Beer Braised Pork Carnitas
This tasty recipe for Beer Braised Pork Carnitas is so simple to make and very much a hands off recipe. The seasoned pork simmers with onion, garlic, bay leaf, and orange until falling-apart tender and crispy. Excellent in burritos, tacos, or on its own. It’s the perfect combination of juicy and crispy with delicious seasoning, and it can be made in the oven, Instant Pot or slow cooker. Once you have your pork cut and ready to go it only takes 5 minutes of prep and its ready to be cooked, then shredded and then broiled until crisp (optional but recommended). It keeps well, freezes well, and reheats well so make sure to make the full batch so you can have some extra for another day.
What are Carnitas?
Carnitas — which means “little meats” in Spanish — is a Mexican pork dish. Pork is slow cooked/braised or simmered for several hours with seasonings and lard until it is so tender that is can be shredded. At the end of cooking, the meat is roasted to make it crisp. This confit method yields pork that’s so rich and tender but most of us don’t have that much lard if any lard at home to cook it in this manner but there is a nice and easy way to make them without it. It may not be as authentic but its still undeniably delicious. It has to do with the cut of pork you use.
What cut of pork is best for carnitas?
The best kind of pork for these carnitas is either pork shoulder or pork butt. This cut of pork has streaks of fat to keep things moist and juicy while it cooks, and one that can stand up to and benefit from a lower temperature and long cooking time. Essentially that fat sort of melts and creates delicious pan juices for the pork to cook in. It’s high fat content sort of mimics braising in the lard. I made this carnitas recipe in partnership with Metro and was happy to share a beloved simple recipe using Ontario pork, and their Selection brand flour tortillas - the perfect recipe for national beer day. It’s braised in beer and it’s also perfect served with a cold tall one too.
How to make beer braised pork carnitas:
This is quite simple. There are three steps to the perfect carnitas.
- BRAISE the pork with the seasonings (pick method you want to use below)
- Remove pork from braising liquid and SHRED
- CRISP up the shredded pork - brush with braising liquid and broil or continue cooking a few extra minutes until edges are nice and crisp (this can be done in the oven or on the stove top). Then serve and enjoy!
What do I serve my carnitas with?
I think carnitas is delicious enough on its own. Seriously I eat it right out of the pan. But if i was to chose my favorite toppings for the carnitas in my tacos I would have to say keep it simple with chopped red onions, chopped cilantro, crumbled cotija or feta, and a squeeze of lime. Other toppings include salsa, chopped tomatoes, guacamole, pico de gallo or really just about anything you like to have on your tacos.
How do you serve pork carnitas?
They are so delicious and so versatile. My favorite way to devour carnitas is tucked in soft, warm tortillas as tacos (as shown) as well as heaped atop rice and beans. Whatever you decide I’m sure you will enjoy! Here are a few other ways to enjoy carnitas:
- In burritos
- Over crunchy tortilla chips - great on my Sheet Pan Nachos Supreme
- For brekkie. They would be perfect in my Easy Skillet Chilaquiles (Chilaquiles Rojos)
- In enchiladas or quesadillas- perfect in my Easy One Pan Cheesy Enchiladas
- As sliders - why not - Mexican style pulled pork sliders for the win!!
- 3-4 lbs pork shoulder or pork butt cut into 2 inch cubes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 Dried Mexican Ancho Chili soaked, drained, seeds and stem removed and minced (optional)
- 1 yellow onion peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 5 whole cloves (or ½ teaspoon ground clove)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups beer
- Juice of one lime
- 1 medium size orange cut into wedges
- 1 package of Selections original flour tortillas
- Chopped tomatoes
- Chopped red onions
- Chopped fresh Cilantro
- Lime wedges
- Crumbled cotija cheese or feta
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- In a large roasting pan, toss the sliced pork with all the spices, cloves, chopped chili, garlic, onion and lime juice.
- Add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and orange wedges to pan then pour in the beer over the meat.
- Cover and let braise for 2.5 hours
- Uncover and toss meat in pan to coat with the pan juices and continue to braise for another 20-30 min until exposed meat is deeply golden with crispy edges.
- Remove meat from pan juices with slotted spoon (reserving some to drizzle on when serving if desired) then place in a bowl and shred meat using two forks.
- For extra crispy edges place shredded meat onto baking sheet (discarding large fatty pieces) brush with the liquid (approx ½ cup) from the pan and continue roasting about 10-15 min more or until your desired crispness. Broiling for the last few minutes if desired. (Optional)
- Toast or warm your tortillas then top with warm carnitas and serve with chopped tomatoes, red onions, chopped cilantro, crumbled cotija and with lime wedges.
- Storage: Shred pork but don’t pan fry. Keep pork and juice separate, refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months (for freezer, I put pork in containers/ bags and put juice in ziplock bags in the same container). Gently reheat juice to make it pourable (congeals when cold). Pan fry per recipe, drizzling with juice.
For INSTANT POT carnitas:
- Place pork in the instant pot with all the rest of the ingredients.
- Place cover on instant pot and seal. Cook on high pressure for approx 40 minutes for 3 lbs. Allow natural pressure release for 10 minutes and manually release the pressure.
- Remove cover and then use a slotted spoon to remove the meat not a baking sheet and shred the pork. Serve as is or for those crispy edges I recommend brushing shredded meat with the liquid (approx ½ cup) from the pot then place under the broiler a few mintiest until the edges are nice and crisp.
For SLOW COOKER carnitas:
- Toss everything in the slow cooker, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 6 to 8 hours, or until the pork is tender and falls apart then process as above.
TO CRISP ON STOVE TOP:
- Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a non stick pan or cast iron skillet over high heat. When pan is hot, add pork in batches of two or three, and sear until just beginning to crisp. Pour over about ½ cup of left over liquid, and continue cooking until the juices begin to reduce down and the meat is nice and crispy.