Carnitas

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

  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds boned pork shoulder, cut into large cubes (remove as much fat as possible)
  • 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

*If cooking gluten-free, use gluten-free broth.

Method

1 In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine pork, broth, and salsa. Add enough water to completely cover the meat. 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 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 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 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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Comments

  1. Liz

    I live in the Bay Area and have had these types of tacos a zillion times (carne asada are probably my favorite, I admit). Never did I know to use both tortillas separately when I ate them! Always wondered why there were two… tee hee! Thanks for the great recipe. Can’t wait to try this one at home. Hubby will love it. Love the site. Keep up the fantastic work!!!!!

  2. jonathan

    ¡Delicioso! ¡Y fácil hacer! Best part? Pork shoulder is muy barato ($3-4/lb?). Another nice garnish is small dice white onion, marinated in lime juice and cilantro. Between this and a steak taco recipe I just tried, I’ll be opening up my own taqueria by early 2007. Any investors?

  3. kg

    I’ve made these with green salsa as well and they are REALLY good. I trim a little of the fat, but the marbling on a roast really helps the carmelization process, so leave some on!

  4. Casey

    My family makes Carnitas every year on Christmas Eve. Our recipe is very different however from the one you posted. We cook ours in a slower cooker. Just put all the following in the pot and cook for 6 to 8 hours on low.

    - 4 + lbs pork butt
    - Several bottles of mexican beer, enough to almost cover the meat (we use Corona)
    - 1 jalapeno- cut in half
    - 2 limes- cut in half (juiced over the meat)
    - cilantro (I love cilantro, so I use a lot, but you can use as much or as little at you like)
    - several garlic cloves halved
    - salt and pepper

    The meat will be fork tender when done. We shred our pork instead of cubbing it and mix the shredded meat back in the pot with a small amount of the cooking liquid remaining to help keep it moist.

    We serve the same way as your post mentioned.

  5. Kirsten

    What a simple and lovely way to make carnitas! I’ve seen recipes where it is braised and then deep fried and I just can’t imagine doing that at home, but this sounds wonderful and doable.

    Plus, your photography is so excellent. I haven’t eaten lunch yet, so just looking at the picture is making my stomach growl. :)

  6. Dan

    Growing up in East Los Angeles, I’ve sampled a lot of carnitas. All of the receipes that I’ve heard from chefs that would share their technique involve having the pork cooked in lard. It’s not fried but simmered in a roasting pan with rendered pork fat. Carnitas to me is Mexican Pork Confit. However, Googling “Carnitas” shows that most sites show your method the prevalent one. Maybe it’s a regional thing.

  7. Laurel

    Although the recipes sound delicious, what about the marination in Coca-Cola? With the othe spices, the cola gives the balance and of course the slight sweet bite for the crispy exterior. Mouth watering–I promise.
    Since my husband’s family is from Jalisco it is the way it is mostly done in that area of Mexico.
    Merry Christmas, Laurel

  8. Robyn

    This looks delicious, Elise I look forward to trying it. The method with the meat reminds me of a recipe a Japanese friend gave me for her very moreish beef nibbles:

    Kudoh-san’s Beef Nibbles

    500g (about 1 pound) skirt steak
    Place in cold water, bring to boil, boil about 20mins, drain, shred.

    In frypan caramelize:

    1/2 cup Japanese soy sauce
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 tsp chicken stock powder
    1 Tbsp hot curry powder
    a few grinds of pepper
    a little water

    Add shredded meat threads and coat with sauce.

    Spread sauce coated meat out in an oven proof container and dry in 100deg C (approx 200 deg F) oven for 30 minutes, turning meat occassionally.

  9. Homesick Texan

    This sounds a lot healthier than the way I usually make carnitas–cooking the pork in a pot full of simmering lard for several hours. Thanks for providing an alternative! And gorgeous photo!

  10. Tom Hammer

    Another great recipe, Elise. I also prefer to pull the pork to shreds before the carmelizing roast. Now bring us a killer Al Pastor recipe, ¡por favor! You’re batting two for two on slow cooked pork butt recipes, dear!

  11. Linda

    Great Pork Recipe Elise! Nice recipe change from beef or chicken.

    Lydia
    Below is a recipe for beef Carne asada . Not the same cooking method as Elise’s yummy pork A college classmate cooked the beef at a party. Big hit no one wanted to eat anything else at the potluck.

    Linda

    2 pounds flank or skirt steak
    Olive oil
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    Marinade:
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    1 jalapeño chile pepper, seeded and minced
    1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
    1 large handful fresh cilantro, leaves and stems, finely chopped (great flavor in the stems)
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    2 limes, juiced
    2 tablespoons white vinegar
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    1/2 cup olive oil

    1 Lay the flank steak in a large bowl or baking dish. Combine marinade ingredients and pour the marinade over the steak. Make sure each piece is well coated. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-4 hours

    2 Preheat your grill over medium-high flame (you can also use a cast iron grill pan on high heat for stove-top cooking). Brush the grates with a little oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Remove the steak from the marinade. If you are cooking indoors, you may want to brush off excess marinade as the bits may burn and smoke on the hot pan. Season both sides of the steak pieces with salt and pepper. Grill the pieces for a few minutes only, on each side, depending on how thinly sliced they are, until medium rare to well done, to your preference. You may need to work in batches. Remove the steak pieces to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak across the grain on a diagonal.

  12. also james

    Great recipe. Thank you for this.

    RE: (discard the liquid)

    We strained the liquid and made a spectacular posole with the leftover carnitas and some additions.

    best.posole.ever.

  13. jen

    Yummm!!!

