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A closeup of a carnitas taco.
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5 from 4 votes

Carnitas (Oven or Slow Cooker)

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.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 25 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 8
Calories: 359kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 to 4 ½ 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
  • 1 ½ 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
  • avocado
  • cilantro
  • crumbled cotija or queso fresco cheese
  • sour cream
  • salsa or hot sauce

Instructions

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.

Notes

Tortillas and toppings were not included in nutrition calculation.
Ingredient Notes
I love to use exceptionally sweet Cara Cara oranges, when available. Navel oranges will work well too.
I don't recommend adding the spent lime halves as they can impart a bitter flavor, especially when using the slow cooker method.
Refrigerating Carnitas
Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. For the best quality, use refrigerated leftovers within 3 to 4 days.
Freezing Carnitas
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.
Reheating Carnitas
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.

Nutrition

Calories: 359kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 58g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 153mg | Sodium: 576mg | Potassium: 1077mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 119IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 50mg | Iron: 3mg