This amazing Pork Carnitas Recipe is slow-cooked until perfectly tender, juicy, and full of flavor. So easy to make, this delicious Mexican pulled pork is perfect for tacos, burritos, tostadas, and quesadillas! (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo)
Today I’m sharing how to make the juiciest, most delicious, and perfectly seasoned pulled pork carnitas.
This awesome recipe makes the absolute best pork tacos! But carnitas is versatile, so if tacos aren’t your thing, toss this juicy shredded meat in other Mexican favorites like burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, or enchiladas!
So easy to make with minimal prep work, this recipe is no-fail and very forgiving. Anyone can make it!
What is Carnitas?
Carnitas, translated, means “little meats”. Originating in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, traditional carnitas are made by braising or simmering well-seasoned cuts of pork (typically heavily marbled Boston butt or picnic ham cuts of pork) in oil or lard using a copper pot. Pulled pork carnitas are a popular ingredient in tamales, tacos, tortas, and burritos.
- Boneless pork butt (pork shoulder)
- White onion (or red onion)
- Bay leaves
- Light beer (or chicken broth)
- Fresh orange juice
- Fresh lime juice
- Chipotles in adobo sauce (or chipotle powder)
- Seasoning (salt, black pepper, ground cumin, chili powder)
- Mexican oregano (or regular dried oregano)
This carnitas recipe is gluten-free (when made with chicken broth instead of beer) and dairy-free.
How to Make Carnitas
- Chop the pork into smaller, more workable, chunks (about 3-4 inches). Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the pork to a large slow cooker. Add the white onion and bay leaves.
- In a bowl combine the remaining salt and black pepper with the Mexican oregano, ground cumin, minced garlic, chili powder, fresh orange juice, and fresh lime juice. Chop the chipotles and add them to the bowl with some adobo sauce (about 1-2 tablespoons). Mix well.
- Pour the seasoning mixture over the pork followed by the beer (or chicken broth). Gently mix to combine. It’s ok if the pork isn’t completely covered in liquid.
- Cover and cook on low for 8-12 hours or on high for 6-7 hours.
- Once the meat is fall-apart tender, remove it from the crockpot. Shred the cooked pork with a couple of forks. Transfer the remaining cooking liquid to a saucepot and simmer until reduced to approximately 2 cups.
- For crispy carnitas: Preheat the oven to high broil and line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil. Divided the shredded pork between the two baking sheets. Broil the first baking sheet for 3-4 minutes, or until the edges of the pork begin to brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and gently toss the meat with cooking tongs. Return to the oven and broil for an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove and ladle about 1/4 of a cup of cooking liquid over the top. Repeat with the second baking sheet.
- Serve in all of your favorite Mexican-inspired and Tex-Mex recipes.
Instant Pot Carnitas
To make carnitas in the Instant Pot pressure cooker, add all of the ingredients to the bowl of your Instant pot (just as you did the slow cooker). Close the lid and set the vent to the sealed position. Cook on high pressure for 1 hour. Allow the pressure to release naturally before removing the pork, shredding, and crisping (if desired).
How to Serve Carnitas
This Mexican slow cooker pulled pork is fantastic by the forkful, but the flavors really shine when it’s wrapped in a warm corn tortilla. Flour tortillas are also good, but corn tortillas are better. I like to add a little fresh cilantro, some diced white onion, and a little pico de gallo or fresh salsa. The result? Perfect carnitas tacos. Serve your tacos with a side of refried beans and Mexican rice for a complete dinner feast.
Other delicious taco additions include shredded cheese, sour cream, and shredded cabbage.
Carnitas also love being served in nachos, burritos, enchiladas, and quesadillas, so give ’em all a try to find out your favorite.
Have you tried making this Carnitas Recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
Carnitas Recipe (Mexican Slow Cooker Pulled Pork)
- 5 pounds boneless pork butt - cut into large 3-4-inch chunks
- 1 large white onion - sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1½ tablespoon salt - divided
- 2 teaspoon black pepper - divided
- 1½ tablespoon Mexican oregano - or regular oregano
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 6 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 large oranges - juiced
- 2 large limes - juiced
- 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce - or 1 tablespoon chipotle powder
- 1 cup light Mexican beer - or chicken stock (gluten-free)
- Generously season the chunks of pork with salt and pepper then transfer them to a large slow cooker. Add the sliced white onions and bay leaves over the top of the meat.
- Combine the remaining salt and black pepper in a bowl with the Mexican oregano, ground cumin, minced garlic, chili powder, fresh orange juice, and fresh lime juice. Roughly chop the chipotles and add them to the bowl with about 1-2 tablespoons of adobo sauce. Mix well to combine.
- Pour the sauce mixture over the top of the pork followed by the beer (or chicken broth). Gently mix to combine.
- Cover and cook on low for 8-12 hours or on high for 6-7 hours.
- When the pork is tender enough to shred, remove it from the slow cooker and shred using two forks.
- If you have more than 2 cups of liquid remaining in the slow cooker, transfer the liquid to a small saucepot and reduce it to about 2 cups by simmering it gently on the stovetop.
For Crispy Carnitas
- Preheat your oven to high broil and line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil. Divided the shredded pork between the two baking sheets in an even layer.
- Broil the first sheet for 3-4 minutes, or until the edges of the pork begin to brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and gently toss the meat with cooking tongs. Return to the oven and broil for an additional 3-4 minutes. Remove and ladle about 1/4 of a cup of cooking liquid over the top.
- Repeat with the second baking sheet.
- Serve immediately in tacos, burrito bowls, quesadillas, salads, enchiladas, etc.
- Pork: You have the option to trim excess pork fat, but I highly recommend you don’t. Traditional carnitas recipes are simmered in lard, so a little excess fat will helps ensure juiciness and moisture.
- Storage and leftovers: Keep the shredded pork and liquid stored in separate airtight containers. Reheat the desired amount of pork and liquid in the microwave before adding to your favorite recipes. Best enjoyed within 5 days.
- Freezing: Freeze in a sealed container for up to 3 months.
- Shredded meat dries out as it cools. Save the leftover broth and drizzle a little over the meat for both moisture and seasoning.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)