Brown Sugar Carnitas are cooked slowly in a Dutch oven to turn out tender pork to shred and add to tortillas with favorite fixings.
We are big fans of Mexican food at our house. RecipeBoy Brooks made Walking Tacos when he was just a little guy, and his grandmother often made (her version) of chalupas. These carnitas are much more amazing.
We often order carnitas at our favorite San Diego taco shops, and we make them at home too. This recipe for brown sugar carnitas is inspired by the carnitas in Michoacán, known as the carnitas capital of the world. In this part of Mexico, carnitas are made with brown sugar added at the end of cooking to create a caramelized finish. The result is a super tender, shredded pork that is perfect for adding to tortillas to create carnitas tacos.
This recipe comes from Treasures of the Mexican Table by Pati Jinich. Pati shares classic Mexican recipes on PBS on her show: Pati’s Mexican Table. So this cookbook shares local Mexican specialties and heirloom recipes that have been passed down through generations. It’s fun to see what sort of recipes she chose to include in this book. After 10+ seasons on PBS, I would say she’s quite the expert on Mexican cuisine.
Here’s a peek at what kinds of culinary treasures you’ll find in this book:
- Mine Workers Fish Soup (Caldo de Oso)
- Red Menudo (Menudo Rojo)
- Double Stacked Shrimp and Cheese Tacos (Tacos Bravos de Toño)
- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tamales (Tamales de Camote Con Frijol)
- Chicken Mole with Mushrooms (Atapakua de Pollo con Hongos)
- Lamb Barbacoa (Barbacoa de Borrego)
- Street Style Salsa (Salsa Callejera)
- Smoky Guacamole (Guacamole Ahumado)
- Border Pintos (Frijoles Fronterizos)
- Cinnamon Sugar Fried Dough (Churros)
- Chocolate Dipped Palmiers (Orejas con Chocolate)
- boneless pork butt and boneless country pork ribs
- kosher salt
- freshly squeezed orange juice
- dark brown sugar
- white onion
- garlic cloves
- bay leaves
- corn tortillas
- desired fixings: pickled jalapeños, guacamole, salsa, cilantro, sour cream, etc.
How to make Brown Sugar Carnitas:
The full, printable recipe is at the end of this post.
What’s the best way to warm-up corn tortillas?
Heat a dry skillet on the stovetop over medium to medium-high heat (no need to add any nonstick spray or oil at all). Add the corn tortillas to the hot skillet, and let heat for 30 to 60 seconds per side or until they get warm and slightly crispy.
The Best Mexican Food Recipes:
- Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken
- Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas
- 5-Ingredient Beef Enchiladas
- Slow Cooker Pork Burritos
- Baked Ground Beef Tacos
Brown Sugar Carnitas
- 6 to 7 pounds boneless pork butt and boneless country style ribs (use 4 to 5 pounds butt and 2 to 3 pounds ribs)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or more, to taste)
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- ½ medium white onion, quartered
- 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 whole bay leaves
- warm corn tortillas
- pickled jalapenos
- Heat a large Dutch oven or large deep skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the pork, sprinkle with the salt, and cook, stirring and turning the pieces as they begin to render their fat, and scraping the bottom of the pot, for 12 to 15 minutes, until most of the chunks of meat are lightly browned on all sides. Meanwhile, combine the water, orange juice, milk, brown sugar, onion and garlic in a blender and puree until smooth.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and pour in the pureed mixture. Add the bay leaves and cover the pot. Cook, removing the lid to stir and scrape the bottom of the pot every 30 minutes, until the meat is fork-tender and nicely browned, about 1½ hours. It should come apart easily if you pierce it with a fork. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
- Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the carnitas, leaving the bay leaves and fat behind, and transfer to a bowl or platter. Shred the meat with a fork, if desired.
- Serve with warm corn tortillas, pickled jalapenos, guacamole and salsa.
- If you can't find boneless country ribs, you can use all pork butt.
- Nutritional information is for the carnitas only.