Salsa Verde Carnitas

Carnitas are the Mexican version of pulled pork. Braised first in a spicy sauce, pork shoulder is slow cooked until so tender the meat just shreds easily with a fork, then it’s roasted at high heat to make crispy browned bits full of flavor. It’s taco meat, burrito meat, or just stewy meat served with rice and beans. This version of carnitas, adapted from a Sunset recipe for braised pork, is cooked first in a braise of tomatilla salsa verde, or green salsa. It’s delicious served with fresh corn tortillas and topped with a shredded cabbage slaw, Cotija cheese, avocado, and Mexican sour cream.

Salsa Verde Carnitas Recipe

  • Cook time: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 pounds pork butt (pork shoulder)
  • 2 cups salsa verde, bottled, canned, or homemade
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teas dried)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt
  • 12 to 16 corn tortillas, heated and softened
  • 1/4 head of cabbage, very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar (if you only have unseasoned, add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to it)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Cotija Mexican farmer's cheese, or some grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • Crema fresca, crema Mexican, or sour cream
  • Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Method

1 Trim the excess fat from the pork shoulder roast. Put the roast, the salsa verde, onion, chicken stock, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and oregano in a large, thick-bottomed pot, and heat on high heat. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover and simmer until meat pulls away easily with a fork, about 3 hours.

2 Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove meat from liquid in pot and put the meat into a roasting pan. With 2 forks, tear the meat into large shreds, spreading them out in an even layer in the roasting pan. Roast meat for 15 to 20 minutes until parts are brown and crispy.

3. While the meat is roasting, skim and discard fat from the liquid in the large pot. Heat the pot on high and vigorously boil the remaining liquid, stirring, until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, 8 to 10 minutes.

4 Return the meat to the pot with the liquid. Stir in chopped cilantro. Season with salt.

salsa-verde-carnitas-4.jpg salsa-verde-carnitas-5.jpg

Serve with heated and softened corn tortillas (20 seconds each in the microwave spread out over a paper towel will heat and softened packaged tortillas sufficiently), diced avocado, crumbed Cotija or grated Monterey jack cheese, sour cream (or crema fresca), and seasoned cabbage slaw.

Seasoned Cabbage Slaw

Place thinly sliced cabbage in a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle on olive oil, seasoned rice vinegar, salt and pepper. You can substitute white vinegar or apple cider vinegar for the rice vinegar, if you do, sprinkle on some sugar to help balance the acidity of the vinegar. Toss. Adjust seasonings. Let sit for 10 minutes for the cabbage to absorb some of the dressing.

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Carnitas recipe adapted from a braised pork recipe in Sunset magazine.

38 Comments

  1. Mark

    Great recipe. I make something very similar to this, but I do a couple of things differently that I think really help to give it better flavor.

    I cut my pork roast into chunks and rub with a homemade mix of cumin, ancho chili powder, salt, pepper, and mexican oregano, letting it sit for a few hours prior to cooking. I think that allows the meat to really hold on to that flavor.

    And a couple of tips for the tortillas:
    1. A woman that lived in South America showed me that if you wet the top and bottom corn tortilla prior to placing them in the microwave, you’ll get much better results. You may have to throw the top and bottom one away as they will become too soggy.

    2. If I have the time I will use my cast-iron skillet to heat my corn tortillas. Spread, very lightly, a bit of water or oil on to the tortilla and cook on each side until it just starts to color. This blows away cooking them in the microwave, but it does take considerably longer.

  2. jennbec

    Since I’m not a big pork person, I think I’ll try this chicken and some of my frozen stash of homemade salsa verde. My boyfriend’s been bugging me about getting that stuff out of the freezer and on to the plate. Thanks, Elise, for getting the idea ball rolling! :-)

  3. Lydia

    For those who don’t eat pork, will this same treatment work for beef? If so, which cuts would you recommend? I’m thinking I would try this with brisket.

  4. Kalyn

    I’m absolutely drooling. Carnitas is one of my very favorite things to order in a Mexican restaurant.

  5. jonathan

    Bocce balls! I’ve been eyeing your Chile Verde recipe for a while, was planning on making it this Sunday for a Super Bowl gathering, and then…WHAM! You post this (which, truth be told, is kinda like serving the Chile Verde in taco form).

    And to think my shrink and I had just reached a breakthrough on my inability to make a decision. ;-)

    Lydia…while brisket is delicious and requires a long braise or smoke to yield tender meat, I’m sure you’d get the same end result from a cheaper cut like a chuck roast, whose shape is closer to that of a pork butt/shoulder.

