Homemade Chicharrones (Pork Rinds) – Low Carb and Gluten-Free

Homemade pork rinds, or chicharrones, are a healthy and flavorful low carb snack without the additives or hydrogenated oils. The ultimate paleo snack!

Homemade Pork Rinds Chicharrones

I have to confess that pork rinds used to freak me out. It was in my younger, more squeamish days, and may have something to do with the trauma of being chased around by a college friend with a dried pig’s ear he’d purchased for his dog. Come to think of it, though, the store-bought brands still freak me out, what with all the additives, MSG, hydrogenated oils and other unmentionables. But having tasted some freshly made chicharrones at a few restaurants, I no longer tar them all with the same brush. Pork rinds are being elevated from their junk food status into a true delicacy. I have overcome my distaste for them and you will be glad I did. Because I have been experimenting in the kitchen and can honestly say that homemade chicharrones are a delicious and healthy low carb snack. And they really aren’t that hard to make either. So let’s get cracklin…

The hardest part of the whole process is sourcing the pork skin. I couldn’t find pork skin for love nor money at any regular grocery stores in my vicinity and was considering purchasing pork belly at a local Asian market because it often comes with the skin still attached. But this was a much pricier option and it went against my waste-not-want-not nature. Knowing that many butchers are simply throwing back fat and skin away since there is so little demand for it, I was sure I could find a better solution.

Homemade Paleo Pork Rinds

Enter John Crow Farm in Groton, MA. I could go on and on about how much I love John Crow Farm. We discovered them at our local farmer’s market a few summers ago and have been purchasing grassfed and pasture-raised meat from them ever since. They offer a meat CSA and we get our share every month, a random mixture of beef, pork, lamb and chicken, with the occasional cut of goat thrown in for good measure. The carnivore in me loves the meat, of course, but I also appreciate the passion and personality of the farmers and farm workers. Every so often we get updates and emails about goings-on at the farm that are written with a bitingly dry humour I love. They were clearly my best option for pork skin and they happily included some in my next farm share. They wouldn’t take a penny in payment for it either and have said I can have as much of it as I want.

So with a veritable treasure trove of pork skin, I was off to the chicharrone races. My first attempt was tasty but I wouldn’t call it a success. I left far too much of the fat on the skin, having read that it was fine to do so. This appealed to me in part because it eliminated the extra work of cutting the fat off the skin, but also because I thought it would be tastier. It is not fine to do so, however, since when you go to fry the pork rinds, the fat puffs up into something resembling a pillow and floats with the pork skin on top. It’s like a little life jacket for each piece of pork skin, rescuing it from drowning in the hot oil. Your pork skin won’t sizzle and get all crispy, but instead become hard and impossible to chew and the only part you will be able to eat is the fatty pillow attached to the skin.

Paleo snack homemade chicharrones

It wasn’t until my third attempt that I nailed down the process and ended up with perfectly crispy chicharrones. You really do need to remove the majority of the fat from the skin, and it’s not as hard as it appears. Cutting the skin into long strips about 2 inches wide made the removal more manageable. I then scored the fat and the slid a sharp knife (really sharp knife, so get out that knife sharpener!) under the first piece of fat. Once that was removed, I could use that part of the skin to hold onto and slide my knife easily under the remaining pieces of fat (see photo below). From there, I could cut my strips of skin into 2 inch pieces.

Cutting fat off pork skin

This leaves you with a lot of cubed fat and most recipes will tell you to discard it. Don’t you DARE! That is good stuff and super healthy if you’ve managed to procure some pasture-raised pork skin. You can do a number of things with it, including making sausage, rendering your own lard (healthy lard!) and even using it to fry the chicharrones themselves. In fact, many recipes I came across have you frying the chicharrones in lard and why not fry it in its own lard instead of the hydrogenated store bought variety? This last time, I cubed the fat and froze about half of it for future sausage making, and then rendered the rest and used it to fry the chicharrones. It wasn’t quite enough lard, so I added some cooking oil (grapeseed) to top it up.

When I started investigating making my own pork rinds, I saw any number of methods and some of them were quite laborious. Hours of boiling in water to render off the fat and soften the skin and then another hour of boiling in hot oil until they puff up and become crispy. I was beginning to think I really didn’t want to make them at all when I came across this recipe for Cuban Chicharrones. It offered me a choice of two methods, one of which meant I could turn on my oven at a low temperature for several hours and leave the skins to their own devices. Once they were sufficiently dried, I could then fry them up to cracklin’ perfection. It worked beautifully and I wouldn’t make them any other way.

Homemade Pork Rinds low carb paleo

As for flavourings and seasonings, you have so many great choices. I’d say the best approach to adding flavour is to wait until the crispy skins come out of the hot fat, and then toss them immediately with any spices then. For now, I am just enjoying the flavour of the chicharrones all on their own, enhanced only be a little salt and pepper.

