Authentic Pork Carnitas – Mexican Pulled Pork Recipe


Get ready to embark on a culinary journey to the heart of Mexico with my tried-and-true Authentic Pork Carnitas recipe. After countless batches and fine-tuning every detail, I’ve mastered the art of creating this iconic dish. Imagine succulent, slow-cooked pork that’s tender on the inside and irresistibly crispy on the outside, bursting with rich, harmonious flavors that dance on your palate.

This isn’t just a recipe; it’s a gateway to experiencing the soul of Mexican cuisine right in your kitchen. Join me as we dive into the secrets of making the perfect Pork Carnitas, a dish that promises to be a showstopper at your next gathering or family dinner.

Authentic Mexican Pulled Pork Recipe

What is Carnitas?

Carnitas, meaning ‘little meats’, is a dish of slow-cooked pork that’s tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. It’s a staple in Mexican cuisine, enjoyed with tortillas or used as a filling for tacos, burritos, and tamales.

Authenticity is the soul of culinary art and certain recipes capture it better than others. Pork Carnitas, a traditional Mexican dish, stands as a testament to this fact. With its origins dating back to the state of Michoacán in Mexico, Carnitas has been capturing hearts and satisfying cravings for centuries.

The dish is celebrated for its rich flavor, tender texture, and versatility in various Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes.


To recreate this authentic Mexican pulled pork recipe, you will need:

  • Boneless Pork Butt: This is the primary ingredient. Pork butt is chosen for its fat content, which renders down during cooking to create tender, flavorful meat. The fat also helps to keep the meat juicy.
  • Salt: Salt is a crucial seasoning that enhances the overall flavor of the meat and helps in the browning process during broiling.
  • Pepper: Pepper adds a slight heat and complexity to the flavor profile, complementing the richness of the pork.
  • Ground Cumin: Cumin offers a warm, earthy note that is typical in Mexican cuisine, contributing to the carnitas’ authentic flavor.
  • Onion: Onion provides a subtle sweetness and depth of flavor to the cooking liquid, which is later reduced and mixed back into the meat.
  • Bay Leaves: Bay leaves add a floral and slightly herbal aroma to the dish, enhancing the complexity of flavors.
  • Dried Oregano: Oregano brings in a slightly bitter, earthy flavor, which is a staple in Mexican cooking.
  • Fresh Lime Juice: The acidity and zestiness of lime juice brighten up the dish, cutting through the richness of the pork.
  • Water: Water is used to create the initial braising liquid, which helps in cooking the pork evenly and making it tender.
  • Medium Orange: Orange juice adds a sweet and tangy flavor, which balances the savory and earthy spices. The citrus also helps tenderize the meat.

Each ingredient plays a specific role in creating the depth of flavor, texture, and overall deliciousness of the Pork Carnitas. The combination of spices, citrus, and slow cooking results in a dish that is rich, tender, and full of authentic Mexican flavors.



Get started by preheating your oven to 300 degrees and positioning your oven rack in the lower middle position. Next, combine all ingredients in a large Dutch oven. Don’t forget to include the spent orange halves and juice.


Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, uncovered. Once simmering, cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Allow it to cook until the meat becomes so tender that it falls apart when prodded with a fork, typically about 2 hours. If you prefer using a crockpot, set it on high for approximately 6-7 hours.


After removing the pot from the oven, switch on your broiler. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat from the pan onto a large foil-lined jelly roll pan. Proceed to boil the remaining cooking liquid until it condenses and becomes syrupy, which should take around 20 – 30 minutes.


While the liquid is reducing, use two forks to pull apart each cube of pork into three equal-sized pieces. Once the liquid has reduced, gently fold these pieces of pork back into the pot.


Spread the pork back onto the foil-lined pan in a single layer. Broil until you notice that the top of the meat is well browned and its edges are slightly crisp. This should take about 5 to 8 minutes. Flip the pieces of meat and broil the other side until well browned and edges are slightly crisp, another 5 to 8 minutes.

