This traditional pork carnitas recipe makes the mouthwatering Mexican slow-cooked pulled pork that’s fantastic on tacos, tostadas, tortas, burritos, and more. Carnitas means ‘little meats’ and the pork is slow-braised until so juicy and tender it easily falls apart. The heat is then increased to get crispy bits of pork for delicious contrasts of texture and flavour. Make a big batch.
It’s Tuesday, which means it’s #TacoTuesday and a great excuse to make Mexican food if ever there was one, and share our favourite Mexican taco recipes – as well as Mexican-American taco recipes and Tex-Mex taco recipes. They’re all good to us, but we do have a soft spot for authentic Mexican tacos, which are smaller, more understated and even more delicious than their northern cousins.
This traditional pork carnitas recipe for tacos de carnitas makes the mouthwatering Mexican tacos that we fell in love with in Mexico City many years ago. Tacos de carnitas are made with melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked pulled pork, a green salsa made from tomatillos, a little fresh coriander, and lime quarters on the side, and these minimalist tacos really exemplify that less is more approach.
You’ll find our collection of Taco Tuesday recipes here, which (so far!) include everything from a tacos al pastor recipe inspired by the tacos we loved at Mexico City’s Salón Corona to more Mexican-American and Tex-Mex-style tacos from a chicken tinga taco recipe to an Austin-inspired breakfast tacos recipe.
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Pork Carnitas Recipe for Tacos de Carnitas – Mexican Slow Cooked Pulled Pork for Tacos, Tostadas, Tortas and More
This traditional pork carnitas recipe for tacos de carnitas will make you mouthwatering Mexican slow-cooked pulled pork that’s big on flavour so made for serving simply, with little more than a salsa, fresh fragrant coriander (or cilantro) and a squeeze of lime juice.
We serve these much-loved tacos carnitas family-style with everything at the centre of the table so everyone can arrange their own proportions of carnitas to salsa and homemade guacamole. We only use corn tortillas (when we can get them) and the green tomatillo salsa (not a red salsa), just as they do in Mexico.
If you have any leftover carnitas, you can use it to make some quesadillas with homemade pickled jalapeños, douse some hot sauce on top (we like Tapatio and Cholula), drizzle on some Mexican crema or drop a dollop of sour cream on there, and serve some refried beans on the side.
You could also roll the pulled pork up with shredded lettuce and diced tomato in big soft wheat flour tortillas to make burritos, or even scatter some pulled pork onto tortilla chips with some Mexican pickled vegetables and my spicy red tomato salsa to make a nachos to end all nachos.
The leftover pork makes for a great burger too. We might even do a recipe on that! Whatever you do with your pork carnitas leftovers, make sure to wash those ‘little meats’ down with micheladas or margaritas.
Tips to Making this Pork Carnitas Recipe for Mexican Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
Just a few tips to making this classic pork carnitas recipe for Mexican slow-cooked pulled pork. You could do the first part of this recipe with a pressure cooker, but the pork needs to be browned in an oven or on the stovetop to finish so you get those crunchy bits that distinguish carnitas.
The reason we cover the Dutch oven with foil instead of the Dutch oven lid is that we want some moisture to escape during the cooking process as it helps break down the meat.
Please be patient with this cooking process. It really needs to be moist, melt-in-your-mouth, pull-apart ready before you begin browning and crisping the meat. This is critical, otherwise you’ll have tough carnitas that no-one will enjoy.
Once the pork meat is pull-apart ready, you can let it cool, cover and refrigerate it for up to three days. When you’re ready to finish the dish, pull the pork from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature before browning it to crispy in an oven or on the stove.
While traditionally pork is paired with pineapple, we like using orange juice for acidity and sweetness. Some use lime juice, but we find it a little too tart for carnitas.
We add a good dash of salt at the beginning of the roasting, but if you find the meat a little mild at this stage, by all means give it a decent sprinkle with a quality salt like Maldon Salt.
Pork Carnitas Recipe for Mexican Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Tacos
- 1.2 kg pork shoulder (‘pork butt’), cut into 5 cm (2 inch) chunks
- ½ cup orange juice
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp black pepper ground coarsely
- 12 corn tortillas
- 1 big bowl freshly-made guacamole recipe
- 1 bowl tomatillo salsa
- 1 cup coriander fresh, no stems
- Preheat the oven to 165°C (330°F).
- Add the meat to a Dutch oven. Add all the dry ingredient to the pork. Pour over the orange juice and mix thoroughly.
- Cover with foil and cook for 2 hours before checking. There should be plenty of liquid and fat around the pork. Add additional orange juice if necessary.
- Cover again and cook for another hour and test. When ready, the meat should be able to be shredded with two forks. If it's not at that stage and is still has a 'bouncy' texture, cook for another hour.
- When ready, we now need to crispen up the pork. You can cook it uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes on 180°C (355°F) or you can do it on the stovetop.
- Serve family style with warm corn tortillas, guacamole, tomatillo salsa, a few sprigs of fresh coriander (cilantro) and beer.
Please do let us know if you make our pork carnitas recipe for tacos de carnitas in the comments below as we love to hear how our recipes turn out for you.
Mary Jane says
Those close-up photos made me salivate! I cooked mine for 4 hours in the oven and then took out the pieces I needed for the tacos and made them get a little crispy over a griddle.
We made them again the next day by reheating the pork in the Dutch oven on the stove and then crispened pieces up for more tacos! Tasted even better, thank you! Great recipe.
Lara Dunston says
Hello Mary Jane, thanks for the kind words re Terence’s pics and so pleased the recipe turned out well for you and you enjoyed them. Thanks so much for taking the time to drop by and leave a comment :)