Pork Carnitas Tacos Recipe

Have you ever bitten into a taco and felt like you’ve been transported straight to a festive street in Mexico? That’s the magic of Pork Carnitas Tacos. Carnitas, which means “little meats” in Spanish, is tender pork that’s been slow-cooked until it’s meltingly tender and then crisped up for that perfect texture. If you’re ready to recreate this classic at home, let’s dive into how you can make restaurant-quality Pork Carnitas Tacos in your own kitchen!

What Makes Pork Carnitas So Special?

The Art of Slow Cooking

The secret to perfect carnitas lies in the slow cooking process. This method allows the pork to become incredibly tender, almost to the point where it falls apart with a gentle tug. The beauty of this dish is in the contrast of textures—crisp edges outside and succulent, juicy meat inside.

Flavor That Packs a Punch

Pork carnitas are seasoned with a robust blend of spices and cooked in a mixture that often includes citrus juice and beer, infusing the meat with a depth of flavor that’s hard to resist.

Choosing the Right Cut

Best Pork Cuts for Carnitas

To achieve the ultimate carnitas, you’ll want to use pork shoulder (also known as pork butt). This cut has the perfect balance of meat and fat, ensuring the carnitas are juicy and flavorful.

Ingredients List

What You’ll Need for the Carnitas

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Juice of 2 oranges
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 12 oz beer (preferably a Mexican lager)
  • 2 bay leaves

For Serving

  • Corn tortillas
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Diced onions
  • Lime wedges
  • Salsa or hot sauce

The Cooking Process

Preparing the Pork

Combine the pork with all the spices, onion, garlic, citrus juices, and beer in a large pot or slow cooker. The liquids and spices will mingle with the pork, enhancing its flavor as it cooks.

Slow Cooking to Perfection

Cook the pork on low heat for about 4-6 hours or until it’s tender enough to shred with a fork. The slow cooker is ideal for this, but you can also use a dutch oven in your oven at a low temperature.

Shredding and Crisping

Making It Fall Apart

Once the pork is tender, remove it from the pot and shred it using two forks. It should fall apart easily with minimal effort.

Getting That Iconic Crisp

Spread the shredded pork on a baking sheet in a single layer and broil it in the oven for a few minutes until the edges start to crisp up. This step adds the irresistible crunch that makes carnitas so delightful.

Assembling the Tacos

Heating the Tortillas

Warm your corn tortillas on a dry skillet over medium heat for about 30 seconds on each side. Keep them warm in a cloth until ready to serve.

Building Your Taco

Layer the crispy pork on the warm tortillas and top with diced onions, fresh cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Add a dollop of salsa or a drizzle of hot sauce for an extra kick.

Serving Suggestions

Creating the Perfect Taco Night

Serve your Pork Carnitas Tacos with a side of guacamole, refried beans, or a fresh Mexican salad. Don’t forget to have plenty of lime wedges and extra salsa on hand!

Drinks to Complement

A cold beer or a refreshing margarita pairs beautifully with the rich flavors of the carnitas, balancing the spiciness and richness of the meat.

Tips for the Best Carnitas

Don’t Rush the Cooking

The longer you allow the pork to cook, the more tender and flavorful it will be. Patience is your friend in this recipe.

Storage and Leftovers

Carnitas store well and can be reheated in a skillet over medium heat to bring back the crispness. They’re perfect for quick meals throughout the week.


Pork Carnitas Tacos are not just a dish; they’re an experience. Each bite packs a punch of deep, complex flavors and textures that are a testament to the simplicity and brilliance of Mexican cooking. Whether it’s a family dinner or a get-together with friends, bringing carnitas to the table is sure to impress. So why wait? Dive into the delicious world of carnitas and turn your kitchen into the best taco spot around!


Q1: Can I make carnitas in an Instant Pot?

Absolutely! The Instant Pot can significantly speed up the cooking process. Use the “meat/stew” setting to get tender pork in about 90 minutes.

Q2: What if I don’t have a broiler for crisping the meat?

You can crisp the pork in a skillet over high heat. Just add a bit of oil and cook the shredded pork until the edges are golden and crispy.

Q3: How can I make this dish spicier?

Add some chopped jalapeños or increase the amount of hot sauce when serving. You can also include some chipotle peppers in adobo for a smoky, spicy flavor.

Q4: Is there a non-alcoholic substitute for the beer in the recipe?

Yes, you can use chicken broth or even Coca-Cola as a substitute for beer. Both add great flavor to the carnitas.

Q5: How do I ensure my pork is gluten-free?

Make sure the beer or any other added ingredients do not contain gluten. There are many gluten-free beers and broths available that are perfect for making carnitas.

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