18 January 2016


About a year ago, my boyfriend and I had grown tired of ordering carnitas taco (or plate) after carnitas taco (or plate) and being disappointed. Every place we entered - be it roadside taco truck or upscale Mexican restaurant - failed at wowing (or even, like, wooing) us. Not one place had put much thought into the flavor of the meat, and texture wasn't even an afterthought. To us, a true carnitas is a little limey, a little spice-y (the flavorful kinda spice), and crispy. The crisp factor is what we really longed for - so that when you bite into your taco, there's a synergistic reaction where the corn tortilla is soft and chewy and the meat is crispy and you are taken down this dichotomous road of soft and crispy - it's like the sweet and salty of textures.

So I decided to start making my own. It was a Sunday in November. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I had read enough traditional recipes and watched enough videos to give myself a basic understanding. I was so happy with my creation, I posted it on Instagram as #carnitassunday, and each subsequent Sunday that I have made carnitas has used that same hashtag.

Carnitas, like many Mexican-style meats, is very versatile. With the exception of Vapril (vegetarian + April) that I do each year, carnitas fits the macros of nearly any eating plan: high-fat-low-carb, Whole30 (being mindful of your meat quality), open diet (hopefully using homemade tortillas!), and anything in between. I find that Sunday is best day to make a carnitas. Done correctly - with the right amount of lime, garlic salt, and crispiness, your carnitas is a religious experience. If you get a big enough roast, you are guaranteed to have leftovers, which means the religious experience continues throughout the week.

Below, you will find my recipe, which isn't so much a recipe as it is a guideline. The best part about a carnitas is that it tastes different each and every time you make it - some days you will forget to buy an orange, other days you'll want to use star of anise to see how that tastes. There is no such thing as a bad carnitas (except for that one time I grossly overcooked mine).

I hope this recipe inspires you to start your own #carnitassunday tradition. 

Ingredients + Tools

  • Crockpot
  • 2-5 lb bone-in pork butt/shoulder
  • 1 white onion
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 orange
  • 6-10 limes
  • Organic or high-quality butter (ghee for Whole30 compliance)
  • Cumin
  • Coriander seeds
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried chile de arbol (ground chile powder is fine)
  • Salt-free garlic herb seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)
  • Garlic salt
  • Any toppings you like, dependent upon your method of consumption (tortillas for tacos, guacamole, salsa, cheese, pico de gallo, more limes, chopped cilantro and onion, pickled radish, etc.)


  1. Prepare the crockpot: chop the onion in random slices and line the bottom of the crockpot. 
  2. Prepare the herby dry rub: in a molcajete (if you have one, otherwise I recommend buying high-quality ground spices) combine your desired amount of coriander, cumin, chile de arbol, and salt-free garlic + herb seasoning. Grind the herbs until powdery (and enjoy the smell while doing so). The amount of powder needed is dependent upon your size of meat - eyeballing is fine. 
  3. Massage the meat: rub the mixtue all over the meat, covering it completely. I recommend using gloves and doing this in the basin of the crockpot itself to avoid a serious mess. 
  4. Add the citrus: squeeze the orange over the meat and leave the rinds in the crockpot while the meat cooks. Squeeze about 1.5 limes over the meat, being careful not to allow the juice to rinse the paste off the meat. 
  5. Take the whole garlic cloves and shove them into the crevices of the meat (sometimes it’s loose around the bone). 
  6. Shake oregano to cover the entire outside of the meat. 
  7. Set the crockpot to low and meat will be ready in 6-7 hours (for small roasts, aim for 6-6.5; larger ones aim for 7). 

Browning the Meat

Browning the meat is the most important step in the #carnitassunday process, and unfortunately many restaurants miss the crisping step. 
  1. Once the meat is cooked, (carefully) lift the meat out of the crockpot. Often, the meat is so tender that it slides right off the bone. Use caution when lifting the hot meat out of the crockpot. Hold on to the juices (there will be plenty) for later.
  2. Once the meat has cooled enough so that you can handle it with your fingers, begin shredding the meat into large chunks. Do not shred the meat too fine, as this will dispose of the juices that give the meat its flavor. 
  3. Heat up a skillet (preferably cast iron) on medium heat. Coat the skillet with a small amount of butter/ghee. 
  4. Once the skillet is almost smoking, add a large handful of meat to the skillet. The meat should sizzle and pop - this is good. Using a large spoon or ladle, scoop some of the juice from the crockpot onto the meat - this will add immense flavor. 
  5. Allow the meat to stay there until it is golden brown/almost burnt on one side (about 2-3 minutes). Flip over and brown the other side. 
  6. Place browned meat in a large bowl. Squeeze enough lime juice to lightly coat the meat and sprinkle garlic salt to taste. This is the only salt used on the meat, so keep this in mind when salting. 
  7. Continue until all the meat is browned. 
  8. (Optional) Save the leftover juice and onions from the roast (even the bone) and use as a base in your optional black bean side dish - you will not be disappointed in the flavor. 

Post your own #carnitassunday pictures to Instagram using that hashtag.

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