Carnitas (Authentic Mexican Pulled Pork Recipe)

Authentic mexican carnitas recipe slow cooker

An authentic pork carnitas recipe that is completely addictive! First, the carnitas are slowly cooked in an instant cooker, on the stove or in its slow cooker before putting it in the oven to make it crispy and caramelized. This Mexican shredded pork is the perfect filling for tacos, burritos or nachos. This is my most popular recipe for a reason my friends, but don’t you dare skip the last step of this fabulous carnitas meat.

What I love about these carnitas

While there are a few extra steps to this slow cooker carnitas recipe, none of them are difficult or time-consuming. And, the end result is out of this world. I’ve already done this twice in the last month and have the bindings in the fridge for Round #3. The meat melts completely in the mouth, while the caramelization on the outside multiplies the incredible flavors. Our family has a hard time not eating it all before we have a chance to put some into a homemade flour tortilla.

A funny story

with this carnitas recipe

If you’re looking for some entertainment, take a quick jump to the reviews of this carnitas recipe and you’ll experience a lot of political debate along with favorable reviews of the recipe. You see, I dared to make the following “comment” on an election, and readers continue to mix the political with the culinary: ”

Well, we all survived another election season. Just in time to get cranky for the holidays, right? Do your favorite food blogger a favor, please? Pour all your frustrations, anger, and moodiness from the election process/results into something productive. Like food.

I promise you (and a

real promise, not a political one) that this pork carnitas recipe will make you happy, soft, and in a better mood than you’ve been for months. These authentic carnitas will change the way you view whatever meat you put in your tacos from now on.”

So if you’re brave enough to get into the comments section below, bring your sense of humor with you!

What is Carnitas?

Carnitas are a popular Mexican dish of shredded pork. The meat is slowly stewed until it is very tender and juicy on the inside, then roasted until crispy and caramelized on the outside. It’s that last step under the grill that distinguishes carnitas meat from other Mexican pork recipes.

The word “carnitas” translates to “little meats” in English. A perfect description because you will cut the large pig butt or pork shoulder into 2-inch pieces, then slowly cook them at low temperature. Serve those bite-sized little pieces of meat as a main course, or inside a taco, burrito or nachos.

How to make the best carnitas?

  1. Use a fatty piece of meat: I get a lot of questions about whether this same recipe and technique can be used with a pork loin or chicken breasts. The answer is no. You should choose a pig butt because of the fat and tendons. It becomes so tender while cooking that it melts in the mouth. That will never happen with a low-fat form of protein. If you want authentic carnitas, hug your butt.
  2. Cook Low, Slow Mexican Pork – To create a perfect tender bite that’s infused with flavor, this recipe calls for a slow stew with an enameled cast iron Dutch oven, but you can certainly use a slow cooker or slow cooker. However, you will end up with a greater amount of liquid in a slow cooker. Give yourself more time to create that thick liquid in Step 5 of the recipe.
  3. Use a rotisserie to concentrate the flavor – I know many of you will want to skip the last step of this recipe, but take a look at my photo. Do you see that beautiful caramelization on the outside of the meat? That’s not just for the looks, my friend! That concentrated flavor makes the whole recipe shine. So, take the extra 3 minutes to put the finished carnitas under the grill.

Frequently Asked Questions About

Pork Carnitas Recipe

What kind of meat is Carnitas? Traditional


carnitas use a pork butt or pork shoulder in the recipe. While two different names are used, a pig butt and a pork shoulder are exactly the same cut of meat. The name only depends on where you live and the pork supplier. Due to the high fat content, a pork butt allows the meat to remain tender while cooking and creates the best flavor in carnitas meat. A leaner cut of pork won’t create the same texture or flavor.

What is the difference between shredded pork and carnitas?

While both start with the same cut of meat, a pork butt, you’ll find the differences in seasoning, cooking, and serving meat. Shredded pork often cooks the entire pork butt at once until it is tender enough to crush. Carnitas, on the other hand, start as small 2-inch cubes and are seasoned with spices, lemon juice and orange juice and then braised until tender.

The biggest contrast between carnitas and shredded pork is in how the meat is treated once it finishes cooking. Mexican shredded pork is simply a shredded pork butt. Pork carnitas have some extra steps after the meat is fully cooked. You will reduce the cooking liquid until it is syrupy and pour it over the small pieces of meat. Once coated, the meat is caramelized under a rotisserie until crispy edges form. This final treatment is what gives carnitas meat such a loyal following!

