Everyone who loves Mexican food needs a go-to carnitas recipe; mine’s mouthwatering, embarrassingly simple, and ever-so-versatile. Slow-roast your carnitas on a day you’ll be around the house, then portion and freeze what you don’t eat right away so that you can try all three of the serving suggestions below.  

Have you ever wondered why butchers use the term “pork butt” or “Boston butt” to refer to a hog shoulder?  Pre-Revolutionary Bostonians packed these cuts in ale and wine casks, typically using the second-largest size of cask, which was known as a “butt.”

Serves 8 to 12

  • 1 six to eight-pound blade-in hog shoulder, roughly cut into 2 to 3-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
  • 16 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (13-ounce), or 2 (7-ounce) cans chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 navel oranges, halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons organic light brown sugar
  • 3 to 4 cups homemade chicken stock

Cook The Pork:

Preheat the oven to 300° F.  Place the pork chunks in a large roasting pan with a lid.  Add the oil, salt, pepper, onion, and garlic; toss to evenly coat the meat.  Use your hand (wear a disposable latex glove, if you wish) to squeeze the chipotles in adobo and their liquid over the top of the meat.  Sprinkle the oregano over the mixture, then squeeze the orange halves over it and toss in the orange skins, as well.  Sprinkle on the brown sugar and pour in 3 cups of stock (you can add more later, if needed).

Roast, covered, for 5 hours, taking off the lid occasionally to stir.  Uncover, stir again, and add more stock if needed. Roast uncovered for an additional 2 to 3 hours, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the meat begins to caramelize and develop crispy brown edges on the top layer.  Serve immediately or hold in a 150-degree oven under tented foil.

Serving Suggestions:

Carnitas Torta (shown): Serve on toasted bolillo (or sub roll) with a swipe of chipotle mayonnaise on the top, a swipe of refried black beans on the bottom, and a topping of shredded cabbage. Serve with escabeche.

Carnitas Americano: Serve on a Kings Hawaiian or Kaiser roll, top with pickle and sliced white onion, and serve with your favorite barbecue sauce and a side of pinto beans.

Tex-Mex Carnitas: Serve on griddled corn tortillas and top with crumbled queso blanco or grated cheddar or Oaxacan cheese. Garnish with chopped green onion and cilantro and serve with lime wedges.