Carnitas

Mexican pork carnitas, slow cooked, spicy, shredded pork shoulder, finished in the oven for browning, served with tortillas and salsa.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Enter any Mexican taqueria in California and you’ll find carnitas on the menu, usually pork butt (the shoulder roast) braised first, pulled apart, and then roasted on high heat to caramelize.

This is my father’s favorite recipe for pork carnitas which we put into fresh tortillas for tacos, with fresh tomato salsa. I think I could eat this everyday for a week and not get tired of it.

Carnitas Recipe

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  • Yield: Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds boned pork shoulder, cut into large cubes (remove any large chunks of excess fat, but do not remove all the fat or you'll have dry, unflavorful carnitas)
  • 1 quart beef broth
  • 2 cups chunky tomato salsa either prepared or homemade
  • Water
  • Salt
  • 2 cups fresh tomato salsa (pico de gallo)
  • 16-24 corn tortillas

Method

1 Combine pork, broth, salsa in a large pot, cover and simmer several hours: In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine pork, broth, and salsa. Add enough water to barely cover the pork.

Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 3 to 4 hours (or longer) until meat pulls apart easily. Add salt to taste if needed.

2 Break meat into chunks, spread out in roasting pan, roast in oven until browned: Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove meat from liquid in pot (discard the liquid) and spread the meat out in a roasting pan. Break the meat into small chunks. Roast meat for 15 to 20 minutes until brown and crispy.

3 Warm the tortillas: If you are using store-bought tortillas, heat the tortillas one-by-one either in a microwave or on a hot skillet.

If you heat them on a skillet you may need to use a little butter or oil to help soften them. When air pockets form in the tortillas they are ready.

To heat them in a microwave, place a paper towel on the floor of the microwave. Lay one or two tortillas on the paper towel (whatever will fit so there is only one layer). Microwave on high heat for 10 seconds per tortilla (some brands of tortillas require 20 seconds each).

Keep warm tortillas wrapped in a clean cloth towel for serving.

To serve, double up the tortillas and place a few spoonfuls of the carnitas on them. Top with salsa. Serve with grated lettuce (that has been lightly salted and sprinkled with vinegar), beans, avocados, and/or grated cheese.

To eat, remove half of the carnitas from one tortilla to another. Take one tortilla at a time with the carnitas and salsa, fold it over and enjoy. Or, keep them doubled up. Your choice.

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Links:

Carnitas with chipotle and coca cola from Alaska Cooks

Carnitas Houston Style from Lisa Fain the Homesick Texan

Showing 4 of 34 Comments

  • Jeanie

    Made this last night and served it with homemade tortillas (recipe from your site) and fresh salsa. Delicious and plentiful! We subbed beer for the broth.

  • Nancy

    This recipe is from Whole Foods and is, so far, my favorite. I will try the above recipes also. Thanks. I like to serve mine with sour cream, lettuce, tomato, olives and green onion and flour tortillas. Everyone has different tastes. I’ve left out the Pico de Gallo recipe and the tortilla recipe but included the web site address of you want to see the other recipes. Enjoy! Yumm.

    These delicious carnitas tacos call for pork flavored with garlic, cumin and jalapeño, which is then simmered in orange and lime juices until it is fall-apart tender. To recreate a Mexican roadside taco stand experience, serve with hand-made corn tortillas, fresh pico de gallo, crisp green cabbage, and creamy avocado.

    Serves 6 to 8

    3 lbs boneless pork loin, cut into 1-inch pieces (or buy pre-cut pork stew meat)
    3 large garlic cloves, minced
    1–2 jalapeños, minced (optional)
    1 tsp cumin
    1 tsp sea salt
    1/2 tsp pepper
    2 TB olive oil
    1/2 cup fresh orange juice
    1/4 cup fresh lime juice
    1 cup chicken stock

    Transfer to roasting pan and add orange juice, lime juice and chicken stock. Cover tightly (you don’t want to lose the steam from a loose fitting lid) and place in oven for 2 to 2-1/2 hours, until meat is very tender. If juices cook out, add more chicken stock.

    Allow pork to cool and absorb the remaining juices. Shred meat with a fork.

  • fetch

    Instead of discarding all your flavor (the braising broth) down the drain, try this:

    Once you remove the meat and shred, reduce the liquid (strained any large particulate material, NOT defatted) over high heat stirring occasionally until you can leave a track through the reduction when a spoon/spatula is pulled through; about 12-15 minutes. Add to the meat and gently mix to incorporate.

    To avoid the meat being too greasy from doing this step and still get a crispy end-product, do this:

    Spread the meat onto a wire rack placed over a shallow dish/cookie sheet. Place in the lower 1/3 of your oven away from the broiler element and broil 5-7 minutes or until crisp but not charred. Flip meat and broil an additional 5-7 minutes until crispy on that side as well.

    Great advice, thank you! ~Elise

  • Chris

    Hooray! I finally made these last night; I’m still obsessing over how delicious they were. I also used the suggestion by fetch to use the reduction before crisping in the oven.

  • Brian

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this recipe! It has become one of our favorites. When my 13 yr old daughter is asked what she wants for dinner, it’s always a toss up between carnitas, and chicken Parmesan. I marinate the meat in a combination of beer, orange juice, and a little Coke, then sear it in a pan, and throw everything into the crock pot. Comes out awesome every time! Thanks :)

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