June 14, 2006


Slow cooked pork, simmered for hours in spices, brown sugar, chipotle peppers – and coca-cola? It isn’t anything Thomas Keller will ever serve, and it may not exactly adhere to the traditional methoda, but it works. Carnitas is braised or simmered pork that’s browned, cooked over low heat for several hours, pulled or cut apart and then (glory be) fried till  crisp. You scoop a greasy pile of it onto a hot corn tortilla, add a little cilantro, some chopped onions, and squeeze a wedge of lime over the whole mess. It seems that there are as many ways to cook this dish as there are tortillas to serve it on, but this is what we’ve found works for us. It’s pretty simple – the only trick is to cook the pork as long as you can at low temperature. Make sure you use enough liquid in the beginning and resist the urge to keep opening the pot lid to check on it.

3 lbs. pork shoulder
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 tbs salt
1 tbs ground pepper
1 tbs paprika
1 tbs cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 large dried chipotle peppers
1/2 can coke
1/2 cup milk
2 tbs brown sugar

Trim the fat and silverskin from the roast and cut it into a few manageable pieces. Preheat the oven to about 250 degrees. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep, heavy stock pot (with a lid) for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. While it’s getting hot, mix in the spices together on a plate and roll the pork in them. Gently place the pork chunks in the hot oil and sear all sides until browned. Cover, plop it into the oven and cook for an hour. Add the brown sugar, coke, milk, garlic, bay leaves and chipotle. Continue cooking for about another hour. It’s done when the pork starts to fall apart when poked with a spoon. Remove the meat from the stockpot with a slotted spoon and shred it into smaller chunks. Remove any solids (peppers) from the pan and heat the remaining juices over medium heat. Fry the meat in this until it begins to crisp, and all the liquids are gone. Serve with warmed corn tortillas, chopped fresh cilantro, wedges of lime, and diced red onion.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 serena June 17, 2006 at

wow, this really just looks soo delicious. i definitely have to try this myself next week :)

2 spline9 June 17, 2006 at

Man, this makes my mouth water (along with the other images in the blog). I havent had good carnitas in a long time. This looks easy enough that I can give it a shot. Since I’m quite the cooking novice, would you make any adjustments if I were to use a slow-cooker?

3 Anne June 18, 2006 at

Oh, this looks incredible. I’ve never had carnitas, but now I’m dying to try it!

4 Kate June 18, 2006 at

This looks absolutely delicious. Carnitas are one of the “chosen foods”, and you’ve represented it VERY well. Thanks!

5 F Fuentes June 21, 2006 at

That looks absolutely delicious! I would love to make it (and probably will tonight), but that’s an aweful lot of oil used in this recipe. Any ideas of making this a bit more “healthier?” Thanks!

6 john June 22, 2006 at

ok. i made this recipe for a potluck -try it out on others b4 you try it on yourself ;>)

i used half the vegie oil, no bay leaves, more oregano, some cumin, and canned chipotles instead of dryed.

the result – pure heaven! reminds me of the taquerias in chicago. yum! i guess that means i ate it first. and cheap to boot – about $9 feeds at least 10 peeps.

-cleveland, OH

7 john June 22, 2006 at

oh yeah, and after searing in a pan, i slow cooked the meat in a slowcooker…

8 jcockman June 26, 2006 at

A slow coooker is a great way to go, the slower the better. For that I use more liquid in the beginning, and am more careful with the hot chiles. It’s also easy to dry out meat in a cooker, so I’d cook it on the low or on the “auto” setting if your cooker has one. I’d definitely encourage trying different amounts and even types of spices. It’s hard to add too much cumin to anything, IMHO. The origial, more traditional carnitas recipes I’ve found all call for lard, and lots of it. I’ve found the amount of oil/lard/butter varies a lot with the fat content of the pork. The fattier the meat, the less oil you need to add to make up for it.

