Can You Use Pork Chops for Carnitas?

Carnitas is a popular Mexican pork dish that is loved for its crispy texture and bold, flavorful taste. Traditionally, carnitas is made by slow cooking pork shoulder or pork butt until the meat is fall-apart tender. While using a fatty cut of pork is key for authentic carnitas, many home cooks wonder if you can use a leaner, quicker-cooking cut of pork like pork chops to make carnitas. The short answer is yes – with a few modifications, you can absolutely make delicious carnitas with pork chops!

Why Pork Chops Work for Carnitas

Pork chops may seem like an unconventional choice compared to the traditionally used pork shoulder. However, bone-in pork chops can deliver similar results to classic carnitas. Here’s why pork chops work well

  • Flavorful marbling: Choosing bone-in pork chops with some marbling provides flavor and moisture, similar to pork shoulder. The bone also adds extra flavor.

  • Quick cooking: Unlike pork shoulder which needs to cook low and slow, pork chops cook faster – usually under an hour. This makes them ideal for weeknight carnitas.

  • Easy shredding Once cooked until tender, pork chops shred easily with two forks, giving you the texture of traditional pulled pork carnitas

  • Budget-friendly: Pork chops are often more affordable per pound compared to pork shoulder. This makes them a wallet-friendly choice.

While boneless chops can also be used, bone-in chops are preferable for carnitas to ensure juicy, flavorful results.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Pork Chop Carnitas

Making carnitas with pork chops is simple. Follow these easy steps:

1. Choose the Right Pork Chops

Select bone-in pork chops that are at least 1-inch thick. Opt for chops with marbling or visible fat streaks for extra moisture and flavor.

2. Season the Pork Chops

Rub the pork chops all over with a spice rub. Good seasoning options include cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, smoked paprika, and salt.

3. Brown the Pork Chops

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sear the pork chops for 2-3 minutes per side until well browned.

4. Slow Cook the Pork

Transfer the seared pork chops to a slow cooker. Add in diced onions, garlic, and citrus juice like orange or lime juice. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.

5. Shred and Crisp the Pork

Once cooked, use two forks to shred the tender pork chops. For crispy carnitas texture, broil the shredded pork for 3-5 minutes.

6. Serve and Enjoy!

Pile the crispy, flavorful carnitas into tacos, burritos, nachos, or enjoy on its own! Dig in and savor the juicy, porky flavors.

Pork Chop Carnitas FAQs

If you’re new to making carnitas with pork chops, you may have some questions. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Can I use boneless pork chops? While bone-in chops are recommended, you can use boneless. Opt for at least 1-inch thickness and trim excess fat to prevent greasiness.

Do I have to slow cook the pork chops? Slow cooking is recommended for tender, shredable results. However, you can bake or pan fry thinner chops for quicker carnitas.

What if I don’t have a slow cooker? You can braise the pork chops in a dutch oven or oven braise them covered for similar slow cooked results. Just cook low and slow.

Can I use a pressure cooker? Absolutely! Cook the chops with seasoning for 15-30 minutes until fall-apart tender. Quick release pressure and shred.

What sides go well with pork chop carnitas? Warm tortillas, chopped onion, cilantro, lime wedges, guacamole, salsa, rice, beans, and salad are all great.

Tips for Juicy, Flavorful Pork Chop Carnitas

Follow these tips for the best results when making carnitas with pork chops:

  • Leave the bone in for moisture and flavor.

  • Use a flavorful spice rub with chili powder, cumin, garlic, and oregano.

  • Don’t skimp on searing to add nice browning.

  • Cook low and slow to achieve shreddable, juicy meat.

  • Add citrus juice to the slow cooker for tangy flavor.

  • Broil the shredded pork briefly for crispy carnita texture.

Creative Ways to Enjoy Pork Chop Carnitas

The possibilities are endless when it comes to serving up your homemade pork chop carnitas! Here are just a few fun ways to eat this tasty shredded pork:

  • Classic tacos with all the fixings
  • Burritos or burrito bowls
  • Carnitas nachos piled high
  • Quesadillas with melted cheese
  • Carnitas stuffed sweet potatoes
  • Hearty carnitas salad
  • Carnitas breakfast hash with eggs
  • Carnitas pizza with crispy pork
  • Carnitas sandwiches or sliders

Let your imagination run wild and get creative with unique ways to enjoy pork chop carnitas for any meal! Leftovers also make great next day lunches.

Satisfying and Simple Pork Chop Carnitas

Carnitas made with pork chops offer a quick and easy alternative to cooking low and slow with pork shoulder. In around an hour, you can have tender, juicy carnitas ready to stuff into tacos, pile on nachos, or enjoy straight out of the slow cooker.

So next time carnitas are on the menu, grab a pack of pork chops for a simple and satisfying version of this Mexican favorite. Just sear, slow cook, shred, and crisp the chops for irresistibly delicious carnitas. Your family will be asking for this recipe again and again!

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