Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos)

Let me just start by saying, if you like Mexican street tacos, stop now, jump down to the recipe and start making a grocery list.

History: Carnitas, translated “little meats”,  is a fabulous dish in Mexican cuisine that usually uses pork.  The type of pork used is usually the front or pork shoulder and are braised or roasted for a very long time, sometimes the entire length of a day.  These kings of the taco cart are moist, juicy, rich in flavor, all the while remaining tender on the inside and crispy on the outside. The lengthy cooking process of this dish means that in many families, carnitas is only made on special occasions.  Some Mexican-American families enjoy having it around the Christmas holidays.  Others will prepare it for special events like children’s birthdays or anniversaries.

Since we don’t have all day and many of us don’t have an outside kitchen, this recipe is designed so that you can make these tasty treats at home.  While the cooking time is still 2-3 hours, you will not be disappointed with the tremendous flavor of this recipe.

¡Buen provecho!


  • When carving the meat, don’t remove ALL the fat, just the large pockets.
  • Make sure to check the pork at the two hour mark, if the pork doesn’t easily fall off the fork, place it back in for a little while and check again every 15 minutes.
  • Serve with a delicious homemade guacamole or chipotle pepper dressing (recipes to come!)
  • Be sure to try at least one taco with onion, cilantro, and lime juice… the flavor combination is fantastic.

Recipe: Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)


  • 3 1/2 to 4lb bonless pork butt (shoulder) (fat cap trimmed to 1/8" thick, cut into 2" chunks)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican oregano if available)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium orange, halved
  • corn tortillas (6-inch), warmed


  • lime wedges
  • minced white or red onion
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • thinly sliced radishes
  • sour cream


Step 1 Preheat oven to 300 degrees and place rack in lower-middle position.
Step 2 Place dutch oven (or oven safe large pot) on stove over medium-high heat and combine: pork, salt, pepper, cumin, onion (halved), bay leaves, oregano, lime juice and water until the liquid comes just over the meat.
Step 3 In separate small bowl, juice the orange completely. Strain juice into pot to remove seeds. Add juiced orange halves to pot.
Step 4 Bring liquid to a simmer, stirring occasionally. (Time depends on temperature of other ingredients, feel free to place the lid on to speed this step up.)
Step 5 Cover pot and place in preheated oven for 2 to 2.5 hours flipping pork pieces once half way through. Cook until meat is "fork-tender" and easily falls apart when poked with a fork.
Step 6 Remove pot from the oven and set oven to broil.
Step 7 With tongs or slotted spoon transfer pork pieces to a large bowl to rest.
Step 8 Using a slotted spoon, remove onion, bay leaves and orange rinds from liquid and throw away.
Step 9 Place pot on stove over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 8-12 minutes. Cook until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup and is almost syrupy.
Step 10 Using two forks, pull each pork piece in half.
Step 11 Pour reduced liquid into bowl and toss with pork.
Step 12 Taste a piece of that amazing pork and salt and pepper to taste.
Step 13 Line a 13"x18" baking sheet with a wire rack and spread pork pieces over top rack making an even layer.
Step 14 Place baking sheet in oven in lower-middle position and broil for 10-15 minutes, flipping pork with spatula or metal tongs halfway through. (Broil meat until well browned, but not burnt)
Step 15 Enjoy immediately with warm tortillas, onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen

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I have always had a passion for food (both eating and cooking) as well as the science behind it. I hope to further that passion with this blog and perhaps become a better cook in the process.


  1. Chipotle Pepper Dressing - - January 24, 2012

    [...] Here’s the recipe for the homemade chipotle dressing that I served with the pork carnitas. [...]

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