Authentic Pork Carnitas Recipe

5 from 2 votes
Recipe by Laura Ritterman Course: MainCuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time







Savor the rich and tender Authentic Pork Carnitas, a traditional Mexican dish featuring slow-cooked, caramelized pork, perfect for tacos and burritos


  • 4 pound 4 boneless pork butt, fat trimmed and cut into 2 inch cubes

  • 1 1/2 tsp 1 1/2 salt

  • 3/4 tsp 3/4 pepper

  • 1 tsp 1 ground cumin

  • 1 1 onion, peeled and halved

  • 2 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tsp 1 dried oregano

  • 2 2 tb fresh lime juice

  • 2 C 2 water

  • 1 medium 1 orange, juiced and keep the spent halves


  • Prep
  • Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle position.
  • Combine Ingredients
  • In a large Dutch oven, combine the pork, salt, pepper, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, water, and the juice and halves of the orange.
  • Braise
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, uncovered. Once simmering, cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Cook until the meat is tender and falls apart when prodded with a fork, about 2 hours.
  • Reduce Liquid
  • After braising, remove the pot from the oven and turn on your broiler. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a large foil-lined baking sheet. Remove and discard the onion, bay leaves, and orange halves from the pot. Then, boil the remaining cooking liquid over high heat until it thickens and becomes syrupy, about 20 – 30 minutes. You should have about 1 cup of liquid remaining.
  • Shred Pork
  • While the liquid is reducing, use two forks to shred each cube of pork into three equal-sized pieces.
  • Combine with Reduced Liquid
  • Once the liquid has reduced, gently fold the shredded pork back into the pot with the reduced liquid. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  • Broil
  • Spread the pork in a single layer on the foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until the top of the meat is well browned and edges are slightly crisp, about 5 to 8 minutes. Flip the pieces of meat and broil the other side until well browned and edges are slightly crisp, another 5 to 8 minutes.
  • Serve
  • Serve the carnitas immediately in tortillas with your favorite toppings.


  • If you’re using an Instant Pot, cook for about 60 minutes on high pressure followed by a natural release. For a Slow Cooker, cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 6 hours.

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Tips & Tricks

Choose the Right Cut: Pork butt is the ideal choice for Carnitas due to its fat content which contributes to its juiciness and flavor.

Trim the Fat: While you need some fat for flavor and tenderness, trim off any excessive fat to avoid overly greasy carnitas.

Cut Evenly: Ensure the pork is cut into uniform 2-inch cubes for even cooking.

Don’t Skip Citrus: The lime and orange juice aren’t just for flavor; they help tenderize the meat.

Low and Slow: Cook the pork at a low temperature for a long time to achieve the perfect tenderness.

Reduce the Liquid: Take the time to reduce the cooking liquid as it concentrates the flavors and adds a delicious glaze to the meat.

Crisp it Up: Broiling the pork at the end is essential for achieving the signature crispy edges.

Shred Carefully: When shredding the pork, be gentle to keep the pieces chunky and avoid mushiness.

Season to Taste: After combining the pork with the reduced liquid, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve Immediately: Carnitas are best enjoyed fresh from the oven when they’re most crispy.

Storing Leftovers: Store any leftovers in an airtight container and reheat under the broiler to bring back some of the crispiness.

Freezing Tips: If you plan to freeze, do so after cooking but before the final broiling step for best texture upon reheating.

What to do with Leftovers

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. For best results, freeze individual portions for quick and easy meals later on.

What To Serve With Pork Carnitas?

Serve your authentic Pork Carnitas immediately in a tortilla with your favorite toppings. For a complete meal, pair it with sides such as Cilantro Lime Rice, Mexican Barley Salad, or a simple green salad.

  1. Tortillas: Warm corn or flour tortillas are essential for making tacos.
  2. Rice: A side of Mexican rice or Cilantro Lime Rice complements the flavors of carnitas well.
  3. Beans: Refried beans, black beans, or pinto beans are traditional and hearty sides.
  4. Salsas: Offer a variety of salsas, such as salsa verde, pico de gallo, or a spicy red salsa for added flavor.
  5. Guacamole: A creamy and fresh guacamole can add a rich element to the dish.
  6. Sour Cream or Mexican Crema: Adds a cool, tangy contrast to the rich pork.
  7. Cheese: Crumbled queso fresco or shredded Monterey Jack cheese can be sprinkled on top.
  8. Pickled Vegetables: Pickled red onions or jalapeños add a tangy crunch.
  9. Fresh Vegetables: Diced onions, chopped cilantro, and sliced radishes offer freshness and crunch.
  10. Corn on the Cob: Grilled or boiled corn on the cob, possibly with a sprinkle of chili powder or lime, is a great side. Such as this one


With this comprehensive guide to making authentic Pork Carnitas, you’re all set to embark on a culinary adventure. There’s something truly satisfying about creating a dish from scratch, especially one with as much history and flavor as Carnitas. So go ahead, don your apron, gather your ingredients and bring a piece of Mexico into your kitchen!null


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