Pork Carnitas —succulent pork shoulder seasoned to perfection. Great for tacos, burritos, or sandwiches topped with slaw and hot sauce.
Pork Carnitas, translated as “little meats”, is Mexican-Style shredded pork similar to the American Pulled Pork. Both are made from succulent pork and seasoned with a superb blend of spices. Carnitas is usually served in tortillas for tacos or burritos but can also be served on a Homemade Hamburger Bun with slaw and amazing Orange Taco Sauce.
Best cut of pork for carnitas
Pork shoulder, also known as Boston butt, is the most preferred cut of pork for both carnitas and pulled pork. Boston butt has a good amount of fat that helps to season and moisten the meat during braising. Fat is the key to delicious carnitas.
Ingredients and equipment
Pork shoulder aka Boston butt
Ancho chili powder- You can replace this with regular chili powder.
Smoked paprika- May be substituted with plain paprika.
Black peppercorns- Optional; it adds a little peppery heat.
Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed oven-safe pot with lid- Alternatively, you could use a deep casserole dish covered tightly with aluminum foil.
Tips for preparing pork shoulder
Use a boneless skinless cut of pork. Try to select one with a good amount of fat but also mostly meat. You should see mostly flesh with fat marbles throughout.
Cut the pork into chunks. Carnitas has shorter strands of meat versus the longer strands of pulled pork.
Remove excessive amounts of fat. There should be a good deal of fat remaining but large portions of fat with no meat should be discarded.
I’m cutting the pork into 2-3 inch pieces so that the shreds are small when it falls apart. That’s one of the biggest differences between carnitas and pulled pork. Start by seasoning the pork then place it in the dutch oven with onion, garlic, peppercorns, and orange slices.
The seasoned meat is surrounded by the chicken stock, lime, and orange juices and covered with the a lid before being placed in the in a 350° preheated oven for 3 ½ hours.
The pork is then spread on a baking sheet with the onion, garlic, and orange slices (trust me, the cooked orange peel is so sweet at this point and tastes amazing) and shredded. It's actually read to serve at this point. I almost never have to run it under the broiler because it's pretty crisp already. But if you need a little more char, place the pan under the broiler for 2 minutes or so.
How to serve pork carnitas
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Mexican-Style Pork Carnitas
- 3 lb pork shoulder cut into 2-3” pieces; trimmed of excessive fat
- 1 large white onion quartered
- 1 orange sliced
- 1 lime juiced
- 6 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 c chicken stock
- 1 c orange juice
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp ancho chili powder
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the pork in the dutch oven and season with the salt and other spices. Add the onion, garlic cloves, and orange slices. Pour the stock, lime juice, and orange juice around the pork.
- Place the pot into the oven for 3 ½ hours. Transfer the pork along with the onion, garlic, and orange slices to a baking sheet. Shred the meat and place it under the broiler for 2 minutes or until crisped to your preference. Serve immediately.