Learn to Make Nopalito's Insane Carnitas at Home

Learn to Make Nopalito's Insane Carnitas at Home


Nopalito's famously tender, melt-in-your-mouth carnitas couldn't be easier to recreate at home. The secret is in the classic two-step technique.

Serve with fresh made warm tortillas and a side of salsa, and you've got a delicious feast.

Nopalito's Carnitas

Serves 10–12


5 pounds boneless pork shoulder (pork butt), cut into 3-inch cubes

Kosher salt

1⁄4 orange

1⁄2 white onion

3 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

1⁄2 cinnamon stick

4 pounds lard

2 ounces piloncillo or 1⁄4 cup brown sugar

1⁄4 cup whole milk

1⁄4 cup dark Mexican beer, such as Negra Modelo

1. Season the pork generously with salt and refrigerate for 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

2. In a square of cheesecloth, wrap the orange, onion, garlic, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick, and secure with kitchen twine to form a bundle.

3. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, cook the lard over high heat until melted.

4. Add the pork, the piloncillo, and the cheesecloth packet. Bring the lard to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and let cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until the meat turns light golden brown and is almost falling apart, about 90 minutes. (Lower the heat as needed to prevent the meat from overdarkening or burning, or crank it up for the last 10 minutes as needed to achieve browning).

5. Reduce the heat to low and add the milk and beer (be careful, as the lard may splatter). Cook at a low simmer until the meat starts to break apart, about 20 minutes.

6. Turn off the heat. (At this point, you can store the meat in the fat overnight if desired. Reheat over low heat to remelt the fat and warm the carnitas.)

7. To serve, use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a large platter or 6 individual plates. Serve with the salsa, cabbage salad, pickled jalapeños, and warm tortillas on the side.

This recipe was adapted from the restaurant's forthcoming cookbook Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen (Ten Speed Press), which is available for pre-order via Amazon.

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