carnitas for Cinco de Mayo

In just a few hours, these ribs will be our dinner.

This morning, Danny created a spice rub, just for the heck of it. After he did the dishes, he started playing. A little coriander, a touch of cinnamon, some ground coffee, a little chipotle.

I love when he plays with food.

After smelling the spice rub, I said, “Hey, this is going to be good. Want to make it a blog post?”

Of course, he said.

And then we thought, why make you wait until week or two until we could finish it and do it up right? Why not now?

Just in case you want to make this for Cinco de Mayo. Or this weekend.

Here it is.


As you might know, we have been working with McCormick Gourmet for the past few months. We really do like the quality of their spices, as well as the fact that the entire line is gluten-free. Because we agreed to work with them for a few months, they sent us a huge batch of spices. This has given us a chance to play, to throw things together, to make rubs and mixes we might not have before.

If you have only a few old spices in your cupboard, may we suggest you buy some more? Having more than three in the kitchen makes for experimentation, like this spice rub Danny threw together this morning.

2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons Saigon cinnamon
1 tablespoons chipotle powder
3 tablespoons ancho chile pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground coffee

2 tablespoons safflower oil
5 pounds pork ribs
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
7 ounces (1/2 can) diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf (Mediterranean, if possible)
2 quarts chicken stock (or enough to cover the ribs)

Making the spice rub. Set a small skillet over medium heat. Put all the spices into the hot skillet and toast them, moving around the skillet frequently to insure they don’t burn, until you can smell all the spices, about 1 minute. (McCormick also has a line of roasted and toasted spices, if you want to skip this step.) Combine all the spices in a bowl.

Marinating the ribs. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the ribs. Let the ribs sit for an hour at room temperature (or overnight in the refrigerator if you have time) to absorb the flavors.

Searing the ribs. Set a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the safflower oil. Sear 1/2 of the ribs in the hot oil until a crust starts to form on the bottom, about 3 minutes, then flip them and sear the other side, also about 3 minutes. Put them into a slow cooker. Sear the rest of the ribs and put them in the slow cooker.

Caramelizing the onion. Put the onion into the hot fat in the skillet. Cook the onions, stirring, until they are browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until you can smell the garlic, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and bring the liquid to a boil.

Cooking the ribs. Add the onion-garlic-tomato mixture to the slow cooker. Put in the bay leaf. Pour in enough chicken stock to cover the ribs, plus 1 inch more. Cook on low until the ribs are fall-apart tender, about 3 to 4 hours.

Feeds 6. (Or, in our case, dinner tonight and plenty of leftovers for tomorrow.)

If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can make these in a Dutch oven or large pot in the oven. Cook them at 350°. This will also take about 3 to 4 hours, depending on your oven.

Also, we feel this spice rub would be good on almost anything else: steak, roast chicken, salmon, tilapia, and roasted tofu, for starters.

18 comments on “carnitas for Cinco de Mayo

  1. Ashley

    Ohhh! I love the addition of coffee. And anything with cumin in it has me swooning. Right now I’m roasting golden beets, potatoes and leeks with olive oil, salt, white pepper, and cumin.

  2. Courtney

    Very excited to try this! I need to go through some of my spices, I just checked recently and I have a few of some things and none of others. Couldn’t live without my spices!

  3. Brooke@FoodWoolf

    What I like most about this blog post is that it reminds me that sometimes, time IS of the essence. You don’t have to spend a million, billion years on a post. Maybe you could just tell a really great short story and get the info up there. I like the immediacy of this one. It reminds me to just let go a little bit and just wing it. You’re wonderful. Thanks for continuing to inspire me with your work, you rock star.

  4. aunti mi

    I have been following you for some time but have not commented. I just want to thank you for inspiring me to bake gluten free. My god daughter was diagnosed w celiac in January and she was SO SKINNY. I started baking her fav bakery items GF. I like to think this helped strengthen her…and it was about the only thing I could do. So, thank you for sharing your story. thank you. Michelle (aunti mi)

  5. Angel Cutsforth

    This is the kind of recipe every newly diagnosed person needs to see. I’ve been gluten free without a diagnosis for about 2–3 months and I’ve enjoyed learning about all of the amazing, tasty foods that are out there.

    Right now I’m having a breakdown because I have to start the testing process, which means eating gluten again… very scary to have to put yourself in the position to suffer.

  6. Julia Sarver @ Glow Health

    Love carnitas! This spice rub looks fantastic — I’ve really been enjoying experimenting with dry rubs rather than wet marinades lately. My absolute favorite addition to rubs like this is cacao powder — makes it almost like mole on the grill.

  7. Kris

    These look great! Do you think they could stay in the crockpot for more like 6–8 hours though? I’d love to come home to these after work! Most meat just gets better as it sits in the slow cooker on low, but would ribs dry out a bit? Thanks!

  8. Lisa

    This recipe and spice rub was awesome and enjoyed by everyone at my gluten-intolerant daughter’s birthday dinner. I am not gluten-intolerant but I’m learning that there is much health benefit for me even without the physical intolerance. The rub smelled amazing as I was toasting it. I marinated the ribs over night and they were melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

    Thank you gluten-free girl and the chef for making my daughter’s life (and mine) much happier with what you share with us.

    1. Nick

      I know that this is a long time ago… but what types of pork ribs did you use? Regular spare ribs or babyback? I only ask because the picture she has on the top of the page look like country-style spare ribs. Shauna! What did you use? I want to make these!