Mexican Pork Carnitas

Mexican Pork Carnitas

I’ve been sitting here struggling with what to call these guys. I know they’re pork carnitas but what I really want the title of this post to be is The-Best-Pork-Canitas-In-The-Whole-Wide-World or The-Best-Damn-Carnitas-You-Have-Ever-Eaten-In-Your-Whole-Entire-Life. But I thought that would be a little overkill.

I can’t believe I’m reining myself in, for once.

BTW do you know what kind of pepper that is that is on the blue cutting board? I was given a whole bag of random delicious dried peppers (thank you!!) but I don’t know what they are. I think it is an ancho chilli pepper but if you know for sure I’d love to find out!

Mexican Pork Carnitas

I wish I had a recording of what it sounded like around the dinner table when we were eating these to share with you. Or not, it would be a bit embarrassing.

It sound something like this:

“OMG OMG!” “Holy damn woman these are so good!” What the f**k how is it possible these are so good?!”

I’m not even kidding you. When I realized our balcony door was open and that all of our neighbours could hear us I *might* have felt a little embarrassed. Just a little. Right before I took another giant bite. And then another.

Mexican Pork Carnitas

I’ve actually made this dish a few times now because, well, I’m a bit obsessed with it. I’ve made it with chicken too and it was also ridiculously good. I’ve also cut out little circles from the tortillas using a cookie cutter and then assembled mini carnitas as an appetizer. They were seriously cute.

I’ve linked to David Lebovitz’s recipe for the pickled red onions that have become a staple in my fridge for the past few months. You’ll find they’re great on burgers, sandwiches or on a cheese platter too.

Mexican Pork Carnitas

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4.2 from 5 reviews
Mexican Pork Carnitas
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
For the spice mix:
  • 1½ tablespoons of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the pulled pork:
  • ¼ cup of bacon fat or grape seed oil
  • 2½ pounds pork butt or bone in side ribs
  • 1 large can of beer (or a small one, it doesn't need to be exact)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 whole dried guajillo pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
For the carnitas:
For the spice rub:
  1. Mix together all spices in a small bowl. Set aside.
For the pork carnitas:
  1. If using pork butt, cut into fist size pieces. If using ribs, remove thin silver membrane from back of ribs and slice into individual ribs.
  2. Liberally coat each piece in the dry rub mix.
  3. Heat bacon fat, or grape seed oil, over high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Working in batches if necessary brown the pork on all sides. Carefully add the pork to the pan (stand back a little as it may splatter.) Let each side of the meat come to a nice dark brown. Remove pieces as they finish browning and place them in a large bowl.
  4. Once all pork is browned carefully pour the beer into the pot. Stir, scrapping the bottom of the pot to remove any brown bits. Add the garlic, oregano, pepper, bay leaf and any remaining spice rub. Put the pork back into the pot in a single layer. If necessary add water so that the liquid is half way up the sides of the pork.
  5. Move the pot to the smallest element you have and cook on the lowest heat for 4-5 hours. You want to keep the liquid at a very gentle simmer the entire time. Prop the lid slightly off if it is simmering too hard.
  6. After about 4 hours check the pork to see if the pork is done. If it falls apart when you try to pick it up with a fork it is done.
  7. Once the pork has finished cooking remove it from the pot and place it in a large bowl. Keep the cooking liquid in the pot. If using pork ribs wait until they have cooled enough to handle then remove the meat from the bones.
  8. Shred the meat using 2 forks. It should fall apart very easily. If it doesn't it needs to be cooked longer.
  9. Remove the bay leave and pepper from the cooking liquid. Discard the bay leave and the stem of the pepper. Finely mince the pepper and add it back into the pot with the cooking liquid and bring it to a boil. Continue to boil, uncovered, until the cooking liquid has reduced to a thick paste, about 15-20 minutes. Watch carefully and stir almost continuously near the end to prevent it from burning to the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and carefully pour off any excess fat.
  10. Position the oven rack in the top half of your oven and preheat to 500 degrees.
  11. Mix the reduced cooking liquid and the pulled pork together. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet.
  12. Broil the pulled pork for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy.
  13. Serve carnitas on corn tortillas with guacamole, pickled red onions and some shredded cabbage.
If eating gluten free is important to you make sure you read the ingredients on the corn tortilla package; some contain wheat flour. Also, make sure you use a gluten free beer.


