Gluten Free/ Mexican and Latin Recipes/ Pork/ Slow Cooker

Lighter Carnitas

Lighter Carnitas retain all the flavor of the authentic Mexican dish by slow cooking in seasoned broth and lightly sautéed right before serving for those crispy bits. 
Carnitas! Oh carnitas!

What are Carnitas?

In short, pork cooked all day in lard and citrus.

I have made carnitas several times and always cooked the pork all day in lard and citrus.

It’s delicious, no way around that. Anything cooked in fat is delicious, that’s the law. Lard has been deemed the worst form of fat for years, but I did not want to sacrifice eating carnitas.

Slow Cooker Carnitas 

I decided there had to be a healthier or even “lighter” version of this meal.  I have made pork roasts time and time again and knew how to develop great flavors through slow cooking or braising.  I felt replacing the lard for a full flavored broth might be my solution. 

Turns out, it was.  Adding orange juice along with the orange peel fully enhanced the braising liquid.

Lighter Carnitas retain all the flavor of the authentic Mexican dish by slow cooking in seasoned broth and lightly sautéed right before serving for those crispy bits. 

Part of what makes carnitas, carnitas is some of the meat being crispy.  To get this flavor, I added a tiny bit of olive oil in a frying pan, approximately 1 tablespoon and quickly pan fried the shredded roast. 

The thinner pieces and ends of others crisped up while the larger chunks of meat maintained their moist tender consistency.

How to eat Carnitas

I served these Lighter Carnitas up in corn tortillas, squeezed fresh lime over it, added some cilantro and onions…and went to town.  These were every bit as good (if not better) than traditional lard-cooked carnitas.

Update 1/8/15: Since this was one of my first posts, but one of my most delicious posts I needed to take new pictures.  Turns out my photography skills haven’t improved all that much in a year.  I wanted to plate it in a similar manner as the original pictures, but that was probably foolish.  In the end, these pictures are better than the first because they are at least in focus! I will endeavor to get better with my photography.  It just might be time to take a class.

Lighter Carnitas retain all the flavor of the authentic Mexican dish by slow cooking in seasoned broth and lightly sautéed right before serving for those crispy bits. 

What to Serve with Carnitas?

There are so many wonderful Mexican side dishes that will complement these Lighter Carnitas.

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Cilantro Lime Rice ~ fluffy long grain white rice flavored with cilantro and lime, an upgrade to the plain old rice on your dinner table.  The Complete Savorist

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Lighter Carnitas ~ The Complete Savorist

Lighter Carnitas

Course: Dinner/Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: carnitas
Servings: 8
Author: Michelle De La Cerda
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Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp chicken bouillon
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic; grated/minced
  • 1/2 medium onion; chunked
  • 1-2 orange rinds; cleaned
  • Salt-to taste
  • 2-3 pound pork roast
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  1. In your slow cooker add all ingredients except salt, roast, and olive oil. Mix well.
  2. Taste the broth for salt content.
  3. Add salt to your liking. I added about 1/4 teaspoon more. The chicken bouillon is fairly salty on its own so add salt to you personal tastes.
  4. Add roast. Cook on low at least 6 hours.
  5. When ready to serve, pull the roast out and let sit on cutting board for about 20 minutes.
  6. Shred the roast into desired size.
  7. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan with a bit of olive oil.
  8. Once hot, add shredded pork and quickly "fry" up.
  9. Serve as desired…in corn tortillas with lime, onion, and cilantro perhaps.

Here are the original photographs:

Lighter Carnitas ~ The Complete Savorist Lighter Carnitas ~ The Complete Savorist

Lighter Carnitas ~ The Complete Savorist

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32 Comments

  • Reply
    shobelyn
    March 13, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Hi! I am hosting my first ever Cunning Ladies’ Friday Party in my blog. I would love to see you add this beautiful post there. Love your pictures!

    • Reply
      Michelle
      March 13, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Hi. I would love to participate. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Kelly @ TastingPage
    January 8, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    Don’t be so hard on yourself – your pictures are great. I know I definitely want to try your lighter carnitas. Great work!

