Crispy Carnitas

This crispy carnitas recipe is absolutely incredible! It’s surprisingly easy to make, and the flavor will blow you away. You’ll have the most tender, juicy pork carnitas perfect for tacos, burritos, and more.

How to Make Carnitas Recipe Video

Carnitas (meaning “little meats”) is the Mexican version of pulled pork in America. They are unapologetically porky, juicy, and tender. Depending on where in Mexico you have them, they also have plenty of crisped-up and browned edges.

This recipe is inspired by authentic Mexican carnitas, is really easy to make. My family loves this recipe.

Crispy Carnitas inspired by authentic Mexican carnitas

Key Ingredients

  • Pork: Buy boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (it doesn’t matter which) with a good amount of fat left intact. It is the fat that keeps our pork moist and tender. This is the same cut of meat we use for our American-style pulled pork. Other names for pork shoulder are picnic roast, Boston butt, blade roast, and pork butt.
  • Salt and pepper: We don’t have a particular carnitas seasoning blend, so stick with simple salt and pepper. The pork and aromatics will provide plenty of flavor.
  • Oil: I use a high-heat cooking oil for recipe (usually avocado oil), but lard is also an option.
  • Aromatics: Inspired by authentic carnitas from central Mexico, we use fresh orange, onion, garlic, a bay leaf, and a cinnamon stick. The combination is delicious and doesn’t take over the pork’s natural flavor.

How to Make Carnitas

In Mexico, pork shoulder is slowly cooked in a big pot of lard, making it tender, moist, and rich. To make our recipe a little more home-friendly, we slowly cook our pork with a few aromatics and a few tablespoons of oil to keep it moist and tender.

I use my oven to make carnitas. However, you can also make my recipe in a slow cooker, and I have included tips in the recipe.

Season your pork with salt and pepper, then place it into a Dutch oven with the fattiest side facing up towards you. Squeeze over fresh orange juice, then scatter the oranges, onion, garlic, bay leaf, and a cinnamon stick around the pork.

Cover your pot with its lid, and then slowly bake the pork in the oven until fork tender. I use a 300°F oven, which means the pork slowly cooks for 3 to 4 hours.

Cooking Carnitas

When our pork is fall-apart tender, we want to pull it into shreds. You can serve them like this or turn them into crispy carnitas (my favorite). To do it, add the pulled pork to a baking sheet and broil until crispy. It only takes a couple of minutes.

Crispy Carnitas Ready to Eat (Mexican Slow Cooked Pulled Pork)

Storing Carnitas

Homemade pork carnitas last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. I like storing the pulled pork and the cooking liquid in separate containers so that when it comes time to reheat, I can use some liquid to moisten the pork.

You can freeze them for up to 3 months. I add the pork to one freezer-safe container and the leftover cooking liquid to another, then freeze both. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.

Reheat on the stovetop in a skillet over medium heat, adding a little reserved cooking liquid to keep them moist. Or reheat in a 350°F oven in a baking dish with a splash of cooking liquid. For crispy carnitas, after reheating, place them under the broiler (explained in the recipe below).

What to Serve with Carnitas

My favorite way to serve pork carnitas is to make tacos! I love using homemade corn tortillas, piling on the pork, and then topping with a squeeze of lime, fresh cilantro, and chopped white onion (pickled red onions are delicious, too). It’s simple and tastes incredible.

Add carnitas to burritos, bowls, tortas (Mexican sandwiches), nachos, and salads. I love serving them next to homemade Mexican rice, refried beans or homemade black beans, guacamole, and salsa. I especially love this tomatillo salsa.

A Plate of Carnitas in Tacos

Crispy Carnitas

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

How to make carnitas that are unapologetically porky, juicy, and tender with crisped-up edges. This Mexican slow cooked pulled pork is surprisingly simple to make and delicious. I use an oven, but tips for using a slow cooker are below the recipe.

Makes 8 cups

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

4 pounds (1800g) pork shoulder with the fat left on, use bone-in or boneless

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 tablespoons avocado oil or melted pork lard

1 medium orange, halved, or 2 use clementines

Half large onion, quartered

5 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

Directions

  • Cooking the Pork
  • 1Adjust an oven rack towards the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).

    2Season the pork on all sides with the salt and pepper.

    3Add one tablespoon of the oil to a wide, heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot (like a Dutch oven). If you do not have a Dutch oven, see the tips below.

    4Place the seasoned pork in the pot with the fattiest side facing up. Squeeze the oranges over the pork and place them around it. Scatter the onion, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf around the pork.

    5Drizzle the remaining two tablespoons of oil over everything.

    6Cover the pot with its lid and slowly bake in the oven until the pork is fork tender, 3 to 3 ½ hours.

  • Shredding the Pork
  • 1Transfer the pork to a cutting board and cool until you can handle it. Pull the pork with forks or your fingers. Depending on your preference, you can separate the meat into larger chunks or smaller shreds.

    2Discard the bone (if there is one), any connective tissue, and larger clumps of fat. I like leaving a few smaller bits of fat.

    3Strain the cooking liquid and save it. Discard the onion, oranges, and spices.