About Kristen

Kristen Stevens is the creator and editor of The Endless Meal. She is also the owner of a small underground restaurant in Vancouver, Canada.
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  1. dean says

    The pickled onion turned into a huge fail! I used a large red onion and couldn’t get the liquid to cover more than barely a 1/4 of the onion. And after switching over to the largest fry pan, I had to do it in batches since there just is so little liquid to work with. The Zuni recipe is much clearer, and uses 4 times more vinegar, which makes sense since that is about what you need to blanch a large red onion. Sure hope the carnitas on the stove turns out better?

    • says

      Hi Dean,

      I’m so surprised to hear that since I’ve made David’s pickled onion recipe so many times and it has always worked. I actually find that there is usually more liquid than will fit into the jar, but then I always use a small jar and pack lots of the onion in so it needs only a little liquid.

      I’ve been thinking lately that I might start adding weights to my recipes since a large onion that David might find in France or I might find here in Canada might be very different than what you consider a large red onion.

      Hope you loved the carnitas. They really are one of my favourites :)

  2. stacey says

    What do you think about doing these in a smoker??? I know how….just not sure if the taste would be right! It sounds delicious in my head….and my mouth is watering!!!

    • says

      I’ve actually never used a smoker before so I really can’t say, but I have eaten smoked meat before and it is delicious. If you make it with your smoker I’s love to hear how it turned out. My guess is it would be extra smoky and delicious :)

  3. Lisa says

    Kristen, How do you think using a slow cooker would work for the 4 – 5 hours (may be extending the cooking time)? I also have a cast iron dutch oven which I could use if you think the slow cooker would not work. I work outside the house and don’t like to leave food cooking on stove while I am gone, so I thought the slow cooker might be an alternative.
    PS: saw your carnitas on FoodPornDaily, I am new fan of yours!

    • says

      Hi Lisa,

      This will definitely work in a slow cooker. Just finish it up under the broiler when you get home.

      Btw: I totally have to get myself a slow cooker. Everyone I know who has one raves about them :)

    • says

      Hi Simon,

      I’m pretty sure it would be enough for 8 people. 2 of us pigged out more than we needed to two nights in a row and I put a bunch in the freezer to save for later. If you’re worried at all do get a little bigger piece of pork. I do think it will be enough though.

      Hope you have a great dinner!

  4. Phil says

    Kristen, this looks wonderful. I would second that the chile you’re asking about appears to be a guajillo. They are a slight bit shorter and broader than New Mexico chiles and typically have a lower Scoville rating. Ancho are the very dark, almost black, dried chiles. Fresh (and picked green before fully ripened) they are known as pablano.

  5. says

    Loved your carnitas! Guacamole is difficult to get here in Greece. Any alternatives?
    It looks a lot like a Mexican Gyros version:) Since we love Souvlaki with Gyros (Pita-Gyros) we ‘ll definitely love this variation!

    • says

      I can’t think of anything similar to an avocado but if they’re hard to find in Greece then just leave out the guacamole. I bet it would be good with some thick sour cream and some fresh salsa too :)

  6. Sarah says

    I made these tonight and they were SO GOOD! Both my husband and kids devoured them. Will definitely be making them again. Great recipe :)

  7. Amelia says

    Im a bit confused about the reduced liquid at the end. You say to mix it with the pork before you broil it, however step 14. says Pour liquid over…does this mean we save half of it for the end? Thanks…cant wait to try this!

  8. Jad @ New South Food Co says

    Look like New Mexican dried peppers to me. You can get them at any grocery store and they have a light smoky flavor with mild heat.

  9. Francisca says

    Hi, I live in Mexico and I am pretty sure it’s a guajillo dried pepper. Thanks for the recipe, it looks great and very different from what I have tried here!

    • says

      Hi Francisca,

      I’ve never heard of a guajillo pepper before. I love how there are so many different kinds and they all taste a little (or a lot) different. Thank you for letting me know what it is!


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