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 8, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      They are so good…The broth they cook in…drinkable! And thank you, photography is a weakness. I just got a DSLR and not sure what to do with it.

  • Reply
    Aggie
    January 8, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Your updated photos look fantastic, good job! These carnitas look delicious, I have never made them at home, would love to cook for my family!

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 8, 2015 at 4:41 pm

      Supper easy to make them at home. Next to no work if you have slow cooker. Hope you enjoy them.

  • Reply
    Lila Asnani
    January 8, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    This looks so delicious and easy. I am definitely going to give this a try as I would love to make carnitas for tacos,etc.. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 8, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      Thank you Lila! Hope you enjoy it. It’s super easy and lots of flavor.

  • Reply
    Amanda Paa
    January 8, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    i love how you explain that the braising liquid with orange infuses the meat! and i bet the leftovers are excellent to have on hand for other meals throughout the week.

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 8, 2015 at 4:56 pm

      If you made a huge roast, you can mix up dinner for a week. Enchiladas, burritos, tacos, all with different added seasonings and spices.

  • Reply
    Marjory @ Dinner-Mom
    January 8, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Love your lighter carnitas! I can see why you wanted to re-share. Can’t wait to try them!

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 8, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      They are so good. I love the original cooked in lard, they are fab, but this lighter version is still utterly delicious.

  • Reply
    Des @ Life's Ambrosia
    January 8, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Oh I could eat this all day long! Just pass the taco shells & guacamole and I’d be one happy woman.

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 8, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      Haha, I’m the same, I prefer a flour shell, but I’d take anything.

  • Reply
    Christina @ christina's cucina
    January 8, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    Your updated photos look great! I do disagree with you on one point, though: if you do your research, you will find that lard is actually one of the best fats for you! Given that it’s good lard (there are some brands that add preservatives and probably don’t use the best quality pork). SO rejoice! LOVE carnitas and yes, you just have to use lard! 🙂

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 9, 2015 at 12:39 am

      Im going to look into this lard thing. My grandma’s chocolate icing is made with lard and I love it!

  • Reply
    amanda @ fake ginger
    January 8, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Mmm, I love this! Now I’m craving carnitas!

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 9, 2015 at 12:39 am

      Carnitas are simply wondetful.

  • Reply
    Nicole @ Or Whatever You Do
    January 8, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Oh – you have SO improved in a year! I don’t think you are giving yourself nearly enough credit. Big heaps of neutral colored foods are notoriously hard to photograph well, and your new photos looks great! I love how you put it on a bright and vibrant plate and broke up the monotony with the citrus slice. GREAT work!

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 9, 2015 at 12:43 am

      Thank you. We are always our harshest critics. I appreciate your encouragement.

  • Reply
    Cindy Watrous
    January 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    What a wonderful recipe! I love carnitas, but in trying to lose this 50 lbs before I turn 30 in August, I decided it was on my “no go” list. Now I can eat it again! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 9, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      I hear ya Cindy with the weight loss goals. I am working on one myself. If you want, you can omit the pan frying in olive oil to get the crispy pieces, but it will have a slight less “carnitas” feel to them, but still tasty.

  • Reply
    KC the Kitchen Chopper
    January 9, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    I revisit all the time. It’s fun to re-photo. The hard part is following the recipe to the T. I always made a few changes!

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 9, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      I know exactly what you mean. I can’t leave well enough alone.

  • Reply
    Joanne/WineLady Cooks
    January 9, 2015 at 5:06 pm


    I love this easy recipe, I will definitely give this a try. Love making pork in the slow cooker. Thanks for sharing your lighter version.

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 9, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      Hope you enjoy it. What wine would you pair with it?

  • Reply
    Evelyn @ My Turn for us
    January 9, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    Carnitas are one of my favorite foodies!! Now I can enjoy them in a lighter version!! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 10, 2015 at 11:26 am

      Evelyn, hope you enjoy them. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Betsy @ Desserts Required
    January 11, 2015 at 10:10 am

    I can’t wait to make this. Actually, I think this will be perfect tomorrow night!

    • Reply
      Michelle
      January 11, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      Hope you enjoy it Betsy!

  • Reply
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