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Mexican-Style Pork Carnitas

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Pork Carnitas —succulent pork shoulder seasoned to perfection. Great for tacos, burritos, or sandwiches topped with slaw and hot sauce.

pork carnitas tacos vertical

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 in a bowl with onion

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 in a dutch oven

Pork shoulder aka Boston butt
White onion
Orange
Garlic
Orange juice
Lime juice
Chicken stock
Cumin
Sugar
Ancho chili powder– You can replace this with regular chili powder.
Kosher salt
Smoked paprika– May be substituted with plain paprika.
Oregano
Coriander
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.
Baking sheet

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.

Carnitas instructions

pouring orange juice over seasoned pork choulder

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.

roasted carnitas in a dutch oven

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 1/2 hours.

shredded pork carnitas on a sheet pan

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

pork carnitas tacos

Carnitas make wonderful tacos for Flour Tortillas as well as Corn Tortillas. I would serve these tacos with Spanish Rice, Pinto Beans, and Fire Roasted Salsa.

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carnitas tacos
5 from 12 votes

Mexican-Style Pork Carnitas

Print Recipe
Pork Carnitas—succulent pork shoulder seasoned to perfection. Great for tacos and burritos or sandwiches topped with tangy slaw and hot sauce.
Prep Time:15 mins
Cook Time:6 hrs
Total Time:6 hrs 15 mins

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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 1/2 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 280kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 94mg | Sodium: 952mg | Potassium: 734mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 9g | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Keyword: pork, pork shoulder, pulled pork
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 280kcal
Author: Ty

20 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This recipe was the bomb!! My family and I thoroughly enjoyed our pulled pork sandwiches. The meat was sooo tender and flavorful.

  2. 5 stars
    Carnitas looks amazing, all the spices along with pineapple and lime juice make this dish extra tasty and special. Such a lovely combo.

  3. 5 stars
    This kind of sandwich is one of my favorite things ever!! This recipe looks perfect. Cant wait to try it!

  4. 5 stars
    Oh my – that pork shoulder looks so yum. Absolute perfection to say the least! There are so many ways that I can think of to use this recipe!

      1. HI Ty,

        I recently found your website and love your recipes. Most recently I made the Homemade Crab Stock, yeah, I’m a MD girl, and now I’m looking to try this recipe. I already have a flavored [mushroom & garlic] pork loin that I recently purchased. Can I use that instead of a pork shoulder?

        1. The pork loin is going to have significantly less fat than the shoulder which will effect the cooking time, taste, and texture. I don’t think it will work for this recipe.

  5. 5 stars
    Wow these look delicious! It’s been ages since I’ve had pulled pork and now I’m seriously craving it. Your carnitas are mouthwatering!

  6. 5 stars
    This looks amazing!! I’m loving the pineapple juice and lime juice you use in this recipe! Paired with the peppers, it’s the perfect combination between sweet and spicy!!

  7. 5 stars
    I adore carnitas and your recipe looks so delicious! I can see myself putting your carnitas on salads, on sandwiches and other fun ways of adding this to my menu. 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    We are Mexican food lovers. These carnitas look and sound delicious. I know they would be a hit at any bbq party…and I will have to serve this to my guests soon this summer.

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