Tacos de Carnitas ~ Pulled Pork Tacos

Carnitas (H2)There’s nothing I love more than a summer gathering with good weather, good company, and good food. Karla, of Mexican Food Memories, is compiling a Cooking Comadres Summer Menu that includes a list of Mexican-inspired recipes for your next barbecue.

Where I come from barbecues are all about hamburgers and hot dogs, corn on the cob and watermelon, but recently the younger generation (i.e. my brothers, cousins, and I) have been sneaking in some more ethnic, fusion-like recipes, and quite honestly I haven’t heard anyone complain. In fact, I think these carnitas are becoming a standard favorite just like those hamburgers.

Carnitas (V3)I have been making this recipe for quite a while now, but these should really be titled”Stephen’s Carnitas.” I don’t quite remember why, but I gave this recipe to my brother last year, and it has become wildly popular among his circle of friends. Heck, I was at his wedding last year in the middle of the dance floor, and one of his coworkers came up to me and asked if I’m the sister behind the carnitas recipe. It made me laugh and feel honored at the same time.

So please know that you will probably have a loyal crowd of followers once you put these bad boys on the menu.

Now, let’s talk about the makeup of carnitas. What are they? What does the word mean? Where do they come from? The name carnitas comes from the Spanish word “carne,” which means meat. When you add an “-ito” or “-ita” to a word that is called the diminutive. It allows the speaker to make a word more endearing or as I like to say “cute.” Carnitas literally means “little meats.”

Carnitas are Mexico’s version of pulled pork that hails from the central coastal state of Michoacán. It is essentially pork meat that is slow-cooked in its own fat resulting in an incredibly flavorful, tender meat. Today, there are thousands of versions of carnitas, some made with orange juice (like the one below), and others made with sweetened condensed milk, but regardless of the recipe, the magic of carnitas is enjoying them with family and friends. Carnitas (H1)While we prefer the oven method of making carnitas, please know that you can also make them in a slow cooker. Just follow the same steps and put the slow cooker on low for several hours or until the meat is tender.

Roberto and I love to serve our carnitas on fresh corn tortillas with a squeeze of lime, a sprinkle of cilantro, and some pico de gallo and creamy green salsa. If you would like, you can also throw some finely chopped white onion on top.

Here’s to a summer of enjoying the company of family and friends!


Click here for printable recipe.  

Pulled Pork Tacos (Makes about 4-6 servings)

3 lbs. boneless pork butt or shoulder

1 TBSP kosher salt

1 medium orange

¼ white onion

4 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves

2 ½-inch pieces of Mexican cinnamon, optional

¼ cup vegetable oil

→Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 275°F.

→Cut the pork into 2-inch cubes. Season the chunks with salt. Place in a 9 x 13” baking dish. The pork should fill the dish with no spaces.

→Slice the orange into quarters and squeeze juice over pork. Nestle orange pieces into casserole. Split the onion quarter into separate pieces and nestle the pieces throughout the pork.

→In addition, nestle the garlic cloves, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick pieces in the casserole.

→Pour vegetable oil over the meat. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Cook for about 3 ½ hours. The pork will be extremely tender.

→Remove orange peel, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick. Discard.

→Remove pork from dish and place on a cutting board to cool. Pour the liquid into a liquid measuring cup. Let sit for 10 minutes. The fat will separate itself from the cooking liquid.

→Shred pork into large chunks with fingers or two forks. Skim the fat off the surface of the cooking liquid and pour over top of the shredded pork.

→You can serve the pork at this point in time. You can also crisp it up. Simply place on a pan about 4-inches under a high broiler. Broil for 6 minutes.

To Serve

Corn tortillas (heated and stored in a tortilla warmer)

Lime wedges

Chopped cilantro

Chopped white onion (optional)

Salsa of your choice (Try these recommendations: Pico de Gallo, Salsa Verde)


  • If you are trying to cut back on fat, I have found that it is not absolutely necessary to add the skimmed fat back to the pork. Simply serve the carnitas immediately (without the added fat), and they will be moist.
  • When serving a large group of people, it is hard to maintain the warmth of the tortillas (even with a tortilla warmer). So, I usually place the tortillas in a cloth warmer and then I place the warmer in a cooler and close the lid. This maintains their temperature and pliability for a much longer period of time.
  • I recommend serving these carnitas with a creamy green salsa.
  • Carnitas will reheat well in the microwave or you can crisp them up in a frying pan on the stove.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Serious Eats


2 thoughts on “Tacos de Carnitas ~ Pulled Pork Tacos

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