Pork Carnitas, Summer Comfort Food

By Riki Shore

Pork Carnitas

Summer is a great time of year for tacos, and tacos are good eats at any time of the day. A make-your-own-taco bar is a fun dinner with friends, which is what we did here. I’ve been known to eat the leftovers fried up in the morning for breakfast, topped with fresh slices of avocado.

The foundation is slow-cooked pork shoulder, or carnitas in Spanish, shown above with pickled red onions and homemade corn tortilla chips. Add some fresh salsas and guacamole, and you have a complete and delicious meal.

You can find all kinds of recipes these days for marinated, brined and braised boneless pork shoulder. I’m sure they all taste great, but I’m a believer in plain, slow-cooked pork. I think it brings plenty of flavor, and it couldn’t be simpler to make. I use my Rival slow cooker, which we originally bought to make homemade food for our old Springer spaniel, Hershey. True story! I had been making dog food (essentially beef stew) for years before it occurred to me to use the Rival for our own meals.

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can also make the pork in a heavy enamel casserole dish, covered, in a low oven. Just check for doneness more frequently to prevent the meat from drying out. The amounts below will easily feed 4 – 6 adults.


3.5 lbs boneless pork shoulder
1 white onion, cut into 6 pieces
3.5 teaspoons Kosher salt
3.5 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Cut the pork into 1.5-inch cubes and place in the bottom of the slow cooker.
2. Top the pork with the cut onions, salt and oregano.
3. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook 5 – 6 hours. The whole house will smell wonderfully of pork and the top of the cooker will just start to bubble. Now is the time to check for doneness. Using a slotted spoon, pull out one piece of pork and “cut” it with the same spoon. It should come apart easily, but still be lightly pink in the center.
4. When the pork is done, remove from the cooker to a plate using a slotted spoon and let cool. Discard the onion and fat.
5. Using your fingers, shred the pork meat. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and saute the pork to reheat and crisp the edges, about 4 – 5 minutes. Serve with garnishes below, salsa and guacamole.

This is what the meat looks like just before turning on the slow cooker:

Carnitas in the Slow Cooker

And this is what the pork looks like when it’s done, before I shredded it:

Cooked Carnitas


1 small red onion, cut into 1/8-inch slices
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
1/3 cup cider vinegar

1. Place the onion in a small pot covered with salted water. Bring to a boil, time 1 minute, then drain.
2. Place the parboiled onions back in the pot along with all the other ingredients. Add just enough water to barely cover the onions. Bring to a boil, time 3 minutes, then remove from the heat.
3. Pour the onions along with their brine into a glass jar with a tightly fitted lid. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. You can eat these within a few hours of making them, and they’ll keep, covered, in the fridge for up to two weeks.

A bowl of pickled red onions is gorgeous on the table:

Pickled Red Onions


I buy a stack of homemade, 100% corn tortillas from my favorite local tacqueria to start these chips. Cut each tortilla into 6 triangles. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the tortilla triangles in a single layer (work in several batches if need be). Fry until golden, then turn and cook the other side, about 3 – 4 minutes in all. Remove tortillas to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle liberally with Kosher salt. Serve immediately.

Here are a few more taco recipes for you to enjoy:


18 thoughts on “Pork Carnitas, Summer Comfort Food

    1. admin@threesquares Post author

      Yes, they are! I still remember the taco dinner you brought us in March of 2008 – YUM!

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  5. Ed

    Discard the fat?? Never! I either mix my fat into my stew, or save it for other dishes.

    Mmmmm fat… Especially naturally “seasoned” fat from being steeped with meat, onions, and spices.

    1. Kwanny

      Dairy is a grey area and it depends who you fololw in the paleo community. I don’t have it or use it often but am not 100% strict with cutting it out. If you google paleo and dairy you will find many arguments for and against. I think it’s important to decide where you stand with it and more importantly if you can tolerate any form of dairy. I know I don’t tolerate it well so keep it to a minimum. Parmesan is low lactose and so I tend to be fine with small amounts.

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  9. OW

    Riki: What happens if you don’t fry the shredded bits at the end? I’m just trying to avoid excess frying if possible even though I know a proper carnitas has crispy bits.

    1. admin@threesquares Post author

      Oliver: Nothing will happen at all, in fact, Rob prefers it that way. It’ll still taste delicious, just with a softer mouth feel.

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