What to serve with pork carnitas?

In addition to the classic corn tortillas or homemade flour, a serving of rice with cilantro and lime or Mexican barley salad with beans, corn and jicama would be perfect side dishes. A simple green salad with a favorite dressing also pairs well. My personal favorite is this tomatillo avocado ranch dressing. Want something super simple to serve aside? Just open a can of black beans and heat them in the microwave.

How to make

instant pot pork carnitas

Instant Pot pork carnitas are great because pork butt works especially well in a pressure cooker. Depending on the size of the Instant Pot, you may need to reduce the size of the recipe. The recipe will fit inside a 6-quart enameled cast iron Dutch furnace, so if the Instant Pot can’t handle that amount of ingredients, reduce the measures accordingly as well, including the amount of pork.

Also, cut the amount of water in half if you use an instant pot, as little to no evaporation will occur while cooking. If you do not reduce the water, there will be too much cooking liquid for Step 6, reducing it to the syrup at the end. Carnitas meat should be cooked for about 50-60 minutes and let it naturally release pressure, which will take about 15-20 minutes.

How to freeze pork carnitas?

Pork carnitas freeze very well, but it is important to know how to do it correctly. Because the crispy pork will become mushy in the freezer, it is best to follow the recipe to the end of step 6 and then stop. Pack the cooked pork and reduced cooking liquid in two separate freezer bags. Remove excess air and place them flat to freeze.

When it’s time to serve the carnitas, let the two bags thaw in the refrigerator for a few days and then finish the recipe starting with step 7. It will be perfect and no one will ever know that carnitas meat had been in the freezer for weeks.

How to better store and serve leftover carnitas meat?

There’s no denying that this carnitas recipe is best fresh and hot from the oven. However, if you are lucky enough to have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Because carnitas meat will lose its crunch in the refrigerator, be sure to add a few hints of water to the pork so it doesn’t dry out when reheated. Spread the meat on a baking sheet and place it back under the grill until crispy again.

How to make slow cooking pork carnitas?

While the original recipe calls for slow stew in the oven, pork carnitas can also find complete success within a slow cooker or Crock-Pot. Just follow these tips to ensure the clay pot carnitas are great:

  • Reduce the water to 1 1/2 cups. Because a slow cooker uses a lower temperature compared to baking stew, little or no water evaporates during the cooking process. This leaves too much liquid for step 4 of the recipe.
  • Use the

  • low setting on the slow cooker for 6-8 hours or the high setting for 4-6 hours. The end result should be super tender and fall apart easily. Don’t rush this step. Give it more time if needed.
  • Follow all other instructions as written. Just don’t give up that cooking liquid reduction in Step 4. It will take time due to the additional humidity from cooking at a lower temperature.


you’re trying to decide which side dishes to serve with carnitas, think about superimposing the flavor of carnitas with other dishes. Especially in Mexican cuisine, those sides are often stuffed inside a flour or corn tortilla and eaten in one bite. Your sides really matter for carnitas.

Outside of rice, tortillas, and guac shown above, a savory type of refried, black, or bean charros are traditionally paired with carnitas. Beans are an essential part of Mexican cuisine dating back to the early days of his empire. Meat was scarce, so their main source of protein was beans, as they are a native crop in that part of the world.

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Rice with lime and cilantro
<img src

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Homemade Guacamole
Homemade Guacamole

Carnitas – 10-step video on how to do it

  1. Place in a pot 4-5 pounds of pork, 2 C of water and 1 onion;
  2. Add the spices 1 1/2 teaspoons

  3. kosher salt, 3/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon oregano, 2 bay leaves
  4. 1 lemon juice,

  5. juice and peel of 1
  6. orange

  7. Bring to a boil, Stir, cover and bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours
  8. Discard onion, orange and bay leaves. Place
  9. the pork on a foil-lined tray Break the pork

  10. into smaller pieces Reduce the
  11. cooking liquid until it

  12. becomes like a syrup
  13. Pour over the pork
  14. Stir in, add a little more salt and pepper, and roast for 5-10 minutes until golden brown

. Impression Culinary specialist with more than 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry.

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