Monday, July 21, 2014

Slow Cooker Carnitas

A few years ago I took a trip to Mexico and I was looking forward to devouring the local cuisine. As it turned out my ecologically pristine resort was the only structure for miles. The resort hosted a lot of Canadians and I wonder if that is why they tried to cook American/Canadian types of food everyday. The food was edible but definitely not anything to get excited about. During my week long visit they only prepared authentic Mexican food ONE night. When I boarded the airplane to come home I was sad because I didn't get the week long authentic Mexican feast I was hoping for.

Luckily in Idaho there are several fantastic Mexican restaurants and I fall in love all over again with every dish I eat. I rarely order the same dish twice because I love trying new flavors and interpretations of everyday ingredients. Street tacos is absolutely one of my favorite dishes and although I've had them with steak and chicken, carnitas are my favorite.

Definition of Carnitas from

Mexican for "little meats," this dish is simply small bits or shreds of well browned pork. It's made from an inexpensive cut of pork that's simmered in a small amount of water until tender, then finished by cooking the pieces in pork fat until nicely browned all over. Carnitas are usually eaten with SALSA and are sometimes used as the filling in TACOS and BURRITOS.
© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.
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Before I set out to make carnitas I found a recipe on 

The initial recipe called for a 4 pound boneless pork shoulder roast and a cooking time of 10 hours. Using pork stew meat and a crock pot setting on high I was able to create very tender pork that fell apart in only 4 hours. A 2 pound package of stew meat fed my husband and I carnitas tacos on two separate occasions. We didn't make any rice or beans, just tacos. So I definitely believe this could be an inexpensive dish for a larger family if rice, beans, or even a salad were included as a side dish. For those who do not eat pork this recipe also works well for chicken. I'm not sure how authentic this recipe is but I think it is a pretty good match to the carnitas I love so much.

When it comes to buying pork I recommend buying from either a farmers market or a local butcher shop where you can ask questions about the raising of the pig. Sadly factory farms don't have the best reputation for the treatment of pigs, or other animals for that matter, so get to know where your meat comes from and what's been done to it.


  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 lbs of pork stew meat
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Combine the dry ingredients and toss the pieces of pork in the mixture. Add the seasoned pork to a slow cooker with 2 bay leaves and pour 2 cups of chicken broth around the edges. The chicken broth should be deep enough to see from the top of the pot but not covering the pork. If the pork is going to cook during an 8 hour work day set it on low. To shorten the total cooking time set the crock pot on high and it will be ready 4 hours later. One of the great things about this recipe is that pork becomes more tender the longer it cooks. I'm not saying to cook it for 24 hours but a few extra hours on either setting definitely won't ruin your dish.

Drain some of the juice from the pork before adding it to either corn or flour tortillas. In my local supermarket I can purchase locally handmade tortillas which are phenomenally better if you can find them. Typically street tacos are topped with chopped white onion and fresh cilantro with a lime wedge on the side. (I thought I had cilantro in the refrigerator but it turned out that I didn't.) Trust me, squeeze the lime juice over the taco and I promise you won't regret it. Onion, cilantro, and lime round out the dish perfectly. If you like a little heat add your favorite hot sauce, pico de gallo, or salsa.

Here's the cilantro! I also made rice with cilantro and lime. After the rice is cooked add fresh chopped cilantro and fresh squeezed lime juice to the rice.