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Apr 07 2011

Pork Carnitas with Exotic Spices

Published by at 9:49 pm under Cooking at Home,Mexican

Pork Carnitas is a classic Mexican pulled-pork dish that is getting more popular in Mexican restaurants, including one of our favorites, Chipotle. The traditional recipe for carnitas calls for the pork to be submerged in lard and deep fried (um, no thank you.) Instead, we braise the pork in some stock in the oven for several hours until it’s very tender, then broiled until the outside is crispy. We have made carnitas before on The Food Addicts… in May of last year, to be exact. It was the Carnitas Burrito with Tomatillo Salsa Verde, in which we offered a giveaway for products from La Tortilla Factory. This time around, we wanted to revisit the Carnitas recipe but turn it up a notch with some new exotic seasonings that we received from Spices, Inc.

Greg Patterson is the Founder and CEO of Spices, Inc. which is a company that specializes in spices, seasonings, rubs, and blends. He was nice enough to send us an 8-pack set of spices and powders that he thought we would enjoy, which included Saigon Cinnamon Powder, Cacao Nibs, El Paso Chili Powder, Manzanillo Mexican Seasoning, Ground Cumin,  Cocoa Powder, Smoked Sweet Paprika, and even Saffron! Some of these spices are so exotic that we have never even heard of them. It was such a great treat to receive these products from Greg and we were excited to use them in our cooking. So far, our favorite spice is the Smoked Sweet Paprika, which we find ourselves putting in almost everything we cook! True to its description on the bottle, it’s a heavenly Smoked Paprika that is rich in flavor, complexity, and depth. We enjoyed the full range of sweetness combined with lingering smoky notes. We decided to use the paprika in our Carnitas recipe because we wanted to give the pork a balance of smoky sweet and spicy. It definitely worked well for us! Stay tuned for an upcoming giveaway for a 6-jar spice set from Spices, Inc.! This is a great way to try new spices that you won’t normally see at the supermarket.

Here we used 3.5 lbs of pork shoulder cut into chunks (we removed as much fat from the pork as possible). We are trying to make this a healthier version!

Liberally salt the pork and cook the pieces of pork in a single layer until well-browned. They should have a nice dark color on each side.

Here are the seasonings we used to braise the pork: 1 tsp Ground Cumin, 1 tsp Smoked Sweet Paprika, and 1 1/2 tsp Manzanillo Mexican Seasoning (which is a hand-blend of Mexican oregano, black pepper, Chipotle powder, Ancho Chile powder, Pasilla Chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, garlic flakes, onion powder, onion flakes and coriander) . If you can't get the Manzanillo Mexican Seasoning, just replace this with chile powder and oregano.

Add enough pork stock to the pot so that the pork pieces are two-thirds submerged (around 2 cups). If you don't have pork stock on hand, you can just use water. Add in the above-mentioned seasonings, a couple bay leaves, 1 tsp fresh oregano, and 1 tbsp chopped garlic. Braise this pot of pork and spices in the oven at 350F degrees for about 2 1/2 hrs until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pork is falling apart.

Remove the pork pieces from the pot into a bowl and discard the liquid, because it's pretty fatty.

Traditionally, the pork pieces are deep fried so it gets that nice crispy texture. But since this is a healthy version, we took the pork and scattered it on a baking sheet and broiled on High in the oven until the pork is crispy and caramelized. Just keep an eye on it to determine how crispy and brown you want them. Since we were impatient, we didn't want to wait that long to eat it!

This is a great way to stretch your pork shoulder by making Pork Carnitas at home. These are great to eat as a taco with corn tortillas, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. It can also be eaten with rice and beans - or just by itself. Either way you choose, this Carnitas recipe is delicious with the exotic spice blend and tastes just as fabulous as the unhealthy fried version!

To view or print-out this recipe, click here: Pork Carnitas with Exotic Spices

38 responses so far

38 Responses to “Pork Carnitas with Exotic Spices”

  1. Nate @ House of Annieon 07 Apr 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Smoked paprika is such a wonderful ingredient. We can never get enough of it. Chipotle is good too, but it has a little more zing than the sweet paprika.

    Your carnitas taco looks perfect and now I’m craving tacos.

