Slow Cooker

Pork Belly Carnitas

July 28, 2013
5 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Serves 4
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 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!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lisa Newport
    Lisa Newport
  • The Pontificator
    The Pontificator
  • Transcendancing
  • QueenSashy
  • Millie | Add A Little
    Millie | Add A Little

33 Reviews

Shayshay March 7, 2022
Can I use the same exact recipe with Pirk Shoulder/butt
Erin C. February 9, 2020
Mine came out more like bacon jam than meaty/fatty chunks of carnitas. My starting pork belly was much more fatty than meaty, and it ended up being frozen twice due to poor meal planning on my part (once right after I bought it; second time in the marinade) which I'm assuming broke down the few meat proteins there were to mush. Still tasty - no complaints on pinapple-y bacon jam here! Will try again without the freezing
Inkykat20 August 10, 2019
This recipe is amazing! We didn't skillet it or add the stock, the apple juice was enough. But tasted sensational as a wrap with homemade guacamole and sour cream, and vegetables fried in Chipotle paste
Lisa N. December 20, 2016
I tried this with belly and I didn't have luck but I have had great success with using pork shoulder. I also have cheated and doubled the recipe ( because pineapple juice makes double the amount needed here ) and freezing half the portion in the marinade and cooking it later.
The P. October 17, 2015
Do want. Must make.
Transcendancing September 15, 2015
This was a great recipe - I mostly used it as a base, I didn't want to cook my pork belly so long, I roughly halved the cooking time and added only about a cup of stock. About half the cooking time lid on and off. Then I removed the meat, boiled off the sauce until it was gloriously sticky, fried some crushed pineapple until it was also nice and caramelised and mixed it all in together with a small chipotle chilli. I served this in tacos with a corn, capsicum and lime salad topped with sour cream. It was amazing! I'm a huge fan of pork belly, especially when it's melty and juicy like this was.
Francisco December 11, 2014
...and I meant "a touch of cider vinegar". :)
Francisco December 11, 2014
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!
Dennis M. June 28, 2015
I wanna make this, and YES.. I HATE Cumin... I will maybe put 1 tsp in it
Smaug October 16, 2015
Carnitas is traditionally made with a pretty lightweight marinade, usually just lime juice and salt. They can't make you eat stuff you don't like.
ghainskom November 29, 2014
GREAT recipe
QueenSashy June 23, 2014
OMG. I do not use OMG very often, like to reserve it for dishes like this one :)
Millie |. June 22, 2014
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!
Molly F. June 17, 2014
Could I freeze this up until the final crisping of the pork belly??
josh S. June 16, 2014
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.
Mosephina June 17, 2014
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!
702551 August 13, 2015
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.
Jim June 15, 2014
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!
702551 August 13, 2015
I prefer lime juice myself over orange juice for carnitas, and I use pork butt/shoulder for this.
Leaseachef June 15, 2014
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.
Mosephina June 17, 2014
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
Mosephina June 14, 2014
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.
Christopher D. June 11, 2014
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?
Joan June 10, 2014
Do you think pork loin could work with this recipe?
gardengolfspring June 11, 2014
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.
Will June 11, 2014
Agreed with gardengolfspring. A great alternative would be pork butt/shoulder. It's a nice, fatty cut that holds up well to braising.
Smaug October 16, 2015
You can make good carnitas with pork loin, though. The huge slabs of fat that come on the outside can be rendered (unless you leave them on), but you'll probably have to add some lard or other fat- if you don't like fatty foods, this is a good way to go. Carnitas is traditionally not only browned but braised in deep fat, at about 200 degrees, and I sometimes do it this way- it does come out a bit moister, strangely enough.
Ann D. June 10, 2014
where the heck do you buy pork belly?
Merrill S. June 11, 2014
You should be able to get it at a good butcher, or at your local Whole Foods.
A. June 17, 2014
A lot of ethnic markets (my local Asian market carries it all the time) stock this, as its a popular cut for many cuisines.
walkie74 June 23, 2014
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.
Beth November 2, 2014
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. :-)
gardengolfspring May 10, 2014
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.