Brown Sugar Carnitas

Brown Sugar Carnitas

Carnitas Caramelizadas
8 Servings
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: brown sugar, Carnitas, pati's mexican table, pork
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Brown Sugar Carnitas from Pati's Mexican Table, Season 7, Episode 2 "Tijuana: Stories from the Border"


  • 1 cup lard, vegetable shortening, or oil
  • 3 to 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, fat on, cut into 3” chunks
  • 4 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

To Prepare

  • Heat the lard in a large Dutch oven or heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Season the meat with 2 teaspoons of the salt and the black pepper. Once the lard has melted, add the meat, brown on all sides, stirring and flipping as it does, for about 10 to 12 minutes.
  • In the jar of a blender, pour 1 ½ cups of the milk and add the garlic, onion and remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Puree until smooth. Pour over the meat and let it come to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low, drop in the bay leaves, and cover. Cook covered for 1 hour and 15 minutes, flipping the chunks of meat a couple times in between.
  • In a small bowl, combine the remaining ½ cup milk with the sugar. Pour over the carnitas, stir, and let them continue to cook, uncovered, for another 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • With a slotted spoon, remove the meat and place in a bowl. Shred with a couple forks, add a couple tablespoons of the seasoned fat remaining in the casserole and toss.

88 comments on “Brown Sugar Carnitas

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  1. I watch a video on you making the carnitas,it looks so good I want to try them hope it comes out as good as yours looked thanks for your recipes

  2. Hi Pati! Making these for the third time. It has quickly become a family favorite. Yum! Planning to freeze it and reheat it/crisp it in a frying pan when we are ready to enjoy it. I think it will be comforting while we’re spending time at home over the next several weeks. This ought to work, right?

  3. These carnitas were so tender and moist. Needed 2 hours to cook but so enjoyable. I look forward to putting them on tacos tomorrow. So many ways to go with such tender meat. I much prefer this method of cooking carnitas to oven cooking a large pork butt. Very easy to shred – with the back of the fork no less. We never miss your show Pati.

  4. I love carnitas, but this is the first time I see a recipe that I can make home, that is not too complicated! what type of lard do you use? Armour lard?

  5. This recipe is so much simpler than the Carnitas recipe I had been making, so I had to try it. It may be the cooking in lard, but this is even better than my other one.
    My husband considers himself to be addicted to Carnitas has declared this to be the best ever and wants this to be in my weekly rotation. Period.

    Thank you for this one. It works!

  6. Would you suggest skipping the initial browning if attempting it in a slow cooker? Or browning it in the lard, then transferring to the slow cooker?
    I just worry that leaving out that first cup of lard would affect the end product.

    1. If making the carnitas in a slow cooker, you may want to go directly to the slow cooker and skip the initial browning, Shaun.

  7. I’d love to know if milk alternatives would have the same tenderizing affect as regular milk. We can’t do dairy here and I’m trying to decide between unsweetened almond milk or broth, or a mix of both.

  8. Tried it tonight and it was a family hit! Sooooo good! I ran out of whole milk for the last part so I used 1/4 c condensed milk 1/4 c water mixed and it gave it a velvety consistency. Next time I want to try it with pico de gallo! Hubby made fresh flour tortillas too!!

  9. Looks cool good! I was so hungry! Will try this version asap. Thanks for sharing.
    Estella Marquez
    Paulden, As

  10. I made “brown sugar Carnitas” today. They came out way better than I anticipated. Yesterday I made “bricklayer tacos” that were gone so fast I couldn’t believe it. I think this weekend I’m going to make Baja fish tacos. I’m from Orange County California and I was missing all the good Mexican food they have in Santa Ana Califoria. I don’t have to miss it anymore. Thank you Pati for breaking it down and making it easy!!

  11. Just as with the many ways of skinning a cat, there are many roads to great carnitas… This recipe looks straight forward, pretty easy and most importantly; delicious. I’ll try it.

  12. This was a big hit for Mothers Day. My youngest son asked if we could have it every holiday! I paired it with some grilled pineapple. Great recipe!😀

  13. These were so delicious and easy Pati! Thank you for demystifying Carnitas for me. I typically only eat them when I’m visiting home in Texas. Now I can make them at home in MD. My boys ate them all up. They loved them!

  14. Hello Paty! I am from Michoacan where you can get the BEST carnitas in the world! But I saw your show and I can’t wait to make them! Thank you for the show!

  15. I usually make crispy Carnitas, but I have wanted to try the “softer” version this time. I used your recipe last night and they turned out really good! I wasn’t sure about the brown sugar but it added a really good flavor to it. I think next time I might add orange juice to give it a little bit more acid. Thank you for the recipe!

  16. This was very good, I didn’t have a problem with to much liquid, I think it was because I used a larger pan. Similar recipes added an orange rind, I might try that next time. Served it burrito style with salsa verde

  17. I am making these in honor/memory of my sweet Mama who was such a fan of this show. I know she would of loved these carnitas! It’ll definitely be bittersweet when we sit down to enjoy them.

  18. Just made these today. I had the same issue with way too much liquid left after the allotted cooking time. Tried cooking it for another half-hour, to no avail, but finally just spooned off most of the excess before adding the final blend of milk and brown sugar, and voila (or whatever the Spanish equivalent would be…), it all carmelized nicely – and tastes fabulous!

  19. Just made these. They were amazing!! This was the way mi abuela made hers. Brought back so many great memories of visiting her I’m Tijuana. They were so tender and juicy. And the flavor is to die for. Love you and your show so much. Thanks for the recipe.

  20. I made these but I had a lot of liquid in mine it looked nothing like the picture i measured followed recipe to the exact any sugestions what i did wrong

  21. I am making these right now. Had a bit of a problem getting the meat to brown. It never did. Then the milk broke and it looks more like ricotta cheese. What did I do wrong? I loved that show and was so stoked to make this dish. Fee foolish.

    1. Oh I’m sorry to hear you had some problems, Constance. When the milk heats the hot lard, it appears as curdled, but it really is not. I hope you give the carnitas another go.

  22. This is delicious, Reminded me of my tio’s Juan’s cooking and the only thing I added was an orange to the milk and brown sugar and blended it and then cooked it in the last step, just as my tio Juan would have. Buen provecho !