    BTW, you need to update your CommentLuv plugin…

  2. Belinda @zomppaon 08 Apr 2011 at 5:16 am

    Simply beautiful!! Everything looks perfectly cooked, moist, and flavored. What time should I come over?

  3. Meganon 08 Apr 2011 at 6:00 am

    This looks totally amazing. Great photos, too!

  4. susitravlon 08 Apr 2011 at 6:03 am

    I am always looking for a carnitas recipe – this one looks fantastic. Now, I just need some Manzanillo Seasoning!!

  5. Rochelleon 08 Apr 2011 at 6:06 am

    I usually put my pork in a slow cooker to do the cooking process. I never can seem to remember that I really should grill it to give that crispy texture to the outside. It looks beautiful and I know it tastes awesome with that crispy bit on the outside. I’ll have to try your braising then grilling method next time :D

  6. Alisa Flemingon 08 Apr 2011 at 8:27 am

    Seriously, this is one of my favorite meals! And those spices sound intriguing. I’ve become completely addicted to smoked paprika lately.

  7. saraon 08 Apr 2011 at 11:56 am

    Gorgeous! This looks so delicious! :)

  8. Ayesha Jameelon 08 Apr 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Wow ! that wrap looks amazing … well i dont have pork but i can substitute it with beef or chicken .
    please do visit and follow my blog if you wish to @ :)

  9. Laceyon 08 Apr 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Pork butt and pork shoulder are exactly the same cut.

  10. frequency hopon 09 Apr 2011 at 12:39 am

    “Pork Butt” and “Pork Shoulder” are interchangeable terms for the exact same cut of meat. A pork “butt” is not actually from the butt of a pig (ham), but is a colloquialism used to describe the shoulder cut. Great looking recipe for a healthier take on my favorite Mexican pork dish! You just may have convinced me to skip the lard next time in favor of stock. Cheers, and beautiful photos!

  11. frequency hopon 09 Apr 2011 at 12:44 am

    @Lacey: … aaaaaand I should read the other comments before posting my opinions ;-)

  12. Gregon 09 Apr 2011 at 4:09 am

    As usual these look absolutely delightful. We too have been doing an awful lot of experimenting with smoked paprika and are currently testing a smoked paprika hot that gives just a bit more kick to it. And our Manzanillo seasoning is one of my favorites I find myself using it constantly.

    We’re looking forward to doing an upcoming give-a-way for your readers that we think will knock their socks off!

  13. Jenn@eatcakefordinneron 09 Apr 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Great photos. Truly mouthwatering. Carnitas are one of my favorite Mexican dishes.

  14. From the Bookshelfon 10 Apr 2011 at 6:11 am

    These look fabulous! Love carnitas in our house and your recipe will grace our table soon!

  15. Corinaon 10 Apr 2011 at 8:45 am

    These do look tasty. I’ve never made carnitas – or even pulled pork before, but it’s something I want to get around to trying soon.

  16. Sheaon 10 Apr 2011 at 12:46 pm

    YUM!!! I think I need those now. Great recipe!

  17. Laceyon 10 Apr 2011 at 6:07 pm

    @frequency hop: Great minds…

  18. Carla's Tasty Treatson 10 Apr 2011 at 6:42 pm

    I love spices inc manzanillo! I use it on everything — in face I just made crab stuffed mushrooms with it this weekend…..

  19. thefoodaddictson 10 Apr 2011 at 9:03 pm

    @Lacey & @FrequencyHop: Thank you for clarifying that the two cuts are the same. In our research, we found out that it comes down to even more specifics in the pork shoulder:

    “A shoulder is broken down into two cuts – the picnic and the butt. The picnic is the lower portion of the shoulder and the butt is the upper portion. The picnic contains a shank bone and is partially covered with skin. The butt has a small blade bone and no visible skin.”

    That’s why in our post we specified that we used the pork “butt” even though it’s still part of the shoulder. To avoid confusion, we edited the post to just say pork shoulder in general to keep it simple.

    Thanks again for the clarification!

  20. graceon 11 Apr 2011 at 3:19 pm

    what a delicious plate of food–my stomach is a-growlin’! this manzanillo spice blend sound absolutely amazing–it’s pretty much everything i add to my mexican dishes in one bottle!

