How to Make Carnitas

Are you ready to embark on a culinary adventure and satisfy your taste buds with a mouthwatering Mexican dish? Look no further than the irresistible carnitas! In this recipe, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of making succulent carnitas. Make sure the pork is free range, ethically sourced, or use vegetarian alternatives.


3 lbs (1.4 kg) pork shoulder or butt, cut into chunks

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup water

Tortillas, cilantro, onion, lime wedges (for serving)


Step 1

In a large bowl, combine the pork, minced garlic, cumin, dried oregano, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Mix well, ensuring the pork is coated evenly with the seasonings.

Step 2

Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned pork and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.

Step 3

Reduce the heat to low and add the water. Cover the pot and simmer for about 2 to 3 hours, or until the pork is tender and easily pulls apart with a fork.

Step 4

Once the pork is tender, increase the heat to medium-high and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the liquid to evaporate and the meat to crisp up.

Step 5

Remove the bay leaves and transfer the carnitas to a serving dish. Serve with warm tortillas, fresh cilantro, chopped onion, and lime wedges.

Mexican Rice Recipes The Perfect Accompaniment to Carnitas

If you’re looking to elevate your carnitas experience, you must try serving them with a side of flavorful Mexican rice. offers a variety of mexican rice recipes that will tantalize your taste buds and enhance the overall dining experience. Whether you prefer a traditional rice recipe or something with a modern twist, Minute Rice has you covered.

The Origin of Carnitas

Carnitas, which translates to “little meats” in Spanish, is a traditional Mexican dish that originated in the state of Michoacán. It dates back to the 16th century and is deeply rooted in Mexican culinary heritage. 

Originally, carnitas were prepared by slowly braising pork in lard until it became tender and infused with rich flavors. Over the years, the cooking technique has evolved, but the essence of this beloved dish remains the same.

Nutritional Benefits of Carnitas

While carnitas may be indulgent and flavorful, they also offer several nutritional benefits. The dish is an excellent source of protein, essential for muscle repair and growth. Pork used in carnitas is rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium. 

The slow cooking process allows the fat in the pork to render, resulting in a dish with lower fat content compared to other fried dishes. So, savor the deliciousness of carnitas while enjoying the healthful aspects of this traditional Mexican delight.

Secrets to Perfect Carnitas

The Cut of Pork: Opt for pork shoulder or butt, as they have the ideal balance of fat and lean meat, ensuring tender and juicy carnitas.

Slow Cooking: Cook the pork slowly at a low temperature to allow the flavors to develop and the meat to become incredibly tender.

Seasoning: Use a combination of spices such as garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves to infuse the meat with traditional Mexican flavors.

Crispy Finish: After cooking the pork, give it a final touch by crisping it up in a hot skillet or under the broiler. This will add a delightful crispy texture to the tender meat.

Proper Storage of Carnitas

If you happen to have leftovers (although it’s hard to resist devouring all of the carnitas in one sitting), proper storage is essential to maintain their flavor and texture. Follow these steps to store carnitas correctly:

  • Allow the cooked carnitas to cool completely before refrigerating or freezing.
  • For short-term storage, place the carnitas in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To freeze the carnitas, transfer them to a freezer-safe container or freezer bags. Label the container with the date and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • When reheating, gently warm the carnitas in a skillet over medium heat or in the microwave. Add a splash of water or broth to help retain moisture.

Variations of Carnitas

Citrus-Infused Carnitas: A Burst of Tangy Flavor

One popular variation of carnitas involves infusing the meat with the bright and zesty flavors of citrus fruits. After marinating the pork in a mixture of orange and lime juice, along with garlic and spices, the meat becomes tender and succulent with a tangy twist. The citrus infusion adds a refreshing element that perfectly balances the richness of the pork.

Carnitas with a Spicy Kick: Adding Heat to the Mix

For those who enjoy a bit of heat in their dishes, spicy carnitas are a fantastic choice. By incorporating ingredients such as chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, cayenne pepper, or jalapeños, you can elevate the flavor profile of the carnitas and add a fiery kick. The combination of smoky and spicy elements will leave your taste buds craving more.

Crispy Carnitas: The Quest for Textural Delight

While carnitas are typically cooked until tender, some prefer the meat to have a crispy exterior, adding a delightful crunch to each bite. Achieving crispy carnitas involves cooking the pork in a way that encourages the edges to caramelize and develop a golden brown crust. 

This can be achieved by increasing the heat during the final stage of cooking or by broiling the meat for a few minutes.

You are now equipped with the knowledge to create sensational carnitas in the comfort of your own kitchen. Remember to visit for their delightful Mexican rice recipes that perfectly complement this traditional Mexican dish. 

Discover the secrets, relish the taste, and savor the succulent flavors of carnitas. Whether you’re cooking for a crowd or enjoying a cozy dinner at home, this beloved dish will always impress. ¡Buen provecho!