Dutch Oven Carnitas

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You'll love this easy recipe that creates crispy pork carnitas in your dutch oven at home. Moist and juicy pork roast is slow-cooked and seasoned with spices until it's fall-apart tender!

The result is versatile Mexican pulled pork that's great for filling street tacos, crispy tostadas and carnitas burritos that will melt in your mouth! It's the perfect dish for a Mexican Fiesta, Game Day, or weeknights when you're craving authentic Mexican food.

plate of carnitas with oranges and limes.
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Why You'll Love It

  • makes the best carnitas tacos you'll ever taste!
  • quick and easy prep in just 10 minutes
  • cooking process is simple in a dutch oven
  • can be made ahead and frozen for later
  • perfect party food since it makes a big batch

What's Pork Carnitas?

In Spanish, the word carnitas means 'little meats'. It's basically Mexico's version of slow cooked pulled pork (with a twist)!

Authentic carnitas are made by deep frying pork in lard until tender. In this pork carnitas recipe, we're substituting broth for lard, and baking the pork in a dutch oven to make a lighter version. The use of lard is not really necessary when using a dutch oven because the pork cooks in its own fat which creates crispy edges!

By adding a variety of spices and the juice from two oranges, this method creates a hearty braising liquid that adds intense flavor to this easy carnitas recipe.

dutch oven carnitas on a white plate with limes.

Recipe Highlights

Baking dutch oven carnitas is one of my favorite ways to cook a pork shoulder (also called a pork butt). This recipe makes over 2 pounds of meat that will fill up an entire sheet pan. I've used it to make everything from tostadas to burritos and tacos!

This recipe tastes great as sliders topped with tomatoes and cilantro, and stirred into rice bowls stuffed with pork instead of chicken. You can also use the meat to make Mexican dishes like enchiladas, fajitas and quesadillas.

While southern pulled pork is an entirely different recipe, there are some similarities in how these dishes are cooked. Nothing could be easier than adding spices to a Boston butt roast and slow-cooking it in the oven for hours. The cooking liquid has so much flavor...it's worth the wait!

Equipment

Ingredients

What You'll Need for the Pork

You can probably find most of these items in your local grocery store. If you can't locate Mexican oregano, (ad) feel free to substitute dried oregano in its place.

See recipe card at the bottom of this page for quantities.

  • boneless pork shoulder (pork butt)
  • Mexican oregano
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • beef or chicken broth
  • yellow onion
  • minced garlic
  • juice from fresh oranges

Ingredients to Make Tacos

  • corn tortillas
  • cotija cheese
  • fresh cilantro
  • salsa verde or pico de gallo
  • pickled red onions (or chopped onions)
  • sour cream or crema (optional)
ingredients needed for dutch oven carnitas.

How to Make Dutch Oven Carnitas

This is one of the easiest recipes you'll find for making Mexican pulled pork. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare the meat and get it ready to bake!

Prep the Pork

1 - Prepare Pork: take the pork roast out of its wrapper and pat it down with a paper towel. Trim excess fat off of pork with a sharp knife. Add beef or chicken broth to the bottom of a large dutch oven, and place the roast in the pot.

2 - Add spices: sprinkle pork with cumin, oregano, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Squeeze the juice of two oranges into the pot. Add minced garlic, then nestle onions that have been cut into large chunks and a few orange and lime slices beside the pork.

pork roast after being seasoned and ready to go into the oven.

Bake it in One Pot

3 - Cover and bake: make sure the lid fits securely. Place in a 350ºF oven and bake for 3 hours.

4 - Check half way through: half way through the cooking process, add more broth to the pot and turn over the roast. Close lid and continue to bake.

5- After 3 hours: open lid and check to see if pork can be easily pulled with a fork. If it can, take it out of the dutch oven and place on a sheet pan. If it won't pull easily, bake it for 1 more hour.

pork butt roast after baking in a dutch oven.

Shred the Meat

6 - Let the roast rest: bring meat to room temperature or cool it down before shredding with two forks. To make this process faster, cut the roast in several large chunks to release the steam. The outer bark will be dark but not hard.

