This pork carnitas recipe is the ultimate Mexican pulled pork with seasoned pork shoulder cooked low and slow until fall apart tender, ready for tacos! Easy to make and delicious, the way it should be!
Today we're cooking up Mexican Pork Carnitas in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen, my friends. These are some of the best carnitas I've ever had.
Why? Because we're using lard! Yes, this recipe calls for pork lard.
Many carnitas recipes call for other liquids, and I've enjoyed them, but for this recipe, we're going for that authentic Mexican carnitas flavor.
This pork is slow cooked in a mixture of lard, orange juice and whole milk with herbs and seasonings until fall apart tender, and the flavors are beyond outstanding. It really is one of our favorite ways to enjoy it.
The pork is so tender and juicy, and it makes for the best pork tacos you'll ever have.
This tastes a lot like the carnitas from our favorite local Mexican restaurant, so I know they're using lard to simmer their pork.
What is Carnitas?
Carnitas is Mexican pulled pork where the pork is cooked low and slow in lard, oil or other liquid until tender. The recipe originated in the Mexican state of Michoacán, though also associated with Bajio and the State of Mexico.
It's a quintessential Mexican dish, with some variations on how to make carnitas and how to serve them, though more traditional Mexican recipes use pork lard or vegetable oil.
More Americanized versions skip the lard and instead use other liquids, like orange juice, chicken stock or chicken broth, and even beer. All are good versions, though authentic Mexican carnitas cooked in lard offer a more traditional flavor.
Today we're cooking with lard, so get that tub of fat ready. This is going to be a delicious ride.
Let's talk about how to make carnitas, shall we?
- Pork Lard. You can use vegetable oil, though I highly encourage using lard for more authentic flavor.
- Pork Shoulder. Pork shoulder (aka pork butt) is the best cut for making carnitas, in my opinion.
- Onion and Garlic.
- Whole Milk.
- Orange Juice. Plus orange zest.
- Aromatic Herbs. I'm using bay leaf and Mexican oregano.
- Salt and Pepper. To taste.
- For Serving. Corn or flour tortillas, your favorite salsa and toppings.
How to Make Carnitas - the Recipe Method
Brown the Meat. Heat the lard (or oil) in a large pot or Dutch oven to medium heat. Add the pork and onion to the cooking liquid and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to brown the meat.
Reduce heat to cool slightly.
Add the Liquids. Remove the onion and add the milk, water, orange juice, orange zest, herbs, and salt and pepper.
Cook Low and Slow. Reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 hours, or until the liquid in the pot has evaporated and the pork is fork tender – lard/milk should bubble, but not boil – do not exceed 250 degrees F.
You can also use a slow cooker to make carnitas. See the Recipe Notes section.
Shred and Serve. Remove the pork and shred as desired. Serve with tortillas for the best carnitas tacos ever!
FOR CRISPY PORK CARNITAS
Crisp the Carnitas (Shredded Pork). Heat 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil in a large pan to medium-high heat.
Add the pork and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring, until the edges crisp as desired. You can also crisp it up in a broiler on a baking sheet.
Serve! Serve with tortillas for crispy carnitas tacos!
Boom! Done! Your pork carnitas are ready to serve! Looks outstanding, doesn't it? Bust out the fixings for the best pork carnitas tacos you've ever had. Or make a torta! Or burrito!
How are YOU serving them, my friends? Such a great recipe.
What to Serve with Carnitas?
I'm making carnitas tacos today and using chopped onion, serranos and jalapenos, cilantro, lime juice, avocado, queso fresco, salsa verde, red chili flakes. However, you can use any and all of your favorites. Here are some ideas:
- Chiles Toreados. Mexican blistered jalapenos. My favorite!
- Salsa Verde. Pork is PERFECT with a good salsa verde.
- Pico de Gallo. It's the classic Mexican salsa!
- Creamy Jalapeno Sauce. You MUST try this recipe. SO freaking delicious.
You can also use the pork in other ways, like pork tortas or burritos, as a topping for pork nachos, ramen noodles, so many ways.
Recipe Tips & Notes
The Pork. I prefer pork shoulder/pork butt for making carnitas, as the meat breaks down and become so incredibly tender from cooking the pork low and slow.
Some recipes call for pork ham or pork loin. The fattier cuts are the most flavorful.
The Herbs. You can use any aromatic herbs of choice for this recipe. I enjoy bay leaves and Mexican oregano, but use your favorites.
The Lard. Pork lard imbues your pork carnitas with more authentic flavor. You can skip it if you're concerned about lard and use vegetable oil, or use a liquid like chicken stock, or even beer.
Seasonings. For this recipe I've only used salt and pepper to let the flavor of the pork shine, but you can use any of your favorite seasonings.
Consider chili powder, garlic, dried herbs, and more. You can spice this up as much as you'd like to.
Slow Cooker Carnitas. Making slow cooker carnitas is very easy. Simply sear your pork per the recipe, then transfer everything to the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, or until the pork is pull apart tender. Then, enjoy as desired. Tacos, my friends!
Instant Pot Carnitas. You can definitely make pork carnitas in your Instant Pot or pressure cooker.
Simply sear the pork per the recipe, then transfer all of the ingredients to the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Pressure cook on HIGH for 60 minutes, then natural release.
See my Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe for reference. Then, shred and serve as desired!
Carnitas will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
The great thing about carnitas is that it is perfect for freezing. I love to freeze it in serving size portions, either in small freezer containers, or in airtight freezer bags.
Then, simply thaw and heat or crisp in a hot pan. Enjoy!
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this pork carnitas recipe. I love this recipe! Let me know if you make it. I'd love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!
If you love traditional Mexican cooking, I love these cookbooks with recipes from all over Mexico. Definitely recommended. I used these books to adapt this carnitas recipe.
Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes
- Birria Tacos
- Quesabirria Tacos
- Tacos al Carbon
- Beef Barbacoa
- Barbacoa Tacos
- Spicy Chorizo Tacos (with Homemade Chorizo)
- Shrimp Tacos with Creamy Jalapeno Sauce
- The Best Fish Tacos
- Cochinita Pibil
- Tacos De Papa (Crispy Potato Tacos)
- See all of my Tacos Recipes.
- Smoked Pulled Pork
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Carnitas Recipe (Slow Cooked Mexican Pulled Pork)
- 1-1/4 cup pork lard or use vegetable oil
- 3-1/2 pound pork shoulder cut into chunks
- ½ onion
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup orange juice or more as desired
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup chopped Mexican oregano
- Zest of 1 orange
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Corn or flour tortillas
- Salsa + Fixings (I'm using chopped onion, serranos, cilantro, lime, avocado, queso fresco, salsa verde, red chili flakes)
- Heat the lard (or oil) in a large pot or Dutch oven to medium heat. Add the pork and onion and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to brown the meat. Reduce heat to cool slightly.
- Remove the onion and add the milk, water, orange juice, orange zest, herbs, and salt and pepper.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 hours, or until the liquid in the pot has evaporated and the pork is fork tender – lard/milk should bubble, but not boil – do not exceed 250 degrees F.
- Remove the pork and shred as desired. Serve with tortillas for the best carnitas tacos ever!
FOR CRISPY PORK CARNITAS
- Heat 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil in a large pan to medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring, until the edges crisp as desired. You can also crisp it up in a broiler.
- Serve with tortillas for crispy carnitas tacos!