afternoon. Kind of like huevos rancheros without any tortilla… que bueno! 4HB legal, too.

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Sarah Dickinson March 26, 2011 at 5:52 PM

yes made mine tonight and it didn’t not brown or crisp at all either, but everyone still loved it!

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Monica March 26, 2011 at 12:33 AM

Hi from NZ I have just subscribed to your newsletter and am looking forward to the cooking classes I have joined. Keep up the good work. Monica

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Calvin March 27, 2011 at 7:38 PM

my carnitas did not brown but that doesn’t mean that the pork wasn’t juicy, tender and straight up delicious! still happy with the recipe…I love posts like these where the ingredients are minimal and so easy to make.

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riceinmay July 3, 2011 at 10:14 PM

Oh my goodness! As if I didn’t already love you enough!!!! I find this recipe :-D

I’m 4 months pregnant and CAN’T get enough of the carnitas at chipolte (at least it’s pastured meat). I think my husband may have signed me up for counselling if he saw one more chipolte charge on our bank account :-D

You’ve saved out budget! Can’t WAIT to try these!!!!

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Bethany July 12, 2011 at 6:23 AM

I need to buy a crock pot !

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Bethany July 12, 2011 at 6:24 AM

oh I just rendered my own lard for the first time too…

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greenmama February 26, 2012 at 11:54 AM

I haven’t been able to cook with lard until recently, since I didn’t have a good local source of woodlot pastured gmo-grain-free lard until the past month. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about trying this recipe, since I’ve never cooked with such a large amount of lard. But wow, it was so good! My husband (not a pork fan) loved it and cleaned his plate. We’re on GAPS so no grains for us, I served it on a bed of organic lettuce with homemade sour cream, homemade salsa, and the homemade guac, and with some yummy sauteed organic fajita veggies. SOOO good! I can’t wait until the side of pork that we ordered (from the same farm as the lard) comes in so we can have this again. Thanks for the great recipe!! :)

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Taylor July 17, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Do you think beef tallow would work? I have a ton of pastured tallow but I don’t have a source for quality lard :( would there be too much “beefy” flavor?

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Diane July 18, 2012 at 7:27 AM

Would beef tallow work too? I have a pint of lard and a pint of beef tallow and then I could use coconut oil to get the 6 cups in. Thanks in advance for the advice.

Diane

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