9 slackline radio November 16, 2006 at

I couldn’t resist this one for tonight’s playlist. It reminds me of my college days running off The Drag in Austin to get some tacos at one of the local curbside vendors. Thanks for the memory.


10 Denise August 31, 2007 at

How much brown sugar? I am making it tomorrow…

11 jcockman August 31, 2007 at

Denise, good catch. 2-3 tables spoons depending on the amount of pork.

12 adam August 31, 2007 at

Anyone know how I could adapt this to a cut of boston pork butt? Would cutting it into chunks make it tastier since it would absorb more flavor? Or would it make it more likely that the meat would dry out?

jared says: adam, boston pork butt is one of the better choices – any piece of fatty pork works well. I’ve even tried it with beef, and the fattier cuts work the best. I cut mine into larger chunks, otherwise it tends to break up more than I like when you get to the fry/sautee step.

13 anna February 28, 2008 at

My sister-in-law made this for a family birthday party and it was AMAZING!! Everyone ate so much that we skipped the games to just sit around on the couch. we couldn’t stop eating it.what an awesome recipe.

14 Nicole May 8, 2008 at

LOVE this recipe! It has made the rounds in our repertoire of recipes. Have to say the taste is unreal, absolutely amazed. Thank you for sharing! On a side note, as a former Alaskans we miss Mexico in Alaska Salsa.

15 Terry May 9, 2008 at

This recipe was easy and Fantastic. I misread it and ground up the chipotle peppers and garlic and applied to the spice mixture, instead of adding it later, and it came out great!! I would recommend a nonstick pan, as before we could get it crispy enough it kept sticking. I also served it with guacamole, sour cream and mexican crumbled cheese which made it extra special, defiinately worth making!!

16 Deb Gideon May 13, 2008 at

You mention butter, brown sugar but there isn’t anything in the receipt for amounts. Is this the secret you are not sharing?

jared says: Deb, you caught me. Writing with pinot in hand is dangerous. I updated the recipe to account for the brown sugar – I add 2 tablespoons when I add the coke and milk. The butter is optional at the same time. I’ve stopped adding it, trying to lighten things up…

17 Vicki June 24, 2008 at

I made this tonight and this is the best tasting meat I have ever had! It is just divine and I served it with fresh salsa, a bit of shredded cheese, and a dollop of sour cream (we tend to Dairy Queen it up at my house) and it was a huge hit!! Great recipe!

18 Michael July 2, 2008 at

Carnitas is always a winner and this is easy.

19 Shera July 3, 2008 at

Wow! I searched for an authentic recipe minus some lard and this was it. I made 20 lbs of this for a backyard party in May and it was a huge hit. Time consuming recipe, but the meat is incredible. Making it again for the 4th, but just 4 lbs!

20 Tracy November 9, 2008 at

“HUGE HIT” in my house hold, the kids wanted the left overs for breakfast! Will be a eating this again really soon. Added Crumbled Cotija cheese, really good.

21 Chirstian December 22, 2008 at

I’ve been making a recipe just like this ever winter. I learned from Big Ray Rector a great napa valley local from my home town of St. Helena. I add oranges cut in half and beef broth and boil the seared but still on the bone. I makin’ dem right now. 12 pounds. Funky Christmas party

22 Mike January 3, 2009 at

I have made carnitas many times in the past, but this recipe is by far the best. I have tried to change things up a bit, because that is what I do. My wife says I should leave it alone, it is awesome just by the recipe. I share this recipe and website with anyone I get into cooking conversations with and they have all reported back with raves and have made it a staple in their menu rotations. My 12 year old son, who recently passed away (31 Aug), could eat his body weight of this wonderful dish. In fact he would often request it after heavy chemo days. I like to call them Keeghan’s Carnitas, I think it has a nice ring to it.

