orange zest carnitas

when it comes to pork, carnitas are definitely my favorite…after bacon, pork chops & baby back ribs, that is! when i have a busy week ahead of me, i love to whip up a big batch of carnitas. not only are they delicious, they are extremely versatile.

when i first started making carnitas, i could only find recipes that called for a lot of spices and liquid to cook the meat. i saw two problems with that: first, all those spices cover up the naturally delicious flavor of the pork itself; second, the lack of fat involved in cooking them isn’t an authentic method at all.

traditionally, carnitas are made when pork shoulder is slowly braised in lard, or rendered pork fat, with salt — making them essentially a pork confit. don’t get me wrong, i’m a firm believer that naturally-derived animal fats like lard are absolutely amazing and actually good for you (when sourced from pasture-raised animals). but my guess is that most of us don’t have access to organic grass-fed lard. if you do, feel free to use it in place of the coconut oil in this recipe!

quick, easy & flavorful carnitas

the other issue is the amount of time it takes to make carnitas. i don’t always have the forethought to begin cooking something several hours in advance. so i needed to find a way to make the carnitas quickly, but have them turn out as delicious as possible.

so i decided to craft my own recipe based on the traditional method using the amazing and magical instant pot (electric pressure cooker) to decrease cooking time by 90%! instead of a myriad of spices, i rely on garlic, onion, salt, limes, orange zest + juice & coconut oil. the result is an amazingly tender and flavorful batch of carnitas that you can use to make tacos, enchiladas, nachos, sandwiches, tamales, lettuce wraps, salads, scrambles, casseroles, the list goes on…

quick, easy & flavorful carnitas

don’t have an instant pot? don’t fret! you can absolutely make these in your slow cooker, just see the slow-cooker method below! i alternate between the instant pot and the slow cooker methods for this recipe, so i can tell you it’s absolutely delicious either way!

these carnitas are a real crowd pleaser, so don’t hesitate to make them for your next get-together. isn’t there some big national football event coming up soon? wink, wink

orange zest carnitas

original recipe my melisa slate

  • 3-4 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 4-5 thinner pieces (you can definitely ask the butcher to do this for you)
  • 1 onion, sliced into thick rings
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 orange, zested then juiced
  • 1-2 limes, juiced
  • 1 1/2 t salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 4 T coconut oil or lard
  • water or unsalted broth to prevent burning

instant pot method (don’t have an instant pot? check it out or get one here!)

  1. rinse pork and pat dry. sprinkle with a bit of salt.
  2. heat 1-2 T oil on the saute setting of the instant pot. add salted pork to pot and sear in batches, until crisp, browned and fragrant. remove meat and allow to rest on a rimmed cookie sheet or glass cutting board.
  3. turn off the instant pot, then add remaining oil and allow to melt. scrape brown bits off the bottom of the pot if necessary.
  4. place onions and garlic on the bottom of the pot in an even layer. place pork directly on top of onions in an even layer.
  5. pour orange + lime juice on top of the pork. sprinkle all over with 1 1/2 t salt and the zest.
  6. if necessary, add enough water or unsalted broth to reach the 1 c. minimum line for the instant pot (the liquid shouldn’t be deep enough to reach the pork).
  7. seal pot and set to manual for 45-50 minutes, using the natural release method at the end of cooking. pork should be tender and falling apart. if for some reason it’s not, set to manual for another 20 minutes, then use a towel over the valve for a quick release.
  8. remove pork, discarding onions, garlic, and any remaining liquid. gently shred pork and broil (or sear in a hot cast iron pan) for 5-10 minutes (until hot and just beginning to crisp up) before serving.
  9. alternately you can add the pork to any sauce of your choice (bbq, mole, green tomatillo, etc.) and heat before serving.

quick, easy & flavorful carnitas

slow cooker method

  1. rinse pork and pat dry. sprinkle with a bit of salt.
  2. heat 2 T coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. sear pork on both sides, until crisp, brown and fragrant. remove meat and allow to rest on a plate or glass cutting board.
  3. add 2 more T oil to the pan and allow to melt. transfer the oil to the crock of a slow-cooker, scraping out the browned bits from the pan as well.
  4. place onions and garlic on the bottom of the crock in an even layer. place pork directly on top of onions in an even layer.
  5. pour orange + lime juice on top of the pork. sprinkle all over with 1 1/2 t salt and the zest.
  6. add enough water or broth to *just* cover the onions. the liquid is to prevent burning and shouldn’t be deep enough to reach the pork.
  7. cook on high for 4-8 hours, until the pork is tender and falling apart. the cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the pork pieces. for large pieces err on the longer side, less time for smaller.
  8. remove pork, discarding onions, garlic, and any remaining liquid. gently shred pork and broil (or sear in a hot cast iron pan) for 5-10 minutes (until hot and just beginning to crisp up) before serving.
  9. alternately you can add the pork to any sauce of your choice (bbq, mole, green tomatillo, etc.) and heat before serving.

quick, easy & flavorful carnitas

quick, easy & flavorful carnitas

5 thoughts on “orange zest carnitas

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