Carnitas are the ultimate taco filling, combining the rich succulence of pork confit with the crispy texture of cracklings. This recipe, from Melissa Hom, utilizes pork three ways: meaty pork shoulder, fatty pork belly, and pure pork fat: lard. It’s also crazy quick, especially if you own a pressure cooker.
Pair these carnitas with our recipe for homemade cast iron tortillas, and you have everything you need for a blow-out taco dinner.
Leftover carnitas freeze well and are great in breakfast hashes, burritos, grain bowls, and more.
If you want to make a smaller batch of carnitas, halve the recipe, using 3 pounds of pork belly.
If you can’t find skin-on pork shoulder or belly, your carnitas will still be delicious, but the skin adds lots of collagen and body to the finished product, giving you that slightly stick, cling-to-your-lips texture.
4 pounds pork shoulder (bone-in, skin on)
2 pounds pork belly (skin on)
2 pounds lard
1 medium onion, halved
1 medium orange, halved
12 ounces Coca-Cola
2 large guajillo chiles
3 tablespoons ground cumin
Corn tortillas, for serving
Topping options: diced white onion, tomatillo salsa, cilantro, sliced radishes, pickled cabbage, guacamole, diced tomatoes
Dry the pork shoulder and season all over with salt. Melt the lard in a large saucepan, Dutch oven, or 6-quart pressure cooker. Add the pork belly, lard, onion, orange, Coca-Cola, chiles, cumin, and 3 tablespoons salt. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover, and cook over low heat for 4 hours, or until very tender and easily shredded with a fork (if using a pressure cooker, cook on high for 90 minutes). Let cool, then pour off the fat, reserving 1 cup of lard for crisping the pork (by all means, save the leftover lard for another use). Discard the pork skin, bone, and aromatics.
Add the reserved lard to a No.8 (10 ¼) cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Transfer the pork to the pan. Using a metal spatula, separate the pork into large chunks across the grain, flattening the meat to ensure good contact with the skillet for a crispy sear. Season with salt. Cook the pork, using the spatula to cut the larger pieces into smaller ones until you end up with small chunks of shredded, crispy pork, 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve the carnitas with tortillas and your desired toppings.
Melissa Hom is a food, restaurant, interior, and portrait photographer born and raised in New York City.