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Having an easy pork carnitas recipe up your sleeve is always a good idea. Mexican pulled pork flavoured with lime and orange juice, slow cooked for hours, always comes out perfect and is delicious served as street tacos in corn tortillas, burrito bowls or over rice. You could even enjoy it as a filling for baked potatoes. You just can’t go wrong with this crispy pork carnitas recipe.

Pork carnitas in a bowl with rice and pickled onion.

The very best tender pork carnitas are those made with love by slow braising in a Dutch oven. The carnitas meat is the perfect filling for tacos, burritos or nachos. This could very well be the best Mexican pork recipe of all.

Carnitas Mexican pulled pork that has been shredded in a bowl.

Why You’ll Love This

  • Authentic:  Go to any Mexican restaurant or take a vacation in Mexico itself, and you’re sure to come across pork carnitas tacos made with pork butt or pork shoulder.
  • Tasty:  This is a great recipe if you a delicious meal with plenty of flavours. The fresh citrus juices, garlic, chillies, and spices make these pork tacos so flavourful.
  • Versatile:  Pork carnitas can be served in various ways, from serving them over a salad to filling a baked potato with them, making the best pork tacos, or serving them over cilantro lime rice. You will find plenty of ways to impress your whole family with this versatile dish.
Close up of pork carnitas in a bowl with rice and pickled onion.

Crispy Carnitas Ingredients

This pork carnitas recipe calls for pork shoulder, which is also known as pork butt or Boston butt, lard and water. For flavour, we are adding salt, pepper, garlic, orange and lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, onion, bay leaves, chillies, paprika, cloves, and cumin.

The ingredients to make carnitas in a dutch oven the traditional Mexican way.

How to Make Easy Pork Carnitas

For more detailed instructions with weights and measurements, jump to the printable recipe card.

Pan fry the pork:  Chop and season the pork, then fry in hot lard until golden brown all over.
Add more flavours:  Add salt water, lime juice and Worcestershire sauce to the pork, then add the orange juice and skins, along with the chopped onion and remaining spices.
Cook the carnitas:  Give the pork carnitas about 2½ hours to slow cook and discard the juices.
Serve the carnitas:  Enjoy the carnitas topped with onion, cilantro and lime wedges if you like.

Carnitas cooking in a Dutch oven.
Pork carnitas in a bowl with rice and pickled onion.

Substitutions and Variations

Traditional carnitas are typically made using pork shoulder roast, but pork tenderloin, pork loin or any pork roast would also work. As for the citrus, you can use readymade juice if you prefer. However, the fresh juices do add a wonderful flavour.

Carnitas Mexican pulled pork that has been shredded in a bowl.

What to Serve with Pork Carnitas

The carnitas can be served with anything you like – pickled onions, shredded cheese, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, sour cream, and freshly chopped cilantro always pair well. You can serve the shredded pork in a corn, flour tortilla, or over rice. Mexican food lovers might also love to serve a side, such as elote street corn salad, jicama salad or shrimp ceviche with avocado.

Close up of homemade carnitas Mexican pulled pork that has been shredded in a bowl.

Storage Instructions

Store:  Once the carnitas are completely cool, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Freeze:  Freeze this Mexican pulled pork recipe in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months.
Thaw:  Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator. Warm them back up in a pan on the stove or in the microwave.

Close up view of Mexican pulled pork in a bowl with rice and pickled onion.

Mexican Pulled Pork FAQs

What does the word “carnitas” mean?

Carne is Spanish for meat, so “carnitas” means “little meats,” which refers to how it’s shredded.

Can you make this shredded pork recipe in a crockpot or Instant Pot?

Yes, you can use your slow cooker or Instant Pot to make these. Brown the meat first in a pan (or for the Instant Pot version, sauté setting) and then cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6.

Mexican pulled pork that has been shredded in a bowl.

Pork Carnitas – Mexican Pulled Pork Recipe

5 from 42 votes

Easy Pork Carnitas – Mexican Pulled Pork

By: Bella Bucchiotti
Learn how to make perfect pork carnitas with this easy recipe! Flavoured with lime and orange juice, serve it in tacos, bowls or over rice.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

  • 4 Pound pork roast, pork shoulder
  • 2 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 Teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Pound lard
  • 1 Cup water
  • 2 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Head garlic
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 2 Tablespoon Worcestershire
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 guajillo chiles
  • 2 Teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Teaspoon cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon cloves, whole

Instructions 

  • Melt lard in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium high heat.
  • Season the pork with salt and pepper.
  • Cut pork into 2” to 3” chunks.
  • Remove the excess fat from the pork.
  • Once the lard is fully melted and hot, add the pork and fry for about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Turn over halfway through cooking time. Work in batches to evenly cook. Set pork aside as you work.
  • Once all the pork is fried, lower the heat to medium low and return the pork to the Dutch oven.
  • In a bowl with a pour spout, combine 1 cup water and 2 tbsp salt and mix until dissolved.
  • Pour salted water, juice from 1 lime, and Worcestershire into the Dutch oven.
  • Slice the orange in half and juice it into the pot. Add the orange skins to the pot.
  • Remove most of the skin from the garlic clove and slice to expose the cloves. Cut onion into wedges. Add both to the pot.
  • Next, add the garlic powder, cumin, smoked paprika, bay leaves, guajillo chiles, and cloves. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, lower heat to low and let simmer for 2 hours.
  • Remove pork from the Dutch oven and discard the juices. Shred the pork.
  • Garnish with diced onions, cilantro and lime wedges and serve over rice or in tacos.

Nutrition

Calories: 493kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 74g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 191mg | Sodium: 3356mg | Potassium: 1659mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 8137IU | Vitamin C: 72mg | Calcium: 413mg | Iron: 4mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

Easy pork carnitas should be crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. They’re a great candidate for weekend meal prepping or if you want to make the best carnitas recipe for Cinco de Mayo parties. You just need simple ingredients to make the best juicy pork carnitas.

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Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti is a Canadian-based syndicated food, travel, and lifestyle writer, photographer, and creator at xoxoBella. She founded xoxoBella in 2015, where she shares her love for food, dogs, sustainability, fitness, crafts, outdoor adventures, travel, and philanthropy to encourage others to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places, and stand for a cause. Bella creates stress-free and family-friendly recipes for weeknight dinners and festive feasts.

 

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Recipe Rating




7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    These pork carnitas were fabulous! I’ve always been intimidated by them in the past but your instructions made me feel confident! They turned out so moist, tender and flavorful. I will absolutely be making these again!

  2. 5 stars
    Tried this for dinner last night and the whole family loved it! Appreciate all the step by step photos too, really helped.

  3. 5 stars
    I made this to serve over rice and everyone just devoured it! Love the use of guajillo chiles here. Thanks for the recipe!