  6. Stephanie

    Any idea how to adapt this for the crockpot? Sounds really good (carnitas are my favorite!) but I don’t really have the time to cook it on the stove. Thanks!

    Yes. Put the pork shoulder into a crock pot and turn the heat on high. On the stovetop bring the salsa verde, onions, stock, and seasonings to a boil. Add the now hot sauce to the pork. Slow cook for 7 to 9 hours. The pork is done when tender and the internal temperature is at least 165°F. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe. ~Elise

  7. amy mom of 5

    Ohhhh Yummmm! I can’t wait to try this, it looks so good, I can almost smell it!haha I think it would be good with beef as well as chicken. Off to the grocery store.

  8. Megan

    I always thought that the pork in Carnitas was fried to create the crispy browned portions, so I never tried to make it at home. Thank you for a recipe that looks much healthier (and doesn’t require cooking with lots of HOT fat)! We adore your recipe for chile verde, and can’t wait to try this one.

  9. nikkipolani

    *gasp*
    *print*

  10. john

    While traditional carnitas is usually done by boiling the pork shoulder in a pot of lard (Wikipedia on Carnitas), it’s also the equivalent of a heart attack in a pot. This alternative looks like it should provide the same flavorings, without the fat (although there’s just something to be said for that crispy outer layer). Also, it can be difficult handling all that hot oil in a small kitchen.

    Elise, you’ve inspired me to make some carnitas very, very soon… :-)

  11. Elizabeth

    The recipe looks great. I just have one question. I’ve been wondering this for a while… What makes Mexican Sour Cream different from American Sour Cream?

  12. JEP

    These are absolutely terrfic photos!

  13. furiousball

    Ummm – yum! Wow that looks amazing.

  14. Traci

    This looks fantastic. And so simple! :) I’m trying to diet a little- but my diet is more like a weekday 1500 cal max restraint with free weekends, so it’s not a strict diet, so I am totally making this! Chicken would also be good, but chicken is never going to be Carnitas. Ever. As much as I love chickie… you must sit this one out.

  15. liv

    The only thing that would make this food better is if you would make it at my house for my immediate consumption. yumm!

  16. Hank

    Excellent recipe, Elise! I will have to try this once I track down a wild boar down by Paso Robles next month…

  17. Monique

    I just finished making and eating this fine recipe. I cooked it as stated and it was delicous! I used Herdez,an authentic Mexican salsa verde, which has a nice kick to it. Honestly, I think I will eat the leftover pork plain, without all the cabbage, cheese, sour cream and tortilla. The flavor of the pork is delicious, but it gets a bit lost when eaten with all of the topppings. What a fantastic pot-luck dish.

  18. Rachel

    I made this tonight for dinner and it was WONDERFUL. This is certainly something I will make again!

  19. lilbitandme

    I absolutely love Carnitas! When in a Mexican restaurant whatever I order must be made with Carnitas. This recipe is much easier than others I have found and tastes fantastic. Thank you!
    Traci, a good “diet” will give you at least one day a week of whatver you want to eat. Personally, I would choose this!
    Megan, no Carnitas are NOT fried; it’s the last step that makes it cruchy. John has it right that it’s boiled with some lard; that really isn’t done anymore. Mostly it is just boiled, with spices, but the end result is the baking in the oven. It crisps it just right.
    Thanks for the recipe, we love it!

    P.S. I also used Herdez Salsa Verde. Comes in a can vs a bottle. Look in the International Isle of your grocery store.

  20. Julia

    Add me to the growing list of folks who tried the recipe and loved the results. Thank you, thank you, thank you, yum!

  21. Deborah Dowd

    I have been looking for a great carnitas recipe that didn’t involve tubs full of lard, and yours looks and sounds terrific! I am headed out for a pork butt and think I will try to convert this into a crockpot dish! BTW- I made your 7-layer dip last night for Super Sunday, and it was a real hit! Everyone loved this healthier version.

  22. KC

    I made this recipe in the crockpot and the pork turned out fantastic!! I cooked for 8 1/2hrs and reduced the amount of chicken broth to 1 1/2 C. I used dried oregano. YUMMY!! Can not wait for left overs tonight..

  23. Wendee

    I did the Sunset magazine recipe, right before you posted this. It’s fantastic (and easy) – I’m looking forward to trying your modifications as well. The pork is really nice with a fresh fruit salsa – - I chopped up pears and pineapples. Yum! :)

  24. Ryan Parrish

    I am still picking my teeth clean from this recipe. This is just like what grandma would make , that is if she could cook… And……….if she wasn’t from Sweden. Thanks so much it was great :) Even my neighbors were wondering what I was stewing up :)

  25. Bethany

    Tried this recipe this weekend for a group of friends and, yeah, wow. Proposals of marriage abound.