Salt and Pepper Chicharrones

Yield: Varied (depends on how many you make)

Serving Size: 1 ounce

Salt and Pepper Chicharrones

Homemade pork rinds, or chicharrones, are a healthy and flavorful low carb snack without the additives or hydrogenated oils. The ultimate paleo snack!

Ingredients

  • 3 to 5 lbs pork back fat and skin
  • Extra cooking oil for topping up the pot if needed
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250F and set a wire rack over a baking sheet.
  2. Using a very sharp knife, cut pork skin and fat into long strips, about 2 inches wide. Score the fat on each strip every two inches. Insert knife carefully between skin and fat on one end of the strip and remove a portion of the fat (you will end up with a thin layer of fat still on the skin and that is fine).
  3. Once that first part of fat is removed, you can hold the skin in one hand as you slide the knife down the strip to remove the majority of the fat. Again. a little fat still clinging to the skin is okay.
  4. When the fat has been removed, cut each strip into 2 inch squares and place, fat-side down, on wire rack.
  5. Bake 3 hours, until skin is completely dried out.
  6. Meanwhile, if you want to use the pork fat to cook your chicharrones, place it in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Cook gently until most of the fat has liquified, about 2 hours. This is also the same way you can render lard for future cooking use. Use a slotted spoon to remove any remaining solids. Discard (or eat, they taste like bacon and are great on salad!).
  7. When baking time is up, heat oil/lard to a depth of 1/3 in the pan. Or you can just have a few inches of oil and can cook your pork rinds in batches. Oil should be quite hot but not bubbling.
  8. Add pork rinds and cook until they bubble and puff up, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle immediately with salt and pepper.

Notes

*These counts reflect the nutrition in a serving of commercially made pork rinds because I could find no information regarding the nutrition of uncooked pork skin. They are made very similarly but would contain far less sodium since you season to taste with salt and pepper. Commercial brands add more sodium as a preservative.

Per 1 ounce serving: 152 calories; 9 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 17 g protein; 0 g carbohydrates; 0 g fiber; 515 g sodium (would actually be far less, depending on how much you salt your pork rinds).

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Comments

  1. You did it again! I’ve always tried to make chicharrones at home and now I know the secret! (At least I got what we call here cuerito which is just the crispy skin without the puffed up texture and yes it can be hard on the teeth!) You rock! :)

    • Try this oven-baked and then fried method, it’s worked well for me. Be sure to cut off most of the fat layer, though. It provides too much moisture and they tend to get tough and chewy as they sit if you leave too much on.

  2. WOW are you serious? I am so pinning this to the super bowl board!

  3. I WANT!!!! This look fantastic Carolyn!

  4. For someone who doesn’t eat pork, do you think it would be just as good with another meat’s fat?

    • Christiana says:

      Hi Aishah – I seriously doubt any other skin would work – I can’t think of another domestic animal that has the same type/thickness of skin.

      • Thanks for responding. Aishah, people do make chicken skin cracklins but I think it’s a very different process because pig skin is so tough. Google chicken cracklins though and you might find some good info on now to do those.

  5. I’ve been waiting for this recipe! See now I see it as an excuse to pick up pork belly to use the meat and then save the skin for chicharrones! Yum!!!

  6. What an undertaking! My husband would go crazy for these.

  7. Great idea – sourcing from your local farmer so you know it’s a trusted source. I’m impressed you made these!

  8. I have gotten pork skin from a local butcher. I used to use it for flavoring in ham and beans. I would love to make my own Chicharrones!

  9. Thanks for doing all of this work and experimentation Carolyn, I can’t wait to try these out! I’m always complaining that here in South Carolina it’s impossible to get ingredients like fresh vegetables and decent cheese, but one thing we have in abundance in every grocery store is pork skin! Now I know what to do with it thanks to you!!! :)

  10. Karen Olayo says:

    Thanks so much for this recipe. My husband is from Mexico and loves “chicharron” but it is soooo different there–I actually kind of like it (and I don’t like the store bought stuff at all). If you’ve never had chicharron in salsa verde–that should be the way you eat it next! Thanks again. Going to contact my farmer ASAP!

  11. Thank you so much for this – I have to try it ASAP! I never managed to make them crispy and now I know why… I always left the nice fat on and never dried them in the oven :-)

  12. Since pork is the preferred meat of Georgians everywhere, I doubt I’d have problems finding pork back fat here in Athens. (Plus I know someone whose dad used to own a pork processing business.) Now if I could only get the whole, “Pork rinds are the favorite snack of President Bush (the first)” out of my mind thing, I just may try these!

  13. Chicharrones are a guilty pleasure of mine – guilty because I always buy the store-bought ones and couldn’t get the trick of making them at home. Now I know how. Thanks for this.

  14. Now THESE are some chicharrones I can get behind.

  15. These look great! I have a question about storage: what’s the best way to store them? Can you freeze once cooked? Thank you

    • Hi Amanda,

      So sorry, this comment somehow got buried and I didn’t see it until just now. I am doubtful you can freeze them as I think that would add moisture back into them and they would get chewy. I stored mine on the counter, uncovered for 3 days and they were fine. The frying really preserves them but you don’t want them in a closed container or they will get all chewy and tough.

