Carnitas – Mexican Roasted Pork


This post could also be titled, “Why I Can Probably Never Commit to Being a Vegetarian.”

The tale of the taco pictured above begins with a quick pass through one of the cookbooks I received for Christmas, Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales by Roberto Santibanez.

As you can see, it was a good year for the cookbook addicted. I have some serious reading to do…the Bouchon book is HUGE.

Anyway, some 40 pages in to the Mexican cookbook and I find the recipe for Carnitas – slow cooked, roasted, crispy pork goodness. I’ve never made carnitas before and may I just say, I was unprepared for how amazingly good it was. I’ve had perfectly fine carnitas in burritos here and there, but ohmygod, these were amazing. Jim and I stood in the kitchen eating little pork bits that were burn your mouth hot, directly from the pot. They made their way into tacos eventually, but I’ve never had pork this addictive before.

One small note – this is an easy recipe to make, however it will make a complete and total mess out of your pot. DO NOT use your best or favorite cookware for this dish. That the recipe says that the sides of the pot “might look dark” is the understatement of the year. I will just tell you, the pot was a HUGE MESS. With the help of overnight soaking, Barkeeper’s Friend, and half a bottle of Dawn Power Dissolver, I did get my pot clean and no long term harm was done. I will, however, be looking for ways to make this recipe without also making blackened cookware at the same time. If you have suggestions, PLEASE leave them in the comments.

That being said, you really should make these. I know that I over use the word, but these carnitas are awesome!

Here’s what you need:

Pork Shoulder Roast, Onion, Orange, Garlic, Oregano, Bay Leaves, Coke, Water, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Carnitas Shopping List

Yes, coke. According to the Roberto Santibanez, it’s the secret ingredient of carnitas. We happened to have some leftover from a party so why not give it a go.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Chopping – 1/2 of a medium onion and 6 cloves of garlic. Just a rough chop. These are going into the blender so no need for very much or very precise chopping.

Put the chopped onion, garlic, 1 Tablespoon dried Oregano, and 1 Tablespoon salt in a blender. Add 1/2 cup of water and blend until fairly smooth.

You’ll need a 4-5 pound pork shoulder roast also sometimes called a Boston Butt Roast. Don’t ask…the shoulder and butt are nowhere near each other and what the city of Boston has to do with pork, I just don’t know. My roast has the bone in but you can buy them boneless as well. Either one will work since we are going to cut the pork up into smaller chunks.

There is a thick layer of fat on one side of the Boston Butt roast. I cut about half of this fat away and trimmed any pieces of pork that had really big hard chunks of fat. Cut the roast into 3 inch chunks and discard the trimmed fat and bones.

Place the pork chunks in a large pot that is oven safe at high temperatures. Season it with pepper and pour the onion mixer from the blender in on top of the meat.

Pour in 1 cup of coke and stir to submerge the meat in the liquid.

Add 3 bay leaves and 1/2 of a large orange that has been cut into chunks. Cover the pan with a lid or two layers of foil and cook the meat at 450 degrees for 1½-2 hours.

This smells amazing as it cooks. Check on the meat after about 90 minutes and if most of the liquid has cooked away, remove the oranges and bay leaves from the pot. Leave the lid off  and continue to cook in the oven, stirring occasionally to brown the sides of the meat for 10-15 minutes more.

“The sides of the pot might look dark”….you think? As I said I had a mild panic when I saw this but thankfully I wasn’t using my really good (expensive) French Le Creuset dutch oven but a cheapo knock off one. Still, I wasn’t thrilled about the “sides of the pan might look dark” at all.

UPDATE:  If you want to avoid the blackened cookware of death, click HERE to go to a carnitas update for the slow cooker/foil pan method.

But the pork….so tender, SO flavorful, so fall apart amazing that you’ll eat it right out of the pan.

We made a little taco station with some flour tortillas, the carnitas, rajas – roasted poblano peppers in cream (recipe coming next), queso fresco, pico de gallo, and sliced avocado. Jim had a beer and if you look off to the left you can see the remnants of my gin and tonic.

My first taco was carnitas, pico, and a little cheese. Perfection.

Then I went all out with carnitas, pico, queso, rajas (so good) and avocado. Ridiculous.

Then I had to go pass out on the couch in a carnitas induced food coma.

Go find an old pot and make these. You’ll be happy you did.

Here’s the recipe – adapted from Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales by Roberto Santibanez


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14 Responses

  1. Holy carnitas, that is one TOTALLY BLACKENED PAN!!! I would have had a heart attack…! Must be the Coke in the recipe, don’t you think? Would the recipe work if you lined your pot with foil before putting the ingredients in? Remind me to send you a recipe I tried a few weeks ago for pulled pork tacos. Takes about 5 minutes to throw together, bakes up in a foil pack in your oven (no possibility of blackened pot massacre), and ridiculously tasty.

    1. Yes!!! Send me the recipe please! I’m working on alternative methods for making these again. They were SO good I don’t want to have the black pan stop people from making them. I’m thinking slow cooker is one option or maybe starting them on the stove and finishing them in the oven. I’ve looked at a gazillion carnitas recipes and most of them use a stove/oven combo so hopefully that spares the pot a bit….and spares the dishwasher…me.

  2. Since the meat doesn’t need to be browned, could this be cooked in doubled disposable foil pans and put it on a baking sheet?

  3. that is some black mess and has to be the sugar in the coke…. we have local pork and lamb in the freeze here- which is why I am not a vegetarian.
    We had lamb last night that was so good!
    I need pork recipes!

  4. I’m so happy you clued me in on the fact that your POT did come clean; scared me there.
    This looks amazing. I could eat mexican food every day of my life. Love love love!!!!

    1. Those brussels sprouts look delicious. I’m definitely giving them a try. Since you’re new to brussels sprouts, try salads with thinly sliced raw ones. So crunchy and good. I’ll hopefully get a recipe for a brussels sprouts slaw up sometime soon. I seriously need a day off.

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