These Crispy Pork Carnitas are seriously bursting with flavor yet so simple to make! This is the meat you want for your tacos, burritos, sandwiches, you name it. It’s to die for!
These pork carnitas are one of the first recipes I shared with you years and years ago. This recipe is a classic and about as authentic and traditional as they come! It’s simple to prepare, simple to make and can be done in your oven, crockpot or your instant pot. Don’t worry, I’ve provided instructions for all!
Let me just start by saying that these carnitas is what my Mexican dreams are made of. This recipe is actually one of my specialties because I’ve been making it for so long! I love cooking pork like this because these carnitas are extremely versatile. This recipe is perfect for all kinds of occasions such as weeknight dinners, get togethers, pot lucks or Sunday suppers.
What Are Carnitas?
Did you know that carnitas actually means “little meats“, the Mexican version of pulled pork. They’re made from pork meat, braised or roasted, then shredded into small pieces and served in tacos, burritos, tamales, etc.
If you’ve never had pork carnitas before, I strongly urge you to try this recipe. It’s my tried, tested, no-fail recipe! You will not regret it. There is so much flavor here. Pairing up the pork with citrus is brilliant. It’s full of flavor, it’s rich, it melts in your mouth.
What Ingredients Are In Pork Carnitas?
The great thing about making these carnitas is you don’t really need a lot of ingredients. Chances are you probably already have all the spices needed. Here’s what you’ll need, make sure to scroll down to the recipe to get the actual amounts needed.
- Pork Shoulder – also known as pork butt is a cut of meat from the same primal section of the pig, the shoulder.
- Oranges and Limes – we are going to use both the juice and the spent halves.
- Onion and Garlic – You’ll need one onion cut in half or quarters and a few cloves of garlic, use as much as you like.
- Spices and Herbs – such as cumin, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt & pepper
What’s The Best Cut Of Meat For Carnitas?
The best cut of meat for carnitas is pork shoulder because the whole secret to carnitas is cooking the meat low and slow so that it comes super tender. During this time the fat melts and melds into the meat but keeps it moist.
Can you use pork loin or tenderloin? Probably, but it’s not going to be as juicy as using pork shoulder. If you do decide to go with a leaner cut of pork, make sure to add a bit of olive oil plus some more orange juice or some kind of broth such as chicken, beef or vegetable.
How To Make Pork Carnitas
Start by mixing the spices and herbs together, then rub them all over the pork shoulder. You can speed up the cooking process by cutting the pork shoulder into 4-inch pieces. If you do this, it should only take about 2 1/2 to 3 hours in the oven or about 3 1/2 hours on the stove top.
I used a big Dutch oven but use any large pot that is oven safe. Place the meat in the pot then throw in the onion, garlic, juice from the orange and limes, and the remaining orange and lime halves. Cover the pot and place in the oven. If using the whole piece of meat, bake for about 3 1/2 hours. The meat should be tender enough and shreddable.
Remove the meat from the pot and place it on a baking sheet. Using two forks shred the meat into small pieces. There should be about 1 1/2 cups of liquid left in the pot. Ladle about 1 cup of that liquid all over the pork.
Crisp up the pork under the broiler for a few minutes.
How To Make Pork Carnitas Crispy The Easy Way
Pork carnitas are best served crispy because they’re usually served in tacos or burritos. To make them super crispy, I usually place the meat under the broiler, for about 5 to 10 minutes. You can also crisp them at 450 F degrees for about 30 minutes, especially if your oven doesn’t have a broiler.
Alternatively, you can crisp them up in a skillet, but you’ll have to do it in batches and I find that this takes longer and is more effort.
Can You Make Pork Carnitas In A Pressure Cooker such as Instant Pot?
Absolutely! It’s actually a lot quicker to make your pork carnitas in your instant pot. Follow the recipe and prepare the meat the same way as stated in the recipe card. Place the pork shoulder in the instant pot along with the juice, lemon and lime halves. Add another cup of water/broth to the pot. Set the Instant Pot to the Meat/Stew setting and set the timer to 90 minutes.
Once the Instant Pot cycle is complete, wait until the natural release cycle is complete, should take about 15 minutes. Follow the manufacturer’s guide for quick release, if in a rush. Carefully unlock and remove the lid from the instant pot. Using a slotted spoon, transfer all the pork to a baking sheet and shred with two forks. Follow the instructions in the recipe to finish crisping up the pork.
How And What To Serve With Pork Carnitas
My favorite way to serve them is in tortillas, as they make the best tacos ever. They’re also great for burritos or tamales. Here are some options to serve them with:
- Homemade Salsa
- Sour Cream
- Jalapeno Peppers
- Onions – red or white, pickled onions are even better
- Mexican Rice
- Mexican Street Corn Salad
- Black Bean Corn and Avocado Salad
Why These Pork Carnitas Are The Best
This has been my go to recipe for the past few years, so we’ve been making these over and over. I tried a lot of recipes and I can honestly say these are the best. Here’s why:
- Quick 5 minute prep time
- Made with easy ingredients, you probably already have all the spices and herbs required
- Packed with lots of flavor
- Perfectly crispy done the easy way
- Easy to freeze
- A crowd favorite
- They’re versatile – perfect for tacos, tamales, burritos, or even on their own loaded with salsa, sour cream and guacamole!
How Do You Store Leftover Pork Carnitas
Leftover pork carnitas are the best. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. They make the best lunches!
Can You Freeze Pork Carnitas
Yes, you can. Let the carnitas cool to room temperature. Place them in an airtight container or a freezer bag and place in the freezer. It will last anywhere from 4 to 6 months in the freezer. To reheat, thaw in the fridge overnight.
Place them on a baking sheet and reheat in the oven at 400 F degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through.
- 4 lb pork shoulder (aka pork butt), bonless
- 1 onion peeled and halved
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 medium oranges juiced and keep the spent halves
- 2 limes juiced and keep the spent halves
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin ground
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp oregano dried
- Prepare oven: Preheat the oven to 300 F degrees.
- Mix dry rub ingredients: In a small bowl, combine all the dry rub ingredients together.
- Season pork and place all ingredients in pot: Place the pork shoulder in a large Dutch oven or an oven safe pot and rub the dry rub all over the pork on all sides. Throw in the onion, garlic juice from the oranges, limes and the spent orange and lime halves.
- Cover pot and cook: Cover the pot and place it in the oven. Bake for 3 1/2 hours until the meat is tender and shreddable.
- Shred meat: Remove the meat from the pot and place it on a baking sheet. Using two forks shred the meat into small pieces. There should be about 1 1/2 cups of liquid left in the pot. Ladle about 1 cup of that liquid all over the shredded pork.
- Crisp up carnitas: Place the meat under the broiler, for about 5 to 10 minutes. Half way through turn them over with a spatula to crisp up on both sides. You can crisp them up 450 F degrees for about 30 minutes, especially if your oven doesn’t have a broiler.
- Serve: Serve hot on tortillas, burritos, tamales, sandwiches, etc.