  16. Dale Hoffman says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I have been wasting so much pork skin and oven time, I was ready to walk away. Tiny parts of the skin were crisp and beautiful, while others were tough and wouldn’t be any good! Going to give this a go and see what happens.

    Just one thing though, you go to the trouble of buying beautiful grass fed and therefore low Omega 6 meats, but you use a vegetable oil that is high in Omega 6, Grapeseed. I was a little confused there. I don’t go near any seed oil, otherwise known as vegetable oils.

    • I only used a very little grapeseed to top up, since the lard from rendering the fat wasn’t quite enough. You can use whatever you wish, I do not get overly concerned as to O6 oils because I eat a wide variety of foods that give me O3.

  17. lescaret says:

    I noticed that you referenced John Crow Farm in this posting. Have you picked up from them lately? I imagine not because they seem to have gone out of business. That’s sad, true, but what’s sadder is the fact that they seem to have absconded with everyone’s money. I, for example, joined their meat, poultry, and vegetable shares in November, 2013. Paid $1300. I received two distributions since … and now they have disappeared. They don’t respond to emails, don’t return phone calls, their face Book Page is gone and, when I drove to the farm yesterday, I couldn’t find a soul (despite there being dogs, caged chickens, ducks, etc.).

    • Carolyn says:

      Wow. Yep, we haven’t heard from them either and I just searched and found the thread on Chowhound. I’ve applied to join the FB group and plan on contacting a lawyer too, as well as seeing if PayPal can do anything. I can hardly believe it. Thankfully, we’d only paid up through June. But still, it’s about $500 worth of money.

  18. Instead of baking in the oven at 250 degrees, do you think leaving them in a dehydrator would work? I’m guessing the purpose of putting them in the oven is to dry them out. I want to make these so bad. I’m very fortunate that I have a supply of pastured and humanely raised pork!

    • I can’t say for sure since I don’t have a dehydrator. Keep in mind that the gentle heat of the oven also melts away some of the remaining fat so that might be an issue in a dehydrator.

  19. Mmm I love me some pork rinds! I’ve made them myself, definitely not as hard as it I always thought. Yours look DELICIOUS!

  20. NICE ONE!… I do something similar every time I make lard – I buy half a pastured pig, and each time I get one I ask for EVERYTHING that is edible… so I get a fair amount of skin and fat (and the bits I do not want to eat I feed to the dog or the cat!)….. I am going to try your method next time I get one.
    Up to this time I have just rendered down the fat out of the skin and discarded them…. this sounds a much better way of doing things because I can use the rendered lard to cook the rinds an then I can put the rinds in lunch boxes…….

  21. I love chicharrones! And they taste great with guacamole!

  22. Thank you very much for this recipe! You guided very detail. I was making pork rinds since last night and I just found this place 30mins ago. English isn’t my first language and I had looked for the recipe in my mother language… sadly, none recipe, so I decided to try English searching, and took me awhile to find out “pork rinds” instead of “crunchy fried pig skin” ( my English is so poor as you see :( ) I love your recipe! Again, thank you very much for sharing all to us.
    I can’t find the recipe in my language because people make and sell. However, I read that, if you want to keep it long, don’t fry them all once. After it’s totally dry (from oven as you guys used, or to us, we put them under the sun for 2 days), you can keep it in room temperature in a clean box or plastic bag, just fry whenever you want to eat. Hope it helps.
    Sorry for my bad English.

  23. Jamal Shabazz says:

    Filet knife would work better for that step.

  24. I must try this! Thanks for the recipe; never thought of making my own! BTW, I live in Groton, MA! Our we neighbors?

  25. Jessica w. says:

    First hun, thank you :-) UR really good at speaking to people. And very well at explaining things. I don’t know,. Ur just darn cute. Lol. I have looked at a few rind recipes out of curiosity. I read yours because it looked like a really good recipe! I love the frying in the fat. I did have a huge suggestion for you. That I think you might love. I don’t want to ramble on here. So if you would like to email me ? This is if you are interested. It will help u a lot with the fat issue,. Make it easier on you. And also SHOULD cut down on your frying time. Rinds should only take about 30 seconds to one minute to completely fry up. Too bad we don’t have industrial fryers. Lol. That right there would take 10-15 seconds. Haha. Thank you sweetie. I hope I get to hear from you. Jw82610@gmail.com. Take care :-) and thank you again for sharing your recipe.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Homemade Healthy Chicharrones by All Day I Dream About Food. I have a think for pork rinds but I’ve never tried making them myself. Silly me! […]

  2. […] The scent of a particular brand of sunscreen transports me back to the beach (and my mother’s futile attempts to protect her bookish-child-of-Irish-descent’s skin from getting crispier than a chicharron). […]

  3. […] Homemade Healthy Pork Rinds Chicharrones Recipe – All Day I Dream About Food […]

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