Carnitas refers to Mexican pulled pork, which is succulent and full of flavor. When combined with beans, salsa, pickled onions, avocados and lime you have the Ultimate Low Carb Carnitas Bowl. This bowl of goodness will make you forget all about the rice, chips or tortillas that often accompanies Mexican food. I love Chipotle and will still opt for their burito bowl if I’m out and about, but if you have the time for some slow cooking, this low carb carnitas bowl puts Chipotle to shame.
Building Robust Flavor in the Ultimate Low Carb Carnitas Bowl
Carnitas bowls often include corn and rice, but these ingredients are not considered low carb, slow carb or keto. Compared to the ingredients in this bowl the corn and rice are also, well they’re bland. So who needs bland calories?
The pickled onions are really what takes this carnitas bowl over the top in the flavor department. And they are really, really easy to make!
I like refried beans, but they are also a side dish that comes out quite bland in many Mexican Restaurants. I had some great refried beans in Portland, Oregon not long ago as well as some memorable refrieds in Southern California. In general, however, they tend to be pretty nondescript. The recipe below came very close to the great ones I remember in Oregon and California. They do take some time to make from scratch, but it is non-active time for the cook, and it is worth it.
The last enhancement to the carnitas bowl is the avocado. It adds the creamy texture to the crunch of the onions, the savory of the pork and the earthy comfort of the refried beans.
So there you have it. The Ultimate Low Carb Carnitas Bowl! Here are the recipes I used below:
Pickled Onions for the Ultimate Low Carb Carnitas Bowl
Makes about 2 cups
1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Refried Beans (from scratch) for the Ultimate Carnitas Bowl
- 1/2 pound dried pinto or black beans
- 2 sprigs fresh epazote (see note) or oregano
- 1 medium white onion, 1/2 minced (about 1/2 cup), 1/2 left whole
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- Kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons lard, bacon drippings, vegetable oil, or butter
In a large pot, cover the beans with cold water by at least 2 inches. Add herb sprigs, the whole onion half, and garlic cloves and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until beans are very tender, about 1 to 2 hours. Season with salt. Drain beans, reserving bean-cooking liquid. You should have about 3 cups of cooked beans; if you have more, measure out 3 cups of beans and reserve the rest for another use. Discard herb sprigs, onion, and garlic.
In a large skillet, heat lard, bacon drippings, or oil until shimmering, or butter until foaming, over medium-high heat. Add minced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Stir in beans and cook for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of reserved bean-cooking liquid. Using bean masher, potato masher, or back of a wooden spoon, smash the beans to form a chunky purée; alternatively, use a stick blender to make a smoother purée. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring, until desired consistency is reached; if refried beans are too dry, add more bean-cooking liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed. Season with salt and serve.
Recipe for the best Carnitas for the Ultimate Low Carb Carnitas Bowl:
Makes 10 servings
- 1 orange
- 2 Tbsp lard (olive oil if you must)
- 3 lb boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups water
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp chile pepper spice (choose a spice that meets your heat preference)
- 1 Tbsp lard (or oil)
Zest an orange and then squeeze the juice from the orange. Add them together in a bowl and set aside
- In a large Dutch oven (or heavy-bottomed pot), heat 2 Tbsp lard over medium-high. Add the meat, a little at a time, being careful not to crowd. Cook first layer of meat until browned, remove and cook next layer of meat until browned and then remove.
- When meat is browned and removed to a plate, add the onion and garlic to the Dutch oven. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Return meat.
- Add the reserved orange zest and juice and the next 6 ingredients to the Dutch oven (through the chile pepper). Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and cover. Simmer for 2 hours.
- Bring back up to a gentle boil and cook, uncovered 15 to 20 minutes more or until most of the liquid is evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaves and either go to the next step or store the meat until ready. The meat can be stored at this point in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- When ready to make the carnitas, heat 1 Tbsp lard over medium heat in a large skillet. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the sauce and spread it in a single layer in the skillet. Cook 5 minutes or until meat starts to crisp, turning occasionally (may need to do this in batches).
- Serve with lime wedges, jalapeno pepper, guacamole, refried beans or broiled onions.
Nutrition Analysis for Carnitas (per serving):
- 204 calories
- 7 g fat
- 2 g carb
- 31 g protein
There ya go. Slice up an avocado or two, add some lime wedges for squeezing and some salsa or cilantro and you have a low carb carnitas bowl that will please many palates, low carb or not.
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