Salsa Verde Carnitas

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

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


  • 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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  • 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!


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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!


  • Patricia

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

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Patricia, if you use ground spices, you probably don’t need to use as much. Start with half the amount. If you taste it later and it needs more, add more.

  • 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!

  • 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!!”

  • 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!


  • 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: seems to have a great variety and carries the brands I find in our local grocery store. ~Elise

  • 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

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!!

  • 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!!!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Bethany

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

  • 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 :)

  • 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..

  • Julia

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

  • 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.

  • Rachel

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.