Pork Carnitas

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Pork Carnitas are bites of pork that are cooked until melt in your mouth tender; then the pork is roasted at a high temperature just until caramelized and crisp on the edges.

Carnitas literally translates to “little meats.” This pork carnitas recipe was an enormous hit with my whole family the first time I made it and these Carnitas have been made on frequent repeat for over ten years now.

Pork Carnitas - in dutch oven (get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com)

For all the length of this recipe, the actual work involved is less than 20 minutes. The pork is delicious on rice, with potatoes, or stuffed into tacos or burritos.

I could hardly stop sampling this meat as I was snapping a picture before serving our plates, it really is that good.

Pork Carnitas Recipe

The basic ingredients are simple as can be, but the result is mouthwateringly tender pieces of meat with a caramelized citrus sauce and plenty of flavor from an abundance of spices. (Unlike many of the Mexican recipes here, there’s no heat in this recipe for pork carnitas.)

  • Pork shoulder
  • Onion
  • Limes
  • Oranges
  • Spices
Pork Carnitas are a HUGE favorite with everyone! get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com

Dutch Oven Carnitas

  1. Combine all the ingredients (including the spent orange halves) in a dutch oven or a large pot with an oven-safe lid. Bring the pot to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once the pot is simmering, move the pot to the oven and cook for about 2 hours, until the meat is fork-tender and falling apart.
  2. Remove the pot from the oven and preheat the oven to broil. Use a slotted spoon or a set of tongs to remove the meat from the pot and place it on a large foil-lined baking sheet. Remove and discard everything else in the pot, leaving only the liquid. Place the pot over high heat on the stove, for about 10-20 minutes. Boil it until the liquid is thick and syrup-like. There should be about 1 cup of liquid left in the pot.
  3. While the liquid is boiling and reducing, use the tongs or a pair of forks to very gently pull each piece of pork into 3 pieces. Avoid shredding the pork at this point, it will be very tender. Once the liquid has become thick and syrup-like, remove from the heat and place the pork back into the pot with the liquid. Gently fold the pieces into the liquid and try not to break them up further.
  4. Transfer the coated pork back onto the baking sheet, spreading it in just one layer across the pan. Place the baking sheet back in the oven on the same lower middle shelf. Broil for 6-8 minutes, until the meat is quite browned and slightly crispy on the edges. Remove from the oven and use your tongs or a large spatula to flip over each piece. Return the pan to the oven and broil the other side for 6-8 minutes, until both sides are well-browned and the edges are crisp.
Pork Carnitas - straight out of dutch oven - broken apart (get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com)

How To Make Carnitas

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas are another delicious carnitas recipe, and that recipe never fails to get rave reviews as well. However, if you have a few extra minutes to be hands-on in the kitchen, this classic carnitas recipe is my first choice for carnitas.

Serve the carnitas with Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas or The Best Gluten Free Flour Tortillas.

Turn this isn’t a Mexican feast with some Elote {Hot Mexican Corn Dip}, Chipotle Lime Rice, Avocado and Tomato Salad, or Black Bean and Corn Salad. However you serve them, these carnitas are about to rock your meal plan.

Also, if you’re lucky enough to have carnitas leftover, I highly recommend a skillet of Carnitas Breakfast Hash the next day.

Pork Carnitas

Kitchen Tip: I use this dutch oven, this sheet pan, and these tongs to make this recipe.

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Pork Carnitas - in dutch oven (get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com)

Pork Carnitas

4.75 from 12 votes
Carnitas are crispy juicy bites of pork. The pork is cooked until melt in your mouth tender; then roasted at high temperature until the edges caramelize.
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Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 3 hrs
Total Time: 3 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 10

Ingredients 

  • 4 lb boneless pork shoulder or butt roast fat trimmed slightly and then cut into large 2″ cubes
  • 1 onion ends cut off, halved and peeled
  • the juice of 1 medium orange or 4 tiny clementines save the spent halves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Instructions

