Pork Belly Carnitas

By • July 28, 2013 25 Comments

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Author Notes: Swapping the traditional pork shoulder for pork belly makes carnitas one of the best versions you will ever try. Meltingly tender and flavorful on the inside, with delightfully crispy bits on the edges, this makes a fantastic taco filling.meatified

Food52 Review: WHO: Meatified is a former vegetarian -- current paleo.
WHAT: The best damn pork we've ever eaten.
HOW: Marinate your pork in spices and apple juice; braise your meat with its marinade and stock; let the pork crisp and sizzle in its own rendered fat. Shred with two forks.
WHY WE LOVE IT: There is nothing NOT to love about this pork. It is tender and crispy and meaty and elegantly spiced, and you'll find yourself eating way more than you should. Pile it into tacos with a squeeze of lime, or just eat it, caveman-style, with your bare hands. Grunting is allowed.
The Editors

Serves 4

  • 2 cups apple or pineapple juice
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves
  • 2 1/2 pounds pork belly, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon salt (reduce or omit if using stock with salt in it)
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken or pork stock
  1. In a container or large freezer bag, combine the apple or pineapple juice, garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaves, and oregano. Add the pork belly and refrigerate while it marinates for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
  2. Remove the pork belly from the fridge an hour before cooking.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Tip the marinade into a large Dutch oven and spread the pork belly pieces in a single layer in the pan. Pour over your stock. Add salt if you're using unsalted stock. Cook for 2 hours with a lid on.
  4. After 2 hours, remove the lid and cook the pork belly for another hour. This will cook off the remaining liquid and finish rendering the pork fat.
  5. Remove the pork belly from the oven. Transfer the pork pieces to a large, flat-bottomed skillet. Spoon off as much of the fat as you can from the Dutch oven and add it to the skillet with the pork belly pieces. Avoid any solids from the bottom of the pan, as these will burn!
  6. Over medium heat, continue to cook the pork belly in its own rendered fat. The pan should be bubbling but not spitting. Flip the pork belly pieces so that they brown evenly on all sides. This should take about 30 minutes.
  7. When all sides are brown and a little crispy, remove the pork belly from the pan and drain on some paper towels. Shred the meat with two forks and enjoy!
  • This recipe is a Wildcard Contest Winner!

More Great Recipes: Tacos|Pork|Entrees

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Comments (25) Questions (1)


9 months ago Francisco

...and I meant "a touch of cider vinegar". :)


9 months ago Francisco

I made this tonight with pineapple juice and a 3lb. pork butt, adjusted the measurements proportionately and the flavors were amazing. Next time, I may reduce the amount of cumin and add a tough of cider vinegar for a little tang. But this was fabulous. Thanks!


2 months ago Dennis Mattson

I wanna make this, and YES.. I HATE Cumin... I will maybe put 1 tsp in it


9 months ago ghainskom

GREAT recipe


about 1 year ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

OMG. I do not use OMG very often, like to reserve it for dishes like this one :)


about 1 year ago Millie | Add A Little

Love the look of this - I always love to cute some apples and place them cut side down so they roast and the juices release into the pork! Yum!


about 1 year ago Molly Fuller

Could I freeze this up until the final crisping of the pork belly??


about 1 year ago josh smith

I really liked the flavor of this recipe. My only compliant was that it was a little dry to my liking. I like my carnitas a little more juicy. Did everyone else who cooked this come out the same or was it really moist? Just like to know if maybe I screwed something up.


about 1 year ago Mosephina

After I fried it up, I reduced the left over marinate in the frying pan, I shredded the pork as it reduced and threw the pork back in to the reduced marinate. Worked great for me!


19 days ago cv

Josh, just add some water back after you've browned it to rehydrate to your liking. You can do this for any type of pulled pork recipe, not just this one.


about 1 year ago Jim

Orange juice is a good alternative and more traditional (along with pork butt which is actually the upper shoulder). This is the only improvement I’ve seen to Lisa Fain’s recipe – separating the fat from the solids which do burn. I made this completely in the Dutch Oven on the stovetop, cleaning it after the rendering. It crisped better and pork butt likely would, too. Excellent!


19 days ago cv

I prefer lime juice myself over orange juice for carnitas, and I use pork butt/shoulder for this.


about 1 year ago Leaseachef

Has anyone done this with the pineapple juice option? I'm really curious because I once marinated chicken in pineapple juice for a few hours and it turned to sawdust-because of the digestive enzymes in the pineapple, I later deduced.


about 1 year ago Mosephina

I used pineapple juice, worked out well for me. I think because of the muscle and the fat in the pork belly the enzymes from the pineapple work really well to break it down nicely


about 1 year ago Mosephina

OH MAN!! Made this last night, SO good. Super easy recipe, with amazing flavour. I reduced the left over juices in the pan that I fried the pork belly in and used to as a garnish, DELIGHTFUL. I have made Carnitas a few times with different recipes every time - this is totally my go to now.


about 1 year ago Christopher DeCluitt

Having made pork shoulder carnitas last night, I want this now. I wonder if it would work in the pressure cooker for the initial cook? Thoughts?


about 1 year ago Joan

Do you think pork loin could work with this recipe?


about 1 year ago gardengolfspring

I don't think pork loin would work at all. It's very lean, and it wouldn't render any fat for the last step where you fry the meat in its own fat.


about 1 year ago Will

Agreed with gardengolfspring. A great alternative would be pork butt/shoulder. It's a nice, fatty cut that holds up well to braising.


about 1 year ago Ann DeLong

where the heck do you buy pork belly?


about 1 year ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

You should be able to get it at a good butcher, or at your local Whole Foods.


about 1 year ago A.

A lot of ethnic markets (my local Asian market carries it all the time) stock this, as its a popular cut for many cuisines.


about 1 year ago walkie74

And really, all it is is SUPER thick cut bacon. Regular bacon won't work as well--it's too thin. But if you can get your hands on an uncut slab and then slice it up yourself, you'll be good to go.


10 months ago Beth

I was actually thinking of using slab bacon in place of pork belly because my butcher doesn't have it regularly. Do you think it'd end up being too salty? This recipe looks too good not to try. Plus, just the idea of bacon carnitas makes my mouth water like Homer Simpson's. :-)


over 1 year ago gardengolfspring

The meat in this dish is a truly delicious combination of crispy and chewy. It was the first time I had ever used pork belly, and I've made it twice now. If you have an Asian market nearby, you'll find it there. I left out the cinnamon and bay leaves just because I don't particularly like those spices, and used fresh garlic. I'm sure I'll make this again.