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Making Pork Carnitas without all the grease and WITH the flavor

Printable version here: Pork Carnitas

If you’ve ever had pork carnitas (shredded, deep fried pork) you know that the traditional way to make them is to deep fry them in lard. I don’t know about you, but this cowgirl has to watch her fat intake. So, is there really a way to make them WITHOUT lard WITHOUT losing the taste?



  • 1 onion
  • 3 lbs boneless pork butt (shoulder), cut into 2-inch cubes (I found that my local supermarket actually has it pre-chopped and labeled “Carnitas”)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 orange
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • kosher salt
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into three or four pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 275 degrees. Split the onion into quarters. Set aside.
  2. Season pork chunks with 1 tbsp salt and place in a 9×13 casserole dish. The pork should fill the dish with no spaces.
  3. Split orange into quarters and squeeze juice over pork, then nestle the orange pieces within the pork.
  4. Add 2 onion quarters, 4 cloves garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick pieces to casserole. Pour vegetable oil over surface.
  5. Result before going into the oven

  6. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook about 3.5 hours until pork is fork tender.
  7. Set strainer over large bowl. Using tongs, remove orange sections, cinnamon, bay leaves, onion, and garlic from pork. They won’t be needed again so you can dispose as desired.
  8. Transfer pork and liquid to strainer and let drain for 10 minutes. Transfer pork back to casserole dish.
  9. Using a flat spoon, skim fat from surface and add back to pork, then shred the pork into large chunks with fingers or two forks. Season to taste with salt.
  10. Turn on oven to Broiler setting and put casserole back in the oven to brown for six minutes. Remove casserole, stir up the pork with a spoon to expose new bits to heat, and broil again for 6 more minutes until crisp.
  11. Here is the result:

    Carnitas ready for tacos

    Now you can get a couple of tortillas, brown them in a pan or a comal and fill them up with carnitas. Garnish with whatever you like, guacamole, cheese, cilantro, onion, all are acceptable.


Garnished with cilantro and queso fresco. Yum.

You may think that adding a cinnamon stick, orange sections and juice, and bay leaves are unconventional, but they really did add to the flavor.

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