Easy Weeknight Carnitas: Dinner In No Time

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Carnitas, those melt-in-your-mouth chunks of slow-cooked pork, are a Mexican staple loved worldwide. Traditionally made with pork shoulder braised in lard, this recipe offers a simplified, healthier version that’s incredibly flavorful and perfect for tacos, burritos, or bowls. Let’s get cooking!


Easy Pork Carnitas
Easy Pork Carnitas

2 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes

  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
  • Red onion, diced (for garnish)
  • Limes, wedges (for garnish)

  • Directions:

    1. Marinate the Pork: In a large bowl, combine orange juice, lime juice, chicken broth, olive oil, cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Add the pork cubes and toss to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight, for maximum flavor.

    2. Slow Cooker Magic: Transfer the marinated pork and all its juices to a slow cooker. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 6-8 hours, or until the pork is very tender and easily shreds with two forks.

    3. Crisp Up the Carnitas (Optional): For a touch of crispy goodness, remove the cooked pork from the slow cooker with a slotted spoon and shred it into bite-sized pieces. Reserve the cooking juices in the slow cooker. Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of oil. Add the shredded pork and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crispy in some spots.

    4. Assemble and Enjoy! Warm your tortillas of choice. Serve the carnitas on tortillas with your favorite toppings like chopped cilantro, diced red onion, lime wedges, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, or anything your heart desires!


    Feel free to adjust the spices to your taste preference. Want it spicier? Add a pinch of cayenne pepper or a chopped jalapeño to the marinade.

  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for longer storage.

  • Nutrition Facts (per serving, without toppings):

    Calories: 350

  • Fat: 20g
  • Saturated Fat: 6g
  • Cholesterol: 80mg
  • Sodium: 450mg (depending on the amount of salt used)
  • Carbohydrates: 10g
  • Protein: 40g

  • Conclusion:

    This easy carnitas recipe delivers authentic flavors without the hassle. With minimal prep and slow cooker magic, you’ll be enjoying restaurant-quality carnitas in no time. So grab your favorite toppings and get ready for a delicious and satisfying meal!


    1. Can I use a different cut of pork?

    Yes, you can substitute pork shoulder with pork butt (also called Boston butt). Both cuts are well-marbled and perfect for slow cooking.

    2. What if I don’t have a slow cooker?

    You can cook the carnitas in the oven. Preheat your oven to 325°F (165°C) and follow steps 1 and 2. Transfer the marinated pork to a baking dish, cover tightly with foil, and bake for 3-4 hours, or until the pork is very tender. Shred and crisp as directed in steps 3 and 4.

    3. How can I make this recipe even healthier?

    Use leaner cuts of pork like pork loin. You can also skim off some of the fat from the cooking juices before shredding the pork.

    4. What are some other delicious ways to use carnitas?

    Carnitas are incredibly versatile! Use them for enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos, or even breakfast burritos.

    5. Can I use leftover carnitas for tacos the next day?