Mexican Dad’s Traditional Slow-Cooked Pork Carnitas

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Ingredients:

2-pound pork butt

1 tablespoon lard (or enough to coat the skillet)

3 ounces of orange juice

3 ounces of Coca Cola

3 ounces of milk

salt (to taste)

Cookware:

large skillet 

slow cooker

chef’s knife

tongs

Instructions:

1. Cut your pork into 3”x 3” pieces, give or take. 

woman cuts pork butt into small pieces
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia

2. Place a large skillet over medium heat and once hot, add the lard. Once the lard is melted, brown the pork pieces on all sides. 

adding lard to the skillet
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia
browning pork butt in a skillet with lard
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia

3. Place the pork pieces and all their juices into a slow cooker. Add salt to taste; I usually put about 3 pinches. 

adding the browned pork butt into the slow cooker with tongs
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia
adding salt to the pork butt in the slow cooker
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia

4. Add the orange juice for citrus, the coca cola to caramelize, and the milk to tenderize.  

adding orange juice to the slow cooker with the pork
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia
adding Coca-Cola to the pork in the slow cooker
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia
adding milk to the pork in the slow cooker
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia

5. Cover the slow cooker with a lid and set it to ‘low.’ 

6. Cook until the internal temp is 145 degrees and the carnitas easily fall apart (about 5 hours).

finished plate with pork carnitas on a tortilla with pico de gallo
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia

About This Recipe

“I sat in for you this Christmas at Aunt Becky’s house. You missed out on some really good carnitas,” my older sister teased me, as I lived six hours away from home, residing in Hawaii. For five years I missed out on my dad’s carnitas, a staple of our family Christmas dinners. 

family stands together wearing chef hats
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia

On most Christmases, my dad would bring a platter full of this delicious and succulent pork dish. It was one of the dishes my family looked forward to, nestled among the tamales, red chile with pork, and homemade tortillas. We’d sing karaoke, the kids would have a talent show, and we’d play White Elephant. On one occasion, my cousins convinced my youngest cousin to choose a wrapped package that ended up being his own shoes he wore to the party. He wasn’t very happy about it, but us brat kids sure thought it was hilarious. By the time the party was finished, I’d be in a food coma filled with carnitas and ready for Santa to visit.  

daughter looks lovingly at her father while he holds a guitar smiling
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia

At the age of 16, my dad drove over the border in a corvette to begin a new life in the U.S. He started off as a humble dishwasher, but ever since I’ve been alive, he’s been owning and operating Mexican restaurants. As a child, I was that impish kid that would confidently walk behind the servers’ station, grab a tray, and pretend I was a waitress. On occasion, my dad would let me feel very important by taking people’s orders.

old picture of woman's grandparents standing near a car
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia

Carnitas come from Michoacán, which is where my paternal grandparents are from. I only saw my abuela a handful of times, and I never had the chance to meet my abuelo. In a way, cooking my dad’s recipe for carnitas makes me feel close to them. It’s part of my heritage.

grandparents hold each other close while dancing
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia

Traditionally, carnitas are made in a copper pot with just lard and salt. Since most of us don’t own a copper pot, my dad taught me a super simple recipe using a slow cooker and a handful of ingredients. It’s perfect, wrapped in a warm corn tortilla with a little bit of homemade guacamole or pico de gallo.

Woman looks lovingly at her father while he sings her happy birthday
Courtesy of Marissa Mejia
finished plate with pork carnitas on a tortilla with pico de gallo

Traditional Mexican Slow-Cooked Pork Carnitas Recipe

This succulent pork slow-cooker recipe brings you a super simple dish originating from the heart of Mexico.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 5 hrs
Total Time 5 hrs 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican

Equipment

  • large skillet
  • slow-cooker
  • Chef’s knife
  • Tongs

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lb. pork butt
  • 1 tbsp. lard
  • 3 oz. orange juice
  • 3 oz. Coca Cola
  • 3 oz. milk
  • salt (to taste)

Instructions
 

  • Cut your pork into 3”x 3” pieces, give or take.
  • Place a large skillet over medium heat and once hot, add the lard. Once the lard is melted, brown the pork pieces on all sides. 
  • Place the pork pieces and all their juices into a slow cooker. Add salt to taste; I usually put about 3 pinches. 
  • Add the orange juice for citrus, the coca cola to caramelize, and the milk to tenderize.  
  • Cover the slow cooker with a lid and set it to ‘low.’ 
  • Cook until the internal temp is 145 degrees and the carnitas easily fall apart (about 5 hours).
Keyword Carnitas, pork, slow-cooker

This recipe was submitted to Love What Matters by Marissa Mejia. You can follow her on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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