Use your oven or slow cooker to create perfectly seasoned, crispy pork Carnitas at home. This versatile shredded pork can be used to make a wide variety of Mexican-inspired meals.
Along with my Shredded Mexican Beef and Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos, this Carnitas recipe is a family favorite!
If you are a Carnitas fan, I have some very good news for you. That irresistible, crispy shredded pork on all of your favorite Mexican restaurant menus is very easy to make at home. And, you’re not going to believe how amazingly delicious it is!
You can use this Carnitas recipe to create the most delicious Mexican-inspired meals. I tested this recipe multiple times using different methods so that whatever your day is looking like, Carnitas can be on the menu! Whether you choose to cook it in your oven or Crock-Pot, the result will be fabulous.
Once cooked to a super tender state in the oven or slow cooker, the meat is shredded and crisped on a baking sheet in the oven. A fantastic, easy method.
Table of contents
- You’ll need a 4 to 4 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder roast or pork butt. This cut is very well marbled and cooking it low and slow melts the fat and tenderizes the meat. I can always find this cut at my local grocery store and it is quite economical. You’ll end up tossing some pieces that are mostly fat. This is why you want to start with a 4+ pound roast.
- Both orange and lime juice are a traditional element to any good Carnitas recipe. I love to use exceptionally sweet Cara Cara oranges when I can find them but regular navel oranges work just fine. You don’t want to toss the spent orange halves because they are used during the cooking process to infuse even more citrus flavor into the pork.
- The fabulous seasoning mix consists of brown sugar, kosher salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, coriander, and cayenne. This spice blend creates SO much flavor but not a lot of heat. Bump up the amount of cayenne if you want spicy Carnitas.
How to Make Carnitas in the Oven
See recipe card below for Slow Cooker Carnitas instructions.
- Cut the pork into 3- to 4-inch chunks, trimming and discarding as much of the excess fat as possible. This cut is extremely well marbled so don’t attempt to remove all of the fat, just trim the excess around the edges of each chunk the best you can. Transfer the pieces of pork to a large Dutch oven.
- Combine the Carnitas Seasoning Mix ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over the pork. Toss lightly to distribute the seasoning.
- Add the quartered onion, garlic, the juice from the oranges and limes, the spent orange halves only (discard the spent lime halves), and the bay leaves. I don’t recommend adding the spent lime halves as they can impart a slightly bitter flavor, especially when this is cooked in the slow cooker.
- Cover the pot and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is very tender and easy to shred. Remove the pot from the oven.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chunks of pork to a baking sheet that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray.
- Using two forks, shred the meat into small pieces. Measure out 1/2 cup of the juices from the Dutch oven and pour it over the shredded pork, tossing to combine. Spread the pork out in an even layer.
- Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and broil for about 3 minutes, until browned and crisped.
- Remove from the oven and use a spatula or tongs to toss the Carnitas, then spread back out in an even layer. Return the baking sheet to the oven for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until crisped to your liking.
How to Serve Carnitas
Crispy Pork Carnitas is one of the most versatile meat recipes in existence. I use it to create a ton of different Mexican-inspired entrees.
- Pile it on toasted flour tortillas with minced onion, cilantro and cotija cheese for easy, food truck inspired Carnitas Tacos. Or, dress them up with any and all taco toppings you love.
- Carnitas makes super tasty burritos or enchiladas. Try it in place of rotisserie chicken in these Green Chile Chicken Smothered Burritos.
- Make takeout fakeout Chipotle Carnitas Burrito Bowls with Cilantro Lime Rice, Chipotle copycat Corn Salsa, and your toppings of choice.
- Use it to make delicious quesadillas or nachos!
Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. For the best quality, use refrigerated leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
Freeze leftovers or freeze an entire batch for an easy future meal. Transfer the cooled Carnitas to a freezer-safe container. If using a freezer storage bag, remove as much air as possible before sealing. Label and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw safely overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
It’s simplest and easiest to use the microwave to reheat small batches. If you want to retain more crispiness, you can spray a skillet with nonstick cooking spray and cook the Carnitas in a skillet over medium heat until warmed.
To reheat a large batch that you made in advance, transfer the cooked Carnitas to a baking sheet and transfer to a preheated 400 degree F oven for about 15 minutes or until heated. Toss with a spatula about halfway through the cooking time.
Carnitas (Oven or Slow Cooker)
- 4 to 4½ pound boneless pork shoulder roast or butt
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 medium oranges juiced, at least ⅓ cup juice or more (keep the spent halves)
- 2 limes juiced, about ⅓ cup juice (discard the spent halves)
- 2 bay leaves
Carnitas Seasoning Mix
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
Optional Carnitas Tacos Ingredients
- small flour tortillas
- crumbled cotija or queso fresco cheese
- sour cream
- salsa or hot sauce
Conventional Oven Instructions
- Preheat the oven to 300 F degrees.
- Cut the pork shoulder into 3- to 4-inch chunks, trimming and discarding as much of the excess fat as possible. This cut is extremely well marbled so don't attempt to remove all of the fat, just trim the excess around the edges of each chunk the best you can. Transfer the pieces of pork to a large Dutch oven. (You'll end up tossing some pieces that are mostly fat. This is why you want to start with a 4+ pound roast).
- Combine the Carnitas Seasoning Mix ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over the pork. Toss lightly to distribute the seasoning. Add the quartered onion, garlic, the juice from the oranges and limes, the spent orange halves only (discard the spent lime halves), and the bay leaves.
- Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until the meat is very tender and easy to shred. Remove the pot from the oven.
- Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chunks of pork to the baking sheet and using two forks, shred the meat into small pieces. Measure out ½ cup of the juices from the Dutch oven and pour it over the shredded pork, tossing to combine. Spread the pork out in an even layer.
- Set your oven to BROIL. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and broil for about 3 minutes, until browned and crisped. Remove from oven and use a spatula or tongs to toss the carnitas, then spread back out in an even layer. Return the baking sheet to the oven for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until crisped to your liking. Watch closely so it doesn’t burn.
Slow Cooker Carnitas Instructions
- Follow as directed above, adding the ingredients to a 6-quart slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours or on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours.
- Follow directions above to finish and brown the cooked pork in the oven.
For Carnitas Tacos
- Toast tortillas in a dry skillet over MEDIUM heat for about 30 seconds per side, or until well toasted.
- Serve on toasted tortillas with toppings of choice.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is an estimate not a guarantee. For more accurate results, please refer to the labels on your ingredients at home.
Questions and Reviews
We have made this recipe 4 times now and having again tonight. It’s the only one we use now!! We love it so much! I’ve always done it in the slow cooker.
We love it too! Thanks, Jill. 🙂
I made this in my Dutch Oven and it was excellent! I didn’t add the oranges due to allergies and substituted with water. The meat just fell apart, the flavours were so delicious then I broiled it for a few minutes too. What an excellent and easy meal. The best Carnitas hands down.
So glad you enjoyed it, Elaine! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. 🙂
These carnitas were excellent. I loved the citrus flavor. And they were so easy. I cooked mine in the slow cooker. This was a real winner with my husband. He wants with homemade pica de gallo next time.
I made this recipe yesterday and followed the ingredients and directions as posted. Delicious! I used my Dutch oven and the meat was ready at the 3 hour mark. Rarely do I try new recipes and save them for future use…..this one I’m saving and know I’ll use it over and over again. Thank you, Valerie’s Kitchen!