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

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 carnitas recipe everyday for a week and not get tired of it.

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Carnitas Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 6-8


  • 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


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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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

35 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Neil Prodoehl

    My in-laws who are Mexican think they ate the best they ever had. I always get compliments from them. They even brag how good they are tho there friends.


  2. 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.


  3. 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 !


  4. 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.

  5. Greg Sodeman

    What size cubes should one shoot for? 2″? I can’t wait to try this recipe out.

    Sure, that will work. ~Elise

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