JOIN! 12 Weeks for $1


4 to 6 Servings

4 hours 45 minutes active

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Authentic Mexican carnitas involve slow-cooking pork in lard until fall-apart tender, then increasing the heat so the meat fries and crisps. The fried pork then is broken into smaller pieces for eating. In the U.S., however, carnitas usually is made by simmering pork in liquid, then shredding the meat. The result is moist and tender, but lacks intense porkiness as well as the crisping traditional to carnitas. Our method melds the two techniques. We cook cubes of pork shoulder in 1 cup each of neutral oil and water, along with spices and aromatics, until the meat is fork-tender. We then break the pork into smaller pieces, moisten it with its own juices, and fry it in a hot skillet. The pork gets to keep its flavor and develop crisp bits. If you have a fat separator, it makes quick work of removing the fat from the cooking liquid: pour the liquid into it after removing the pork from the pot, then return the defatted cooking liquid to the pot, but remember to reserve the fat. You can cook, shred and moisten the pork with the reduced cooking liquid up to three days in advance; fry the pork just before serving so it's hot and crisp. And if you like your carnitas extra-crisp, after browning the first side, use the spatula to flip the pork and cook until the second side is well-browned and crisp, another 5 to 7 minutes. You can serve carnitas simply with rice and beans or make tacos with warmed corn tortillas. Either way, pickled red onions are a must—their sharp acidity perfectly balances the richness of the pork. Also offer sliced radishes and salsa, such as our tomatillo-avocado salsa.

4 to 6



Don't trim the fat from the pork shoulder. The pork should render its fat in the oven and so the meat cooks slowly in it and the juices. And after cooking, don't discard the fat you skim off the cooking liquid—you'll need some of it to crisp the shredded pork in a hot skillet.

4 hours

45 minutes active


  • 5-6

    pounds boneless pork butt, not trimmed, cut into 2-inch cubes

  • 1

    large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced


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Richard H.
October 2, 2022
I have made this several times and I love it. I use a bone in pork butt that I can pick up on sale for around .99 a pound. I debone, cut and cook with the bone on top in a large dutch oven. I also defat with a fat separator. I vacuum seal 1 lb portions with a small package of the reserved fat for crisping when used. The last time I made this, I smoked the whole butt at a low temp for an hour before cooking. I make my tacos with the pork on a bed of finely shaved cabbage topped with salsa, pickled red onions and a little crumbled cotija cheese. Fantastic.
Zach A.
December 31, 2022
Excellent as always
Just put another batch in. Such a great recipe.
Ellin S.
November 10, 2022
Perfect Make-ahead Meal
Made the fast version and stored the shredded meat separately from juices and fat. Used pork sirloin tips so I didn’t have a lot of fat to work with when I crisped the meat up the next day, but was still delicious and perfect luncheon with friend. Served with the same episode’s recipe for the pickled onions (so easy especially when slicing with a mandolin) and the tomatillo salsa, both of which were also prepared in advance. In addition to corn tortillas, I sliced up a jicama as a lower carb version of tortilla. Rave reviews from my friend who is also a fan of your show and recipes. This is a keeper for stress-free make-ahead future entertaining. Thank you!
Matt M.
June 13, 2022
Amazing Carnitas
I have made this recipe about 5 times now. It is simply amazing! I have learned that it is really important to follow every step precisely and you will have amazing tacos! Don't forget to use NON-STICK when getting that last sear. Unbeknownst to me, the crispy edges work WAY better in a non-stick pan. I didn't even own one but it was well worth the $12 purchase just for these tacos!
Hilel G.
January 6, 2024
An absolute banger
This recipe is great. Not too much work. Comes out perfect every time. Freezes well. Love this recipe. Make it a day ahead every time.
Sandra S.

Really delicious and recipe spot-on--only real challenge was separating out the fat from the cooking liquid

Michael G.

I used a fat separator that I have for Thanksgiving... took the hassle out of using the ladle, but it was one more thing I had to wash

Michael G.

So this recipe was great! I was super excited, I made tomatillo and chili salsa to go with it. Family loved it!

Julie P.

delicious. The tacos were great; we used left overs folded with scrambled eggs served with hashbrowns. Yum.

David C.

What I do is spread the meat out on a sheet pan and broil it in the oven until the meat edges start to crisp up. A skillet works well too, but may require more oil.

Pam D.

Good gracious! These were fabulous. Can’t comment further. In desperate need of a contented nap.

Gregg C.

Great recipe and delicious carnitas... after draining the fat I didn't have any cooking liquid left, but they were still moist and very flavorful. Used part to make enchiladas, part for tacos and part to serve at breakfast with eggs.

Mary S.

I'm planning to feed a crowd and debating between by dutch oven and the instant pot. I see both recipes are very similar, except one recipe calls for 3 lbs of pork butt and one calls for 5-6 l bs - yet they both feed 4-6. 5-6 Lbs of boneless meat seems like it would feed a lot more than 4-6 people.

Lynn C.

Hi Mary -

I would definitely go with the traditional recipe. I agree that the 5-6 lbs. of meat should feed more like 6 to 8 people. The traditional recipe is relatively hands-off so I don't think you will find much difference in terms of the work involved between it and the Instant Pot version.

The Milk Street Team

John J C.

This was one of the more surprising Milkstreet recipes. It seemed like chaos while preparing so I completely doubted it would turn out but was very good.
I added two whole guajillo peppers broken in half to add some smokiness (I'll add 3-4 next time).
In my case the oven time was a little long so the pork was ever so slightly dry but still very good.

Kimberly H.

I live in San Diego and this recipe is spot on for carnitas! It takes time, but is super simple. Yum!