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We like to call these Mexican Pork Carnitas “the absolute best 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!
Table of contents
We really struggled with naming this recipe. Of course, they're known as pork carnitas. But we really wanted the title of this post to be The Best Pork Carnitas in the Whole Wide World or The Best Carnitas You'll Ever Eat. We decided to keep it simple and call them pork carnitas, but know that they really are the best.
Why this is the best pork carnitas recipe ever
- The Mexican pulled pork is melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy.
- 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 and 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, pull apart tender meat, and set your oven to broil then you can make these.
- Only 10 minutes of prep. And that's generous. If you move quickly you can have the carnitas cooking in 5 minutes.
- This recipe uses pantry staple ingredients. Pick up some pork at the grocery store, and you'll likely 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!
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 on the stovetop or in the oven.
Authentic carnitas are made by cooking a fatty cut of pork (like pork shoulder) in lard. Since most of us don't keep tubs of lard in our pantries (at least we don't!) 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. You can braise the meat in your oven or in a pot on your stovetop on low heat.
To make carnitas, rub a pork butt roast (pork shoulder) with some pantry-staple spices then put it into a pot with some lime and orange juice, a little garlic, and bay leaves. Then sit back and drink a fizzy lime margarita while you let the pot bubble away gently for several hours.
How to store leftovers
Leftover carnitas can be stored airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat them gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Carnitas also freeze very well! Store them in a freezer-proof container for up to 3 months.
How to make carnitas crispy
Once your pork roast has been turned into Mexican 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 our favorite option. The meat gets beautifully crisp spots like authentic pork 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. We find that the meat and sauce can easily burn before the meat crisps. We only recommend using this method as a backup plan if you don't want to turn on your oven.
How to serve pork carnitas
We typically make a big taco feast when we make pork carnitas. Here's what we like on the table:
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 freezer bag in portion sizes you'll use. Trust us, you'll be so happy that you did!
Other ideas for using leftover carnitas
- Top with eggs and salsa for breakfast
- Make a pork carnitas sandwich
- Turn them into enchiladas
- Use them to step up your nacho game
- Take a healthy approach and put some on top of salad greens
- Make pork carnitas tacos
Favorite Mexican Recipes
- Grilled Mezcal Chicken Fajita
- Baja Fish Tacos with Southern Slaw
- Shrimp Tacos
- Skillet Enchiladas
- Mexican Corn Dip
The Spice Rub
- 2 teaspoons EACH: salt and paprika
- 1 teaspoon EACH: black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and oregano
- Optional: ½ teaspoon chili flakes (if you like it a little spicy)
The Pork Carnitas
- 2 ½ lb pork butt (or pork shoulder)
- Juice from 2 oranges
- Juice from 2 limes
- 1 tablespoon honey (omit for sugar-free)
- 4 cloves garlic (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.2 teaspoons EACH: salt and paprika, 1 teaspoon EACH: black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and oregano, Optional: ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- Add the orange juice, lime juice, honey (if using), garlic, and bay leaves to your pot. Stir then set the pork on top.Juice from 2 oranges, Juice from 2 limes, 1 tablespoon honey, 4 cloves garlic, 2 bay leaves, 2 ½ lb pork butt
- 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 ½ 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.1 tablespoon avocado oil
- Pour the reduced cooking liquid over the pork and toss to coat.
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 Fahrenheit. Cover the pot and put it in your oven for 7-8 hours, or until the pork is very tender.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.
For more inspiration, check out all of our Southwest and Mexican recipes!
This recipe is part of our Healthy Super Bowl Recipes series.