Authentic Carnitas Recipe: A Taste Of Mexico

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Carnitas, meaning “little meats” in Spanish, is a beloved Mexican dish featuring tender, shredded pork that’s bursting with flavor. Traditionally slow-cooked in lard or oil until crispy on the edges, carnitas can be enjoyed in tacos, burritos, tortas, or simply on their own. This recipe offers a taste of Mexico’s culinary heritage with a focus on simplicity and deliciousness.


Crispy Pork Carnitas (Mexican Slow Cooked Pulled Pork) - Cafe Delites
Crispy Pork Carnitas (Mexican Slow Cooked Pulled Pork) – Cafe Delites

For the Pork:

  • 2 pounds bone-in pork shoulder (also called Boston butt)
  • 1 white onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste

  • For the Cooking Liquid:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf

  • For Serving (Optional):

  • Warm corn tortillas
  • Chopped white onion
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • Pico de gallo
  • Avocado slices
  • Refried beans

  • Directions:

    1. Prep the Pork: In a large Dutch oven or pot, combine the quartered onion, smashed garlic, oregano, cumin, paprika, bay leaf, cinnamon stick (if using), salt, and pepper. Place the pork shoulder on top of the spice mixture.

    2. Create the Cooking Liquid: In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, orange juice, chopped onion, smashed garlic, and another bay leaf. Pour this liquid over the pork in the pot.

    3. Bring to a Boil: Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover the pot with a lid, and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the pork is very tender and easily shreds with two forks. If the liquid level gets too low during simmering, add a little more water as needed.

    4. Shred the Pork: Carefully remove the pork from the pot and shred it with two forks on a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves and cinnamon stick (if using).

    5. Crisp the Carnitas (Optional): Increase the heat to medium-high and return the shredded pork to the pot. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the edges of the pork become crispy and golden brown. Be careful not to burn the pork during this step.

    6. Serve and Enjoy: Serve the carnitas warm with your choice of toppings like corn tortillas, chopped onion, cilantro, lime wedges, pico de gallo, avocado slices, and refried beans.

    Nutrition Facts (per serving, without toppings):

    Calories: 450

  • Fat: 30g
  • Saturated Fat: 15g
  • Cholesterol: 100mg
  • Sodium: 400mg (depending on added salt)
  • Carbohydrates: 5g
  • Protein: 40g

  • Note: These nutrition facts are estimates only and may vary depending on the specific ingredients used.


    Carnitas are a versatile and delicious dish that can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. With this recipe, you can create restaurant-quality carnitas in your own kitchen. The slow-cooked pork is incredibly tender and flavorful, and the crispy edges add a delightful textural contrast. So gather your ingredients, fire up the stove, and get ready to experience the magic of authentic carnitas!

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. Can I use boneless pork shoulder for this recipe?

    Yes, you can definitely use boneless pork shoulder for this recipe. The cooking time may be slightly shorter, so keep an eye on the pork and shred it once it’s tender.

    2. What’s a good substitute for orange juice?

    If you don’t have orange juice on hand, you can use an equal amount of pineapple juice, apple cider vinegar, or even chicken broth. However, orange juice adds a unique sweetness and acidity that complements the pork very well.

    3. How long will carnitas leftovers keep?

    Store leftover carnitas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through.

    4. Can I cook carnitas in a slow cooker?