7 - Chop up the pork pieces: shred some and chop others into small bite-size pieces. Use two forks to pull the meat apart, or chop with a knife (if you wish) to the desired size.

two forks pulling pork apart on a sheet pan.

Make It Crispy

8 - Broil the pork: to make crispy carnitas, broil the shredded meat for 10 minutes on the sheet pan in the oven. Remove from oven and drizzle pork with braising liquid from the pot.

This is an important step: the cooking liquid contains all of the flavor! Be sure to drizzle the pan sauce over the pork before serving and store meat in the liquid so it won't become dry.

sheet pan of pork carnitas after it has been broiled in the oven.

How to Make Carnitas For Tacos

Once you taste these crispy little nuggets that come out of the oven, you'll know exactly what you need to do: make carnitas tacos, or as they say in Spanish...tacos de carnitas!

As far as I'm concerned, these are the best tacos you'll ever taste! The liquid left over in the pot has so much flavor, it raises the meat to another level when drizzled on top. Plus, it keeps the meat moist and juicy!

1 - Sear corn tortillas: use kitchen tongs to sear tortillas in the bottom of a frying pan. Turn the heat to high and sear each side for about 10 seconds, moving tortillas quickly until edges are slightly charred. Searing is optional, but it enhances the taste. Alternatively, simply warm the tortillas in the microwave.

2 - Fill tortillas with pork: add a generous amount of meat to the bottom of each tortilla and spoon the braising liquid on top.

3 - Add toppings: pile on the toppings of your choice! (See info below for ideas.)

dish of carnitas tacos with lime.

Toppings and Salsas

When it comes to tacos, everyone has their idea of what a great topping should be. In authentic Mexican cuisine, they like to keep it simple with a squeeze of lime juice, pickled red onions, chopped cilantro and a flavorful salsa.

But, the sky is the limit when it comes to creating your own special taco toppings. Try these fun topping ideas...

  • shredded red cabbage
  • guacamole
  • jalapeños
  • chopped red onion

Helpful Tips

  • Use a dutch oven for best results in this particular recipe.
  • If you want to create the best carnitas, take the extra step of broiling them on a sheet pan for 10 minutes, or until you get browned bits. You could also fry the meat in a cast iron skillet (ad) if desired. Either way, the ultimate goal is to get crispy edges on the pork!
  • Trim the fat before cooking the meat or you'll have to pick through it after it's cooked.
  • Store leftover meat in the braising liquid to keep it from drying out.
carnitas with tacos and salsa.

Recipe FAQs

Can Mexican carnitas be made in a slow cooker or instant pot?

Although it's not the recommended method of cooking, both a slow cooker and an instant pot can be used to make this recipe. However, a dutch oven produces more tender meat, and even crisps the outside of the roast, which infuses more flavor into the carnitas.

Can carnitas be chicken?

Carnitas is a Mexican pork dish, but you can substitute chicken for pork if desired. Try this dutch oven recipe for pulled chicken which is an easy way to make it in one pot. Just remember to add the spices listed in this recipe during the cooking process.

Will pork loin work for carnitas?

Pork loin is a leaner cut of meat than pork shoulder. Pork tenderloin is even leaner. Neither of these cuts will give you the same juicy results, but you can definitely use them if you're looking for a healthier version. If you go this route, be sure to use extra broth to keep the meat moist.

three tacos filled with pork carnitas.

Variations

  • substitute flour tortilla for corn
  • add your favorite hot sauce if you like things spicy
  • use a leaner cut of meat if you want to cut some of the fat content

Storage and Freezing

How long will carnitas last in the fridge? If kept in an airtight container, pork carnitas will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat in the oven or microwave in its own juice.

Can you freeze carnitas? Freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight and reheat in a 350ºF oven for 15 to 20 minutes until meat reaches 145ºF with an instant read thermometer.

blue plate filled with pork carnitas.

How to Serve Pork Carnitas

The best part of this recipe is making carnitas tacos, or Taco de Carnitas! But, there are many other ways to serve this delicious dish. Here are just a few...

