Whether you’re throwing a fiesta-style party or amping up taco night, you can’t go wrong with Pork Carnitas!
Succulent, mouth-watering, Tacos de Carnitas features full-flavored, bite-sized pieces of tender pork with gorgeous crispy edges, packed into a warm tortilla. Top your tacos with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and your favorite taco toppings for an authentic taste of Mexico at home!
This recipe works for more than just tacos! You can use it as a filling for burritos, quesadillas, or even as a salad topper! Got leftovers? Bookmark our Pulled Pork Quesadillas and these Pulled Pork Nachos, and put them to work the next night!
WHAT IS CARNITAS?
Carnitas originated in the state of Michoacan of Mexico, and in its most original and authentic form, is pork meat…fried in pork fat. Yum. These days, the famous Mexican dish is looking a little different in most kitchens, and the world’s cholesterol levels are all too thankful for it.
The new-age way of cooking this beloved Mexican staple still revolves around a braise, and while most of us are no longer pulling out the lard, we’re still getting that pork good and crispy, just as it was intended to be. All you need to accomplish this is a sheet pan and a broiler…but we’ll come back to that later.
This recipe tastes exactly the way Authentic Carnitas should — full-flavored, juicy, porky goodness. Only now, you can kiss getting popped by flying skillet grease goodbye, and shave about a hundred or so calories from the recipe while you’re at it. Now, that’s a win-win.
WHAT DOES CARNITAS MEAN?
Carnitas translates to “little meats.”
IS CARNITAS PORK?
The term “Carnitas” doesn’t only apply to pork. The cooking method of braising-and-crisping can also be applied to chicken, beef, and lamb as well. However, more times than not, when Carnitas is referenced, the source is very likely referring to pork, unless otherwise indicated.
WHAT CUT OF PORK IS USED FOR CARNITAS?
The cut of pork most often used for Authentic Carnitas is the pork butt, which is ironically not the butt of the pig, but its shoulder.
When pork butt is cooked over low heat for an extended period of time, it turns into juicy, tender bites of pork perfection. Delicioso.
TACOS DE CARNITAS
The pork can be eaten on its own, as a stand-alone protein, but most often is enjoyed in taco form. Tacos de Carnitas are usually served with the traditional toppings of diced white onion, sprigs of fresh cilantro, freshly squeezed lime juice, and of course, salsa.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- Dutch Oven
- Rimmed Baking Sheet
- Nonstick Aluminum Foil
- Pork Butt
- Spices – Salt, Chili Powder, Pepper, Onion Powder, Cumin, Garlic Powder, Smoked Paprika
- Citrus – Fresh-Squeezed Orange and Lime Juice
- Bay Leaves
- Taco Toppings
HOW TO MAKE CARNITAS
- Prep – Cut the pork butt into 1″ cubes.
- Season – Add to a Dutch oven, along with the seasoning, and rub the spices evenly all over the pork.
- Add Liquid – Add freshly squeezed orange juice, lime juice, and water to the pot. Stir and add the bay leaf.
- Cook – Cover and cook for 2 hours at 325°F.
- Broil – Transfer the pork to a rimmed baking sheet using a slotted spoon and gently mash it with fork tines to break it apart. Broil until crispy, 1-4 minutes.
- Reduce – Place Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat and bring the braising liquid to a simmer.
- Thicken – Mix together water and cornstarch and pour it into the liquid. Allow to simmer and thicken, about 2-3 minutes more.
- Serve – Add pork back to the liquid and stir to coat. Serve with warm tortillas and your favorite taco toppings!
HOW TO MAKE IT CRISPY
Forget pan-searing. The oven is the easiest way to make Carnitas crispy! More specifically, the broiler. This will get the edges of the pork perfectly charred and beautifully browned, and it will do it about three times faster than a skillet on the stovetop!
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CARNITAS
When you’re serving Carnitas, be sure to have warm flour or corn tortillas on standby, as well as your favorite taco toppings!
Chopped cilantro, lime wedges, white onion, sour cream, and salsa verde are all perfect pairings for Tacos de Carnitas, but the fun certainly doesn’t stop there. Other toppings you might like to include in your spread are crumbled queso fresco, sliced cabbage, pickled red onions, and avocado.
Looking for a little something extra to serve on the side? Try one of these delicious Mexican side dishes or sauces!
6 MORE TACO RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
- Fajita Tacos
- Carne Asada Tacos
- Crock Pot Chicken Tacos
- Crispy Fried Potato Tacos
- Tacos de Pollo (Chicken Tacos)
- Tacos de Camaron (Shrimp Tacos)
An easy and authentic Carnitas Recipe for making the best Mexican Tacos de Carnitas! Featuring slow-cooked, tender bites of pork broiled to crispy perfection!
- 3-4 pound boneless pork butt
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed), about 3-4 oranges
- 1/4 cup lime juice (freshly squeezed), about 3-4 limes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup water + 2 tablespoons, separated
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Flour or corn tortillas (1-2 per person)
- Topping Suggestions: red onion, cilantro, Cotija cheese, freshly squeezed lime juice
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Pat the pork butt dry with a paper towel. Use a large, sharp knife to trim away excess fat. Cut the pork butt into 1" thick slices. Then, cut each slice into 1" cubes.
Transfer the pork to a 4-5 quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Add all of the dry spices, and massage them onto the pork with your hands.
Add the orange juice, lime juice, and a 1/2 cup water to the Dutch oven and stir to combine. Add the bay leaves, cover, and transfer to the oven.
Cook for 2 hours. Remove from the oven, and turn on the broiler on high. Have ready a rimmed sheet pan lined with nonstick aluminum foil.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to the prepared sheet pan. Using the tines of a fork, gently press down on the pork to ever-so-slightly break it apart.
Place the pork under the broiler, and watch closely so that it does not burn. As soon as the pork begins to tinge with dark brown hues and crisps up on the edges, remove it from the oven. Depending on your broiler, this could take anywhere from 1- 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Place the Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-high heat and allow to come to a simmer. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water. Add the cornstarch slurry to the cooking liquid and allow to simmer until thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Either add the pork back to the Dutch oven and stir or brush the sauce lightly over the carnitas. Serve with tortillas and your favorite taco toppings and enjoy!