Mexican Pork Carnitas
We like to call these Mexican Pork Carnitas “the best damn carnitas you'll ever eat in your whole life.” Yes, they're that good. The meat is flavorful and super tender with lots of magical crispy bits. You'll love it!
These Mexican Pork Carnitas were originally published in 2013.
I've been sitting here struggling with what to call these guys. I know they're pork carnitas but I really want the title of this post to be is The Best Pork Carnitas in The Whole Wide World or The Best Damn Carnitas You'll Ever Eat. But I thought that would be a little overkill.
I can't believe I'm reining myself in, for once.
Why this is the best pork carnitas recipe ever
- The Mexican pulled pork is melt in your mouth tender.
- But not just tender. It's dotted with magical crispy bits that will make you swoon.
- And flavorful. What sets this recipe apart from others is that the cooking liquid is reduced then poured over the crisped meat. It makes this carnitas recipe unbelievably tasty.
- These carnitas are so easy to make. If you can put a few things into a pot (or crockpot!), pull apart tender meat, and set your oven to broil you can make these.
- Only 10 minutes of prep. And that's generous. If you move quickly you can have the carnitas cooking 5 minutes.
- This recipe uses pantry staple ingredients. Pick up some pork at the grocery store and I bet you'll have everything else waiting for you in your kitchen.
- Tacos carnitas are the best tacos ever!
- This recipe is gluten-free, paleo, and Whole30. Healthy pork carnitas that are out of this world delicious!
I wish I had a recording of what it sounds like at the dinner table when I make these. Or not, it might be a bit embarrassing. It sounds something like this:
“OMG OMG!” “Holy damn woman these are so good!” What the hell … how is it possible these are so good?!”
I'm not even kidding you. my handsome man gets ‘a little' excited when there's pork carnitas for dinner.
So what are carnitas?
Carnitas is braised pork that has been chopped into small pieces or shredded. Braising means cooking in liquid for many hours and is done on the stovetop, in the oven, or in a slow cooker.
Authentic carnitas are made by cooking a fatty cut of pork (like pork shoulder) in lard. I don't think many of us keep tubs of lard in our pantries (at least I don't!) so this recipe is made a little differently. Don't worry, it is every bit as delicious.
How to make pork carnitas?
Luckily for us, carnitas are super easy to make. While you can braise the meat in your oven or in a pot on your stovetop, I like to use my crockpot. Using a slow cooker is the easiest way to make carnitas.
To make carnitas, rub a pork butt roast (pork shoulder) with some pantry-staple spices then put it in your slow cooker with some lime and orange juice, a little garlic, and bay leaves. Then sit back and drink a margarita while you let the crockpot do all the work for you!
How to make carnitas crispy?
Once your slow cooker has turned your pork roast into pulled pork, you'll want to crisp the meat. This is where the magic happens. You have 2 options here.
Option #1: Broil the carnitas in your oven.
This is my favorite option. The meat gets beautifully crisp spots that remind me of authentic carnitas that have been simmered in lard for hours. The flavor is incredible.
Option #2: Sear the carnitas in a pan on your stove.
Stovetop carnitas is a good option in the summertime when turning your oven to broil would heat your home like crazy. It's also a little faster. The carnitas are good this way, but not as good as the oven method. I find that the meat and sauce can easily burn before the meat crisps. I only recommend using this method as a backup plan if you don't want to turn on your oven.
How to make carnitas tacos
Carnitas tacos (or tacos de carnitas) are THE BEST tacos ever. The meat is so flavorful that it's best to keep the other taco fillings minimal. Here's what I love in my carnitas tacos:
- Guacamole! This is a must. I usually make my Easy Guacamole Recipe but my Creamy Avocado Sauce is delicious, too.
- Pickled red onions. I LOVE these! The recipe I use is from David Lebovitz and it's really easy. The only thing I do differently is use honey instead of sugar to keep this refined sugar free.
- Tortillas. Corn, flour, paleo almond flour tortillas, or lettuce wraps. Your choice!
Other yummy extras:
Cilantro, sliced jalapeños, cojita cheese, diced tomatoes, minced red onion, and sour cream
What to make with leftover carnitas?
Leftover carnitas can be stored in an airtight container in your fridge for 3 days. But carnitas freeze beautifully. Pop any leftovers in a plastic freezer bag in portion sizes you'll use. Trust me, you'll be so happy that you did!
Other ideas for using leftover carnitas
- Top with eggs and salsa for breakfast
- Make a carnitas sandwich
- Turn them into enchiladas
- Use them to step up your nachos game
- Take a healthy approach and put some on top of salad greens
Favorite Mexican Recipes
- Spicy Mexican Rice
- Creamy Avocado Sauce
- Easy Guacamole Recipe
- Fizzy Lime Margaritas
- Chicken Carnitas with Jalapeño Pineapple Salsa
- Grilled Mezcal Chicken Fajita
- Baja Fish Tacos with Southern Slaw
We like to call these Mexican Pork Carnitas “the best damn carnitas you'll ever eat in your whole life.” Yes, they're that good. The meat is super flavorful and tender with lots of magical crispy bits. You'll love it!
The spice rub
- 2 teaspoons each: salt and paprika
- 1 teaspoon each: black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and oregano
- Optional: 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (if you like it a little spicy)
The pork carnitas
- 2.5 lb. pork butt (pork shoulder)
- Juice from 2 oranges
- Juice from 2 limes
- 1 tablespoon honey (omit for sugar-free)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- Mix the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Evenly coat all sides of the pork with the spice rub.
- Add the orange juice, lime juice, honey (if using), garlic, and bay leaves to your pot. Stir then set the pork on top.
- Choose which method you will cook the pork carnitas and follow those directions.
- When the pork is very tender, remove it from the pot and shred it using 2 forks. Turn your oven to broil.
- Pour the cooking juices into a pot and boil for 10 minutes, or until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup.
- Place the shredded pork on a large, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle it with the avocado oil, and put it on the top rack in your oven. Let it broil for 10 minutes then mix the pork around and broil for 10 minutes more.
- Pour the reduced cooking liquid over the pork and toss to coat.
Slow Cooker Method
Cover the pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
Stovetop cooking method
Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat and cover the pot. Simmer very gently for 5-6 hours, or until the pork is very tender.
Oven cooking method
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Cover the pot and put it in your oven for 7-8 hours, or until the pork is very tender.