  • Add to tamales, or serve on top of nachos.
  • Top potato wedges or french fries with pulled pork.
  • Add chopped pork to sandwiches or sliders.
  • Use the meat to make fajitas, or stuff inside a burrito or quesadilla.

Mexican Fiesta Recipes

If you're wondering what to serve with pork carnitas, you've come to the right place! Gather your friends and plan a Mexican Fiesta on Cinco de Mayo or any day of the week. Below are some fun recipes to get the party started...

Recipe Card

plate of carnitas made in a dutch oven and served with lime and orange slices.

Dutch Oven Carnitas

You'll love this easy recipe that creates crispy pork carnitas in your dutch oven at home. Moist and juicy pork roast is slow-cooked and seasoned with spices until it's fall-apart tender!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dutch Oven, Main Dish, One Pot
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Broil: 10 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes
Servings16
Calories: 256kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

Pork Carnitas

  • 4.5 pound pork butt roast (boneless)
  • 2 cups beef broth (or water)
  • 1 medium onion (cut in chunks)
  • 2 medium oranges (squeezed into broth)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano (Mexican if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • orange and lime wedges (optional)

Carnitas Tacos

  • 1 package corn tortillas
  • 2 small limes
  • 1 small red onion
  • ½ cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup cojita cheese

Instructions

Pork Carnitas

  • Prepare Pork: take the pork roast out of its wrapper and pat it down with a paper towel. Trim excess fat off of pork with a sharp knife. Add beef or chicken broth to the bottom of a large dutch oven, and place the roast in the pot.
  • Add spices: sprinkle pork with cumin, oregano, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Squeeze the juice of two oranges into the pot. Add minced garlic, then nestle onions that have been cut into large chunks and a few orange and lime slices beside the pork.
  • Cover and bake: make sure the lid fits securely. Place in a 350ºF oven and bake for 3 hours.
  • Check half way through: half way through the cooking process, add more broth to the pot and turn over the roast. Close lid and continue to bake.
  • After 3 hours: open lid and check to see if pork can be easily pulled with a fork. If it can, take it out of the dutch oven and place on a sheet pan. If it won't pull easily, bake it for 1 more hour.
  • Let the roast rest: bring meat to room temperature or cool it down before shredding with two forks. To make this process faster, cut the roast in several large chunks to release the steam. The outer bark will be dark but not hard.
  • Chop up the pork pieces: shred some and chop others into small bite-size pieces. Use two forks to pull the meat apart, or chop with a knife (if you wish) to the desired size.
  • Broil the pork: to make crispy carnitas, broil the shredded meat for 10 minutes on the sheet pan in the oven. Remove from oven and drizzle pork with braising liquid from the pot.

Carnitas Tacos

  • Sear corn tortillas: use kitchen tongs to sear tortillas in the bottom of a frying pan. Turn the heat to high and sear each side for about 10 seconds, moving tortillas quickly until edges are slightly charred.
  • Fill tortillas with pork: add a generous amount of meat to the bottom of each tortilla.
  • Add toppings: pile on the toppings of your choice. Try topping with cilantro, red onions, cotija cheese, salsa and a squeeze of fresh lime.

Notes

  • How long will carnitas last in the fridge? If kept in an airtight container, pork carnitas will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat in the oven or microwave in its own juice.
  • Can you freeze carnitas? Freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight and reheat in a 350ºF oven for 15 to 20 minutes until meat reaches 145ºF with an instant read thermometer.
  • Can carnitas be chicken? Carnitas is a Mexican pork dish, but you can substitute chicken for pork if desired. Try this dutch oven recipe for pulled chicken which is an easy way to make it in one pot. Just remember to add the spices listed in this recipe during the cooking process.
  • View the Google Web Story for Dutch Oven Carnitas!

Nutrition

Calories: 256kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 565mg | Potassium: 598mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 102mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I've been looking for a great carnitas recipe. Thanks for creating one that I can make in my dutch oven. Looks so easy and delish!

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