I Just spent the last hour reading about Keeghan. I haven’t the words…
Thanks for your kind note. …


23 jonathan January 12, 2010 at

how i could not have found your blog/recipes any sooner is a mystery. beautiful photos, excellent prose.
i’d like to try this one this weekend, but am looking for some clarification. in the intro to this recipe you write “make sure you use enough liquid in the beginning…”, yet it appears that no liquid is added until after the first hour of slow-roasting. so, the brown sugar, coke, milk, eyc. is added AFTER the first hour? so sue me – i’m a stickler. please let me know, and keep up the fine work. i’ll be back ;^)

24 susan January 21, 2010 at

Just curious what the milk adds to the recipe… any suggestions for a substitution if I cannot eat dairy?

25 shane January 31, 2010 at


I dont know what the milk adds, but I have seen other carnitas recipes that call for it. We cook ours in a crock pot…about an our per pound. We use lactaid and coke Zero…..and it tastes WONDERFUL. We cook this and some homemade refried beans and eat on it all week long. The ingredients for this, a 7lb butt on sale, and refried beans comes to about $15 and we can get 10-12 meals out of it! I dont use the chipotle peppers either. I also braze the pork in a cast iron skillet with garlic before it goes in the crock pot.

26 jared February 7, 2010 at

It adds a creamy texture, but I’ve done it without it. The biggest change I’ve noticed is int he color of the cooked pork.

27 virgil July 9, 2011 at

does the milk curdle?

28 Liz October 4, 2011 at

Holy Smokes, this is good!!!! I am heating the corn tortillas now and sneaking bites of the meat! Yummy!! My Latin Love is gonna gobble this up!!!
Thanks for the great recipe! My mama in law will be so proud!

29 805mike March 7, 2012 at

OK….can I just say that the carnitas are SCREAMING….I choose this recipe because it didn’t require a pot full of lard which demands attention. This was my first time and plan to try the lard technique another day maybe? This recipe is awesome!!!! I did add 30 minutes to second hour in oven because I added lil more fluids to cover meat. Always pepsi (not coke), 1 sliced orange, and 1- habenero. I then removed the solids prior to returning the carnitas to the stove top. I love cilantro so added 1/2 bunch of chopped cilantro, then reduce the liquid, sat the carnitas overnight and could not wait to have a taste of dinner for breakfast :) …..this is an easy recipe and a KEEPER

30 Carolina Hansen June 4, 2012 at

These are the best!!! easy and so tasty. I cook it at 250 for 4-5 hrs. Um um good!

31 smidls October 1, 2012 at

OMG, dude, these are good! I couldn’t find the dried chipotle so I left it out. Still scrumptious. Thank you!

32 Cindy Epperson October 7, 2012 at

I discovered this recipe several years ago and never took the time to say thank you for sharing. This is the absolute best and I have made it using several cuts of pork and even with tenderloin it is to die for. Thanks much.

33 Renee September 21, 2013 at

I have made this 3 or 4 times and it is perfect every time. I do it in a slow cooker and add a little cinnamon with the brown sugar. The first time, I didn’t read the comment about reducing the chipotle and it was SMOKING hot. I learned that lesson and have it dialed in now. It is a family favorite already and great for big groups.

34 Stephanie October 22, 2013 at

I made this delicious recipe tonight… it’s just about done now… Only thing I would probably change is the brown sugar, it’s pretty sweet, a little too much for my liking, and I’m a sugar freak. The coke is enough for the sweetness, i think, I’m from Los Angeles, and I’m mexican, so I guess you could say im somewhat of an expert, lol.. But otherwise, yum yum!!!
Thanks for this! i will make it again next time

35 Anna November 25, 2013 at

Ive made this (minus the chipotle,peppers cuz i didnt have any) and it was the best carnitas ive ever tasted! Delicious!

36 Crystal April 16, 2017 at

Still a go to recipe.. after all these years!!
So Yummy!

37 Michael Dietz May 10, 2017 at

I have been working on my mexi food ( Carne Asada, Chicken, Rice and Beans) for a long time and most of my foods rock. I have added this to my arsenal and let me tell you. People just love it. Thank you so much for your recipe ……..

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