  26. Liz

    I did the simmering portion of this recipe yesterday along with the shredding. I’ll roast the meat today and finish off the sauce. The meat was so delicious I couldn’t stop eating it as I was doing the shredding. Absolutely wonderful, and this was without any other accompaniments. I love hot foods so I think I might add some jalapeno peppers tomorrow when I finish up the meal. Thanks. Great food and super easy.

  27. Tara

    I made this for a party this weekend and it came out excellent, same as all the other recipes I have tried from from your site! Thanks very much for all the fantastic ideas.

  28. Sophie

    Just wanted to say “thank you!” for such a simple, but super delicious recipe. It takes hardly any time to throw everything into the pot and I read while it simmers away. Win/Win! I made this dish a few times now and it is such a surefire winner. I’ve only made one change since my initial trial.

    I do 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup of water or 3 cups of low-sodium stock because I find that when you reduce the sauce (while the pork is in the oven) it becomes quite salty.

    Oh, also, my bf and I pan fry our tortilla shells in a dab of bacon grease before we load it up. Yum!!!

  29. athina

    This was so delicious! The meat is so delicious and flavorful, overall very easy to prepare- I will be making quesadillas with this meat- I think it would be delicious with some pepper jack cheese!! I would serve the cabbage slaw on the side. Thanks for this great recipe!!

  30. athina

    I just had to return to this site to make mmmy point about how truly delicious this is. The meat tastes even better the next day, I warmed it up with a little stock in a saucepan, and made quesadillas with it,(pork, pepperjack, cabbage slaw) My lord, was it wonderful! The meat is so perfectly seasoned, the coriander, cilantro, oregano and cumin along with green salsa, just the perfect combination of ingredients. And for the record, Elise, there has not been one recipe off this site, that hasn’t completely blown me away. This has become my primary search engine for recipes, keep em’ coming, and thanks again! For everyone out there, try making quesadillas with the meat-so, so good!

  31. Tara

    Elise ~ Thank you. This recipe is so tasty, SO SO TASTY! I enjoy cooking ‘healthy’ Mexican/New Mexican foods and your carnitas have hit home. I may have to make this every week for a while. My husband is raving about it as I type. Thanks very much.
    T.

  32. Kelly the Foodie

    FANTASTIC recipe! I made it for dinner tonight, it was delicious and everyone loved it. I will definitely make it again, and will certainly recommend the recipe to others! Bonus: it’s incredibly simple and takes very little prep or active cooking. My family loves Mexican food, and this was a really nice detour from our usual baked chimichangas and carne asada taco rotation! If you live in an area where they sell Emerald Valley salsa verde, that is the best bet, otherwise for sure use the Herdez salsa verde in the can.

  33. Renee

    YUM! I doubled recipe and had to cook pork for 4 hours. I also seemed to have lots of broth left over even after trying to reduce. We just ladled some into the pan of meat and it worked out fine. Only other suggestion I would make is adding a big frosty margarita! My friend and I started planning a Cinco de Mayo party just so we have an excuse to make these again!

    This site is my new favorite. Four out of five recipes I’ve tried in the last couple of months have been muy magnifico! Thanks for taking my cooking up a notch.

  34. Adrienne

    I make this dish all the time and EVERYONE absolutely loves it! It is sooooooo good!!!! I’m drooling just thinking about it…can’t wait for dinner! YUM

  35. Jacquie

    Hi Elise, I love your site. Thanks so much for your great Mexican recipes. I’m from Winnipeg, Canada way up north & it’s impossible to find the mexican cheese, Cotija or the crema fresco…any suggestions for a good online company to order from? thanks in advance.

    Hi Jacquie, this site: MexGrocer.com seems to have a great variety and carries the brands I find in our local grocery store. ~Elise

  36. Wiggles

    I love… love… love this recipe! So good, so simple! It is my go to dish!

    Thank you for making all of these available… I absolutely love this web site!

    CHEERS!!

  37. Robin Emrich

    totally awesome! we have been searching for a good carnitas recipe to use the pork for other dishes later and this was “perfecto mundo!!”

  38. Mario

    Since discovering this low fat way to do Carnitas. It has pleased many of my dearest friends. I use a dutch oven on the stovetop. (rockin good!) Another tip..After its pulled apart, I lay out on a sheet pan and stick in the broiler as-is for five minutes to get that suttle crunch! Then put back in the liquid. It’s a must!

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