Easy Weeknight Carnitas: Flavorful Pulled Pork In No Time

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Carnitas, meaning “little meats” in Spanish, is a beloved Mexican dish featuring tender, flavorful pulled pork. Traditionally slow-cooked in lard, this recipe offers a simplified version using readily available ingredients. Perfect for tacos, burritos, or just enjoying on its own, carnitas are sure to become a crowd-pleaser.


Pork Carnitas
Pork Carnitas

4 pounds boneless pork shoulder (butt roast)

  • 1 white onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 orange, juiced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 lime, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Instructions:

    1. Prep the Pork: Trim any excess fat from the pork shoulder. Cut the pork into 2-3 inch cubes. Season generously with salt and pepper.

    2. Combine the Flavors: In a large Dutch oven or slow cooker, combine the pork cubes, onion quarters, smashed garlic, orange juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, cumin, oregano, chili powder, smoked paprika, and bay leaf. Stir well to coat the pork in the flavorful marinade.

    3. Slow Cook to Perfection: Bring the mixture to a simmer on the stovetop. Cover the pot and transfer it to a preheated oven set to 300°F (150°C). Alternatively, cook on low in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours, or until the pork is very tender and easily shreds with a fork.

    4. Crisp Up the Carnitas (Optional): Once the pork is cooked through, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C). Shred the pork with two forks, discarding the bay leaf. Spread the shredded pork in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil for 5-7 minutes, or until the edges of the carnitas are slightly crispy.

    5. Assemble and Enjoy: Serve your delicious carnitas warm with your favorite toppings like chopped onions, cilantro, salsa, guacamole, shredded cheese, and warm tortillas.

    Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

    Calories: Approximately 400 (depending on fat content of pork)

  • Protein: 40 grams
  • Fat: 25 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 10 grams (including natural sugars)

  • Note: These are approximate nutritional values and may vary depending on the specific ingredients used.


    Carnitas are a versatile and delicious dish that can be enjoyed in countless ways. With its simple preparation and undeniably satisfying flavor, this recipe is sure to become a staple in your kitchen. So, gather your ingredients, fire up the slow cooker, and get ready to experience the magic of melt-in-your-mouth carnitas!

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

    1. Can I substitute another cut of pork for the shoulder? Yes, you can substitute other cuts like pork loin or tenderloin. However, the shoulder is the preferred cut for carnitas due to its high fat content, which contributes to the succulent texture.

    2. What if I don’t have a slow cooker? No problem! You can cook the carnitas in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over low heat for 3-4 hours, or until the pork is very tender.

    3. How long can I store leftover carnitas? Leftover carnitas can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. You can also freeze them for longer storage, up to 3 months.

    4. What are some other ways to enjoy carnitas? Carnitas are incredibly versatile. Try them in enchiladas, quesadillas, or even on top of nachos. You can also use them in breakfast burritos or scrambled eggs for a flavorful twist.

    5. Can I make this recipe spicier? Absolutely! Add a pinch of cayenne pepper or a few chopped jalapeños to the marinade for a kick. You can also adjust the amount of chili powder to your desired level of spice.