  • Adjust the oven rack to the lower middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all the ingredients (including the spent orange halves) in a dutch oven or a large pot with an oven-safe lid. Bring the pot to a simmer over medium high heat. Once the pot is simmering, move the pot to the oven and cook for about 2 hours, until the meat is fork tender and falling apart.
  • Remove the pot from the oven and preheat the oven to broil. Use a slotted spoon or a set of tongs to remove the meat from the pot and place it on a large foil lined baking sheet. Remove and discard everything else in the pot, leaving only the liquid. Place the pot over high heat on the stove, for about 10-20 minutes. Boil it until the liquid is thick and syrup-like. There should be about 1 cup of liquid left in the pot.
  • While the liquid is boiling and reducing, use the tongs or a pair of forks to very gently pull each piece of pork into 3 pieces. Avoid shredding the pork at this point, it will be very tender. Once the liquid has become thick and syrup-like, remove from the heat and place the pork back into the pot with the liquid. Gently fold the pieces into the liquid and try not to break them up further.
  • Transfer the coated pork back onto the baking sheet, spreading it in just one layer across the pan. Place the baking sheet back in the oven on the same lower middle shelf. Broil for 6-8 minutes, until the meat is quite browned and slightly crispy on the edges. Remove from the oven and use your tongs or a large spatula to flip over each piece. Return the pan to the oven and broil the other side for 6-8 minutes, until both sides are well-browned and the edges are crisp. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 242kcal · Carbohydrates: 2g · Protein: 41g · Fat: 6g · Saturated Fat: 1g · Cholesterol: 108mg · Sodium: 450mg · Potassium: 729mg · Sugar: 1g · Vitamin A: 30IU · Vitamin C: 7.8mg · Calcium: 24mg · Iron: 1.8mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

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recipe slightly adapted from and with thanks to Cooks Illustrated via My Kitchen Escapades

{recipe originally posted 12/15/12 – recipe notes and photos updated 2/10/22}

Best Ever Pork Carnitas - get the recipe at barefeetinthekitchen.com

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. Lyle says

    I have made these 3 times in the last 6 weeks or so for company. They are beyond delicious! Preparation is so easy. I add about 3 cloves of crushed garlic. Reducing the liquid is key to amping up the flavor.5 stars

  2. SijtscheZwiers says

    Very good recepy!😋😋😋 Served it with jalapenos, black beans & guacamole.
    Never heard of Dutch oven before but now know is just our regular roasting pan.😉4 stars

  3. Jay says

    Amazing recipe! Came out perfect when following directions to the T, I’m going to play around with it now the second time. 🙂

    It was one of the first to pop up just a few months ago, now Google has buried it. 🙁 A bunch of “slow cooker/Instant Pot” recipes pop up now. Luckily I took screenshots of it!5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      I’m SO glad that you love the carnitas, Jay! I agree that it’s frustrating when random recipes start showing up in search. I’m glad you found this one again!

  4. Bob Johnson says

    The pork came out great but the liquid in the Dutch oven did not thicken After I took out the pork what did I do wrong?

  5. Kimberly says

    Crunched for time tomorrow. Best advice on making it tonight and then doing the crisping part tomorrow right before serving in the afternoon? Thank you SO much.

    • Mary Younkin says

      I do that almost every time I make these, Kimberly. Just store the cooked pork in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to crisp it and serve.

  6. Green says

    Hi!

    Since we don’t eat pork at home, do you think I could use chicken breast fillets instead?

    Thank you!:)

    • Mary Younkin says

      Unfortunately, this won’t work the same way with chicken. It’s far too long a cooking process and it won’t cook the same way with this method.

  7. Jess says

    I’m about to make these for tonight’s dinner and can’t wait! Do you cover the pot before sticking it into the oven?

  8. Cyndee Hagen says

    Fall is definitely here in Minnesota! It’s a brisk 41 degrees as we are getting ready for our first snow (2 to 5 inches) on Tuesday. I would use the enameled pot to make your pork carnita recipe. It sounds delicious and I can only imagine how wonderfully warm and inviting the citrusy smell of the roasting pork would be after a day working outside in the chilled air. I think it would take a little of the sting out of The forecast and help to warm my old weary bones.5 stars

  9. Andre says

    One of my favorite recipes! I double everything to use a full butt that comes from Costco. Makes multiple easy recipes over the week. Just add a little more than hour to reach the right consistency.

    I know you said you freeze yours. Do you typically also freeze the reduction with it? I have been jarring it and scoping out as I use it ( bacon fat consistency when chilled).5 stars

  10. Lennert says

    I’m from Belgium, where Carnitas are very unknown. I made these last week and everyone loved them. Thank you so much for this amazing recipe!! I only got a bit worried when I took the carnitas out of the oven because the orange peel smelled very bitter and you could taste it a bit in the liquid. I added some extra sugar to balance out the bitter while thickening the liquid. You couldn’t taste it at all in the pork. Is it normal the peel gets bitter? If not, do you have any tips to prevent this?

    • Mary Younkin says

      I haven’t noticed the peel tasting bitter in the sauce at all. I do scrub the oranges most of the time before adding them to the pot. Maybe there was a residue on them? I’m so glad that you love the carnitas!