  21. emigliaon 13 Apr 2011 at 3:11 am

    I had no idea that traditional carnitas were deep-fried, but I guess that’s why they’re so delicious. I’m looking forward to trying this version at home… we don’t have mexican food in Paris.

  22. Conor @ Hold the Beefon 13 Apr 2011 at 5:54 am

    Just gorgeous. Love that you’ve made this much healthier than the traditional method but still seems to have kept all its flavour and texture.

  23. Cynthiaon 14 Apr 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Ummm, the pork has me mermerized :)

  24. Joyon 14 Apr 2011 at 7:44 pm

    That looks wonderful. Yum.

  25. The Duo Disheson 28 Apr 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Submerged in lard AND fried! haha Never knew that. This is just as great with all the spices.
    The Duo Dishes´s last [type] ..Ralphie’s Test Kitchen

  26. Kevin (Closet Cooking)on 02 May 2011 at 5:30 pm

    That pork carnitas looks so good!

  27. Alberton 04 May 2011 at 4:14 am

    este delicioso platillo, es uno de los “manjares” mas esquisitos de todo mexico, la carne de puerco, guisada/cocinada de esta manera es donde as se puede apreciar el sabor, lo jugosa que es…..

    recomiendo 100% este platillo :)

  28. Erinon 11 May 2011 at 9:20 am

    These look delicious!! I like your trick with the broiler to mimic the crispy deep friend pork! Thanks!
    Erin´s last [type] ..Pokey Sticks

  29. Geofferyon 22 May 2011 at 8:47 am

    how did you get them so golden brown!? lol mine turned grey and wouldn’t crisp when browning and I have a feeling i overcooked them in the pan during the browning process

  30. claireon 22 May 2011 at 8:06 pm

    holy cow! i happened upon your blog and i have been browsing. it all looks amazing! cant wait to try it all!

    gorgeous photos and delicious recipes!
    claire´s last [type] ..A little glitter to get ya thru the day

  31. thefoodaddictson 22 May 2011 at 10:21 pm


    We browned the pork carnitas in the oven on broiler setting. Depending on your oven, usually there is a low and high setting. We like to broil on high with the rack on the highest level. With this you can achieve a nice crispy texture quickly. The only downside to this is you have to keep an eye on the pork otherwise you can quickly overcook and burn your carnitas. Usually 2-5 minutes will be sufficient time to crisp up the carnitas.

    Daniel@ The Food Addicts

  32. Amandaon 03 Aug 2011 at 8:35 pm

    U-uh…It looks delicious. Personally I don’t eat pork, but I always appreciate a good skill from a chef who made the food with all his or her heart

  33. Taraon 10 Aug 2011 at 7:54 am

    Mexican food rocks! That’s a super lovely carnitas recipe here. I get my spiced up food at Scottsdale mexican restaurants. Cheers.

  34. Nicole Gon 09 Sep 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I made these tonight and they are excellent!!! Only thing I changed was not having pork stock so instead of using water I used Better Than Bouillon Vegetable base..Oh man this was Yummy! I think this recipe will be added to my arsenal :)

  35. Pork Carnitas | Bon Appetit Honon 26 Sep 2011 at 5:02 am

    [...] Adapted from The Food Addicts [...]

  36. Murphon 10 Jan 2012 at 7:20 pm

    I love carnitas and these look amazing! I’m a little confused though…according to this recipe you “Braise this pot of pork and spices in the oven at 350F degrees for about 2 1/2 hrs” but in the Carnitas Burrito w/ Tomatillo Sauce recipe it says that you should cook them for about 2 hours ‘on’ the stove, and that’s what it looks like from the pic.

    Which do you suggest? Thanks!

  37. thefoodaddictson 11 Jan 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Murph,

    Each recipe was created by different cooking methods. “Pork Carnitas with Exotic Spices” was cooked in the oven @ 350 F for 2 1/2 hours. The “Carnitas Burrito with Tomatillo Salsa Verde” was cooked on top of the stove for 2 hours. We suggest you do the oven recipe. You can just set the pork in the oven and when the timer goes off it’s pretty much done. With the stove recipe you have to baby sit the pot a bit to ensure the braising liquid does not evaporate too fast.

    Daniel @ The Food Addicts

  38. [...] ‘Pork Carnitas with Exotic Spices’ by The Food Addicts [...]

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