Recipe: Pork carnitas by David Theiss

Pork carnitas, a traditional Mexican dish, is versatile and easy to prepare.

Pork carnitas, a traditional Mexican dish, is versatile and easy to prepare.

If you haven’t checked out the farmer’s market at 3rd and Curry on Saturday morning, add that to your list of to-dos. The fruit is ripe and delicious, the vegetables fresh, they’ve got fresh bread and pastries, excellent handmade potato chips, local honey, unique olive oils, fresh flowers, fresh shots of wheat grass, handcrafted knifes, unique jewelry, and a whole lot of ready-to-eat foods. At our booth, Butler Meats, we sample and sell some of the much loved products we manufacture. It’s a great place for our customers to try some of our new products or old favorites before they buy. We bring sausages, marinated chicken breasts, bacon, ham hock and beans. This week we will be sampling our new pork carnitas. We have done all the hard work for you. It’s fully cooked, a slow cook method with an extremely rich flavor, ready to eat.

Pork carnitas is the recipe for this week. Easy to make at home and extremely versatile and tasty.

Pork carnitas, a Mexican dish, is a slow cooked pork, usually pork butt. This meat is a shoulder piece, often called Boston butt, that has enough marble fat running through it to make it juicy and delicious. One version of history reports, campesinos (poor country farmers) prepared this delicacy in large copper pots, because of preparation time and the large quantity it made. It was often only made on special occasions, once or twice a year.

“Carnitas” literally means “little meats.” Prepared by slow cooking, this process breaks down the collagen and connective tissue in the meat and what’s left is extremely tender meat that falls apart into small pieces. Traditionally this meat was cooked in large amounts of lard, like being deep-fried. I’ve seen many recipes for carnitas with lots of steps, but this recipe I’m suggesting you try is easy and not a lot of work.

In my recipe, I don’t use any lard, as I certainly could use fewer calories. I don’t think it’s necessary as there’s no lack of flavor because the lack of the lard. The natural marbled fat and juices from this piece of pork surely make it delicious.

I was educated by a friend about pork carnitas. It doesn’t need to be overly seasoned or spicy as it’s meant to be a base meat and you can add your own heat with green chilies, etc. Common toppings for carnitas are salsa, onions, beans, guacamole, tomatoes, and cheese, to name a few. Once finished, it’s great for many types of dinners. The traditional ones are tacos, burritos, enchiladas, but try this also over white rice, toss with grilled vegetables, wonton meat filling, or as an open faced quesadilla with cheddar cheese melted on top. Any way you prepare it, it’s rich in flavor, easy to prepare, and oh so versatile.

Dry seasoning for rub


2 teaspoons granulated garlic

2 tablespoons Kosher salt (I like the big flakes to help season it correctly)

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Combine all dry seasonings and mix.

Pork carnitas


4-5 pounds pork butt large chunk (I prefer boneless for ease)

2 cups salsa verde (I prefer the mild version of this ingredient, but you can use a spicier versions if you can stand the heat)

1/4 cup water


Using dry seasoning, rub the pork butt generously on all sides.

Place meat into large crock pot, pouring salsa verde over the meat with 1/4 cup of water. Turn onto low and forget it for eight hours. (If crock pot lid isn’t real tight, increase water to 1/2 cup).

After eight hours, the meat has completely cooked and is ready to be forked apart (should be super tender). At this point it’s ready to eat.

If you’re interested in getting authentic carnita flavor after forking apart, turn the pork onto a sheet pan and place under broiler for five minutes or until crispy brown burnt crunchies appear and you’re ready to serve. Don’t forget: if you don’t want to do the work, it’s available at Butler’s all the time.

A simple recipe, and delicious. Hope you enjoy it, and see you at the farmer’s market!

David Theiss Owner of Butler Gourmet meats in Carson City.


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