    The Mexican restaurant where I used to work marinated their pork butt in a combination of Corona and orange juice. Then they’d slow simmer it for a couple hours, shred it, and fry it up in lard. It was so tender it’d melt in your mouth!!

    The double layer of corn tortilla was muy importante – the carnitas were so moist they’d soak right through a single one!

  14. Liz

    I made your pork carnitas tacos for dinner tonight and they were excellent. The only problem was that I’ve never dealt with a pork shoulder before and the one I bought had bones and skin, like enough skin to make a football out of, but I managed to hack enough meat off of it to cook. I have a happy husband tonight.

  15. Mir

    We had it tonight and it was great – the youngest, I-don’t-eat-anything-with-taste, even liked it. I served it with corn tortillas, lime & tomato salsa, avacadoes, and black beans. I’m delighted that there will be leftovers for lunch (or two).

  16. Danabee

    My husband is a HUGE carnitas fan. I made this dish yesterday for him. He declared it the best meal he’s had all year. (And I am a damn good cook!) When I first told him I’d found a carnitas recipe I wanted to try on him he said “You have to use my Mom’s recipe. Don’t mess with the carnitas!” Your recipe was declared the best and I have to agree. Ridiculously simple for the cook and makes the house smell great for hours. Didn’t hurt that I made the pico de gallo from our cherry tomatoes from the garden, either. Thanks!! I’m loving your site!

  17. Danabee

    Last Wednesday I made the carnitas again, doubling the recipe to feed a larger crowd and ensuring leftovers. This morning we have just made and devoured “carnitas hash” using your ham and potato hash recipe. We fried eggs and served them on top of the hash. OMG!
    I find it all gets crispier if you disturb the pan contents as little as possible once the potatoes go in. You get a nice crust on the potatoes that way. I am delighted to find another delicious use for carnitas!! Thanks for the inspiration, Elise.

  18. Leah

    I made these on Saturday night for a dinner party and they were fantastic!!! Thanks so much for the recipe! This is my new favorite site!!!

  19. Shy

    Made these this evening for my kiddos – delicioso! I also used a bone-in shoulder and doubled the fixins the meat is cooked in. Any ideas on what to do with all the leftover broth? It’s thick and delicious, thought about making beans and throwing them in it. I’d love suggestions!

  20. Jen

    I use shredded cabbage instead of lettuce for all tacos. There’s no taste difference, it’s crunchier and lasts longer in the fridge for leftovers.

  21. 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.

  22. 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

  23. 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 :)

  24. tastyeatsathome

    I love Mexican food, and since I happened to buy a lot of pork shoulder recently and wondered what to do with it, I decided to try your carnitas recipe. Yum yum yum!!! And by the way, the carnitas are even good if you eat them an hour or so later than planned (long story short, but our washing machine overflowed right as I was finishing dinner, and so we had a little “clean up” to take care of before we could eat). My husband and I ate so many tacos we were stuffed. Thanks Elise!

  25. becca

    Made this last night. It was delicious! My husband and I loved it. I halved the recipe and it was perfect for two, although I wouldn’t have minded the leftovers. Next time I will use 4 lbs pork. Made some homemade salsa to go with it – delish!

  26. Shannon

    We made these carnitas this weekend. We added garlic, cumin, Mexican oregano, lime and orange zest to the beef broth. When the carnitas came out of the oven they were both crisp, mosit, and flavorful! I also made your chile verde (roasted tomatillos)…perfect compliment!

    I strained and am saving the broth that we cooked the shoulder in..I might just take someone’s suggestion and make posole with it!

  27. Mar

    I made carnitas for the first time last night and they were delicious! I used leftover grilled country ribs. I subbed beer for the stock and added some cumin and dried ancho peppers. I also reduced the sauce down to a thick spicy gravy while the meat was browning. My boyfriend said it was the best mexican meal I’ve ever made.

  28. Shannan

    Very good base recipe. I dope it up with garlic, hot chili flakes,onion, cilantro and beer (and sometimes homemade enchilada sauce instead of salsa if I have it)I also put the bone in while it simmers (if there is one).

    The liquid is great for posole and to use to make tamales (with some of your pork (either before or after crisping).

  29. Kate

    This has got to be really great done in a pressure cooker, where pretty much everything comes out tastier (not to mention faster).

    I adore carnitas.

  30. miles jacob

    Herbs and spices will just muddy the pork flavor in this dish in my experience, save them for the salsas. Rub the pork shoulder with LOTS of salt and pepper and a bit of brown sugar, roast or braise at a very low temperature with NO added liquid. About four hours later shred the meat into its own juices and fry it in its own fat. Deglaze with a little coke or orange juice. Serve with pico de gallo, guacamole or other fresh raw salsas to balance against the richness.

  31. arosi

    Super Yummy! I followed the directions pretty closely. But at the end, I lightly sprinkled the pork with brown sugar and I put it under the broiler. It was fantastic! I never would have had the courage to try it if it wasn’t for this site and all the advice I get from reading it! Thank you!

  32. Stephen

    I’ve tried similar recepies and sounds delicious, but do NOT discard the liquid that you have cooked thhe pork in. Let it simmer until reduced to half and you have wonderful broth to use for other cooking e.g. Make your own gravey.

  33. Scott Free

    After making this delicious recipe I didn’t want to discard the flavorful broth. When tasting it, it reminded me of an excellent Pho stock, so I made it into a Pho type soup by heating with some of the shredded left over pork and vegetables (sliced carrot, baby bok choy, jalapeno) then added cooked Asian noodles, bean sprouts, and diced green onion at the end. If you like it really spicy, add a drizzle of chili oil.

    It wasn’t authentic anything, but it was out of this world good !