Pull out the braising pan and get ready for a fiesta! This Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl is tender and sweet; delightful for both the eye and the mouth. And, in case you were wondering, yes, you can make it in your Dutch Oven or InstaPot!
What is Carnitas?
Carnitas is a traditional Mexican dish from the state of Michoacan. It is a tender, juicy, and utterly delicious braised pork shoulder (also referred to as Pork Butt). The shoulder is usually the preferred cut of pork, as the marbled fat helps tenderize and flavor the meat as it cooks. Think of it as Mexico’s version of BBQ pulled pork, with the one substantial difference of browning the meat as a finishing step before serving.
I Hear Carnitas a Lot But They All Seem Different
Similar to pulled pork, each family has their own preferred recipe. In their own right, many of these recipes are equally delicious. And honestly, how can you go wrong? Tender pork seasoned and marinating for hours in fat and juice yields a most perfect delectable fare. If you’re ever in Chicago, trek over to the Pilsen neighborhood and visit Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant. It’s a bit off the beaten path but has some of the most amazing carnitas I’ve eaten. Theirs is a more savory version than this recipe, but one bite and you’ll comprehend the absurdly long queue of carnivores.
As mentioned above, there are a variety of different styles and tastes of carnitas. Some more pork forward, others more spiced and savory, while even a few offer a twinge of sweetness. My preferred carnitas (and the recipe posted) is a bit like me, a little sweet and overall wonderful… (Insert laugh here… :)) But in all seriousness, in my opinion, having some sweetness in the meat makes for a better finish. As the meat browns, the sugars start to caramelize bringing a new element of flavor to the pork. When paired with more earthy sides such as rice and beans, and then having a punch of bright flavor from the mango, the overall effect is “WOW”.
How and What to Serve with Carnitas
So, now that you’ve made the carnitas, how do you eat it? First off, carnitas can be shredded or left in larger hunks, all dependent upon your utilization of this precious pork. For our bowls, we presented it in medium sized pieces. The real question is, what’s your medium? This meat can be used as a bowl (obviously), in tacos, nachos, salads, enchiladas, and…coming soon to the Cakes and Coriander website, my wife’s favorite dish, Oaxacan Chocolate Mole Carnitas Enchiladas! My wife is not alone in favoring these as I’m salivating just thinking about them.
This Carnitas Bowl would also go great with our Mighty and Healthy Fresco Elote Salad or even our Fresh and Easy Mexican Caprese Salad! Serve it over either salad or use these salads as sides/toppings. Any way you mix them, these would be excellent pairings.
Tips and Tricks For Making Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl
- Yes, you can freeze it! Bag, tag, and portion out the carnitas. When you’re sad, lonely, or just plain hungry, pull it out of the freezer and de-thaw in a saucepan with a bit of chicken broth to keep the meat hydrated.
- You can use a slow cooker or Insta-Pot! If you’re using an Instapot, limit the broth in the recipe to half and cook for 29 minutes with a natural pressure release. Once finished, if it is too liquidy, set the Insta-Pot to saute mode and cook down the carnitas broth. That said, before breaking down the meat you want a broth to meat ratio of about 1:4 to keep the meat juicy and tender.
- Where can I find the peppers/chili powder used? Most large grocery stores have a Mexican/Latin section with the ingredients readily available. The peppers tend to be found hanging in clear cellophane bags. If you don’t have access, you can also buy them on amazon here: Guajillo Chili Powder & Dried Ancho Chilis.
- Don’t have a dutch oven or other braising pot? We love this 6-quart amazon brand dutch oven. Not only is it cost efficient, it works super well and has lasted us 4 years so far and shows no signs of slowing down (and we cook a LOT).
- Have issues with cutting mango? Check out this video. It gives a quick tutorial that will make mangos your new favorite fruit.
- Just FYI, we don’t rinse our long-grained white rice from this recipe. It usually comes enriched and rinsing takes the enrichment off.
- This recipe yields enough pork to feed 8-10 people. We have added ingredients (in the second portion of ingredients) to make bowls enough for 4 servings.