Salsa Verde Carnitas


Salsa verde pork carnitas, pork shoulder slow cooked in tomatillo salsa verde sauce, then pulled apart, browned in the oven, and returned to the sauce.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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 to serve with rice and beans or with tortillas.

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Salsa Verde Carnitas

This version of carnitas, adapted from a Sunset recipe for braised pork, is cooked first in a braise of tomatillo 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

Salsa Verde Carnitas Recipe

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

If you have time, lightly toast the whole cumin and coriander seeds first, in a small skillet on medium high heat.


  • 3 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat (not all the fat, just the glaring excess fat), cut into large (3 to 4 inch) chunks
  • 2 cups tomatillo salsa verde, bottled or homemade
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped, stems and tender leaves
  • Salt
  • 12 to 16 corn tortillas, heated and softened
  • 1/4 head of cabbage, very thinly sliced
  • 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


1 Simmer pork with salsa verde, onion, stock, spices until tender: Put the pork, salsa verde, chopped 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 Shred meat with two forks, then broil: Preheat oven broiler. Remove meat from the pot and put into a roasting pan. With 2 forks, tear the meat into large shreds, spreading them out in an even layer in the roasting pan. Put pan on the top rack of the oven. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes until edges and some parts are brown and crispy.

3 Skim fat, reduce the salsa verde sauce: While the meat is browning in the oven, skim the fat from the liquid in the large pot. (Discard but do not put the fat down the drain or you will clog your pipes.)

Heat the pot on high and vigorously boil the remaining liquid, stirring, until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, several minutes.

4 Return meat to sauce, stir in cilantro: Return the meat to the pot with the liquid. Stir in chopped cilantro. Season with salt.

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 with 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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Salsa Verde Carnitas

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.

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33 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Bryan

    This night be my favorite recipe of all time, I’ve shared it countless times and is a go-to for groups. Can’t recommend it highly enough!


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  2. Lance

    I would give 4.5 because the method lacks finesse.

    Last night I made the green verde sauce (added a poblano pepper to the recipe along with 4 cloves of garlic). I also roasted the onions and pepper on the sheet pan with the tomatillos. Once done I put it in the fridge for the flavors to meld. This morning I cut the pork into hunks and browned them in my dutch oven. I removed the meat the added the onion and the herbs and let them get somewhat soft and fragrant. I deglazed the pan with homemade chicken stock and then added all of the verde sauce. Putting the meat back into the pan I mixed it around. I had preheated the oven to 350 already. After bringing the sauce and meat to a boil I put the Dutch oven into the oven. After two hours it was perfect. The meat fell apart. I served with homemade flatbread, cabbage slaw and shredded colby-jack cheese.

    I NEVER just throw a braise into the pot. Browning the meat and then using the fats to release the flavors of the herbs and onions helps layer the flavors.


  3. Carla

    This is a great recipe! My husband and I both love it and so do our friends and family. Sometimes I plan a dinner party just so I can make this dish! It’s a good party food since it serves so many, and people enjoy constructing their own tacos when we set up a taco bar. In addition to the cabbage slaw, we include fresh sliced radishes, jalapenos, cilantro, avocados, and Mexican crema. I don’t care for cotija cheese, but have used a different soft crumbly cheese that doesn’t have the strong flavor. (Sorry, I can’t remember the name). I sometimes make cilantro-lime rice to accompany the meal.
    It’s easy to scale up – it seems my local store only sells huge butts! I have found I don’t need to double the sauce ingredients though, just need to add enough broth and salsa verde to immerse the pork while simmering. I wondered about the crisping step originally, thinking why bother to crisp it if you’re adding the meat back into the sauce and it isn’t as crispy after that. But it is definitely worthwhile because it takes the umami flavor even higher – as if it wasn’t delicious already! Plus, you get to sample those wonderfully crispy bits right from the baking sheet just to make sure it’s good :-). We generally simmer and shred the pork the day before we want to eat it. The next day, we skim some of the fat from the sauce, reduce it, and keep it warm while we crisp the meat.
    If you don’t have enough people to help you eat this (and your store also only sells big butts) you can always freeze the extra carnitas in appropriate sized ziplock bags for future enjoyment – ie. a quick, easy meal where the meat is ready and all you need to do is prep your accompaniments.


  4. Maggie

    Made this today for 4 other friends who came for dinner.The aroma throughout my house while the pork cooked, was putting me in a relaxed, comfortable mood, yet eager to enjoy the finished product.My friends so enjoyed “MY” creative genius (ha, ha). I found that I was most partial to the juices with the pork, so especially enjoyed it with a rice dish I cooked as a side. Putting it in tortillas (taco like), was good, but seemed to need something more. I did include all the condiments, but maybe the Salsa Verde I used was too mild. That aside, the pork Verde and juices were and are still, calling me back for more! Thank you mucho.. Esta es muy sabor!


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  5. Patricia

    Hi, How much will it matter if I use ground Cumin and ground coriander instead of the seeds?

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