    4Store the carnitas and cooking liquid in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

  • Serving
  • 1Spread the shredded carnitas on a baking sheet and pour enough of the saved cooking liquid to moisten them. If your cooking liquid has solidified, rewarm some of it in a small saucepan before adding it to the pork.

    2Set an oven rack 4 to 5 inches below the broiler and turn it on.

    3Slide the pork underneath and broil until the pork crisps and caramelizes, 2 to 5 minutes. As you broil, stir once or twice, and keep a close eye on them, as they can burn or smoke quickly.

    4Serve carnitas in tacos, burritos, salads, rice, or with your favorite sides.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • No Dutch oven: Cut the pork into 2-inch chunks and arrange it in a large baking dish. Place the other ingredients around it, and then cover the dish with aluminum foil.
  • Slow cooker carnitas: Season the pork and place it fat-side-up in your slow cooker. Squeeze over the orange and scatter the orange halves, onion, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf around the pork. Drizzle over the oil, close the lid and cook on LOW for 8 hours or HIGH for 4 hours. When the carnitas are fork-tender, shred them and then crisp them up using your broiler (as explained in the recipe).
  • The nutrition facts provided below are estimates.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1/8 of the recipe (about 1 cup) / Calories 353 / Total Fat 12.9g / Saturated Fat 6.6g / Cholesterol 136mg / Sodium 705.2mg / Carbohydrate 5.2g / Dietary Fiber 1g / Total Sugars 2.4g / Protein 51.6g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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18 comments… Leave a Review
  • Jolanda June 14, 2024, 1:24 am

    Absolutely amazing recipe, thank you!

    Reply
    • Adam June 20, 2024, 4:55 pm

      You are so welcome! 🙂

      Reply
  • Karen February 12, 2024, 11:26 am

    Does the orange give any kind of sweetness?

    Reply
    • Joanne February 14, 2024, 3:35 pm

      The orange contributes a subtle sweetness, but it’s more about the bright citrus flavor that balances the richness of the pork. It also adds a delightful, complex aroma to the carnitas.

      Reply
  • Hannah January 19, 2023, 8:05 pm

    Just curious if you guys were able to try this out in a instapot/ pressure cooker? If so (please say you have, oh pleaseeee say you have lol) could you let me know the times and pressure settings used exp: high/low pressure. Thanks so much for the great recipes. I’ve so far in just the first day of finding your site was able to make peanut butter, chocolate version minus the choco chips, granola bars with the peanut butter, added figs and raisins on top! I can say this for sure, I’ve never liked cooking, mainly because almost every online recipe I’ve ever tried has turned out awful. Usually because of a typo the drastically changes the outcome exmp: oven temp, time needed to cook or a vital ingredients just missing altogether. After trying your simple recipes I am so happy to be able to say I not only wasn’t half bad at the but I rather enjoyed myself as well. so thank you so much for more then just the great content but for the huge confidence boost as well. <3

    Reply
    • Joanne February 27, 2023, 4:27 pm

      Hi Hannah, Thank you for such a kind comment!! We have included instructions for cooking carnitas in a slow cooker in the article above.

      Reply
      • John April 25, 2024, 8:07 pm

        I saw instructions for slow cooker, oven, Dutch oven… But nothing for a instantpot…. Did you remove it?

        Reply
        • Joanne April 26, 2024, 11:40 am

          Hi John, I’m sorry about that, but we want to test this method more thoroughly. Best! Joanne.

          Reply
      • Barbara April 28, 2024, 4:39 pm

        I do my carnitas in a stovetop pressure cooker…40 minutes high pressure, natural release. Delicious. Trying this one tomorrow.

        Reply
  • Loan McLeod January 1, 2023, 1:42 pm

    I loved your recipe pancakes. Thank you so much 😊

    Reply
  • Esther December 31, 2022, 5:42 pm

    Hi Joanne, love the sound of this. Is the cooking temperature for conventional oven or fan assisted? Thanks so much.

    Reply
    • Adam December 31, 2022, 5:58 pm

      Hi Esther, the cooking temperature is for a conventional oven setting.

      Reply
  • Alison December 31, 2022, 4:43 pm

    Can this be done in a slow cooker? What would be the cooking time?

    Reply
    • Adam December 31, 2022, 5:57 pm

      Yes, it should work. Just cook the pork on low or high until fork tender. For our slow cooker pulled pork we cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or HIGH for 4 to 6.

      Reply
  • Mayra November 23, 2022, 11:06 am

    You are the very best!! Even though us Mexican are very special about our recipes, you guys do our cusine with a lot of respect! Love all your baking recipes but with this types of recipes, I love you even more!! The only thing I would add, its some Salsa Verde with your taco Carnitas!!. Keep up the awesome work!! you guys rock!!

    Reply
    • Adam November 23, 2022, 1:00 pm

      Hi Mayra,

      That means a lot to us! We top these with salsa verde all of the time. We almost always have some of our homemade salsa verde in our fridge.

      Reply
  • Joanna Phipps November 21, 2022, 10:39 am

    Hi. I want to try this, but my husband is allergic to oranges and tangerines. What would be a good substitute? He is not allergic to lemon, lime or grapefruit – just oranges and tangerines. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Joanne November 21, 2022, 2:44 pm

      Hi Joanne, Lime is an excellent substitute. Many carnitas recipes actually call for lime instead of the orange.

      Reply

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