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EASY PORK CARNITAS {Oven Baked Citrus Carnitas}

AUTHENTIC PORK CARNITAS are easy to make and are JUICY and CRISPY at the same time!

Roasting in the oven makes the meat SUPER TENDER and a quick trip under the broiler gives you those EXTRA CRISPY bits.

pork carnitas in tortillas on white plate

If you’d rather skip my essential cooking tips and tricks and get straight to this delicious recipe – simply scroll to the bottom of the page where you can find the printable recipe card.

It’s no secret that my husband, Brooks, is a better cook than me, especially when he makes these pork carnitas.

Brooks doesn’t cook that often, but when he does, WATCH OUT!

WHAT CARNITAS?

Carnitas are a Mexican pork dish which translates to “little meats” in Spanish.

Typically made with a high fat cut of pork like a Boston butt or pork shoulder, the meat is braised for a long time until the meat shreds easily.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CARNITAS AND AL PASTOR?

Carnitas are braised in the oven or slow cooker and Al Pastor is cooked on a rotisserie usually after soaking in a marinade.

The pork shoulder or pork butt (we use the bone-in one) for the carnitas is braised in fat or lard and then shredded.

The pork is seared in fat and then braised with citrus, jalapeños, onions, and lots of spices. 

Brooks’s version has the necessary fat but he adds water for braising instead to keep the calories down.

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labeled picture of pork carnitas ingredients

PORK CARNITAS INGREDIENTS

  • pork shoulder
  • onion
  • limes & oranges
  • spices
  • water

Recipes tend to vary on the spices and what citrus to include. I love to use cumin, chipotle, Mexican oregano, salt, pepper, chili powder, and bay leaves.

red pot with pork, water, citrus, and peppers

HOW TO MAKE CARNITAS IN THE OVEN

Cooking pork carnitas is an easy two step process. Braising and then broiling. Let’s start with the braising.

FIRST: Cube the pork roast into medium-sized squares, keeping the bone too if you have it. Brown the cubes in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pan over high heat with a little oil.

SECOND: Add water, the bone, onions, jalapeños, and all spices. Juice the oranges and lime into the pot and toss in the rinds. The orange juice makes them super tasty!

THIRD: Preheat oven to 250F. Bring the meat and liquid to a boil. Cover, place in oven and cook for 2 hours and 15 minutes or until meat is nice and tender.

FOURTH: When done braising, remove the pot from the oven, check temperature of the meat, and then cover and let cool for about 20 minutes.

FIFTH: Remove meat, onions, and jalapeños onto a baking sheet. Throw away citrus rinds, chunks of fat, and the bone. Using forks, shred the meat.

SIXTH: Cook the pot juices on the stovetop over medium heat until reduced by 2/3. Toss the shredded meat, onions, and jalapeños back into the juice.

Stir to coat the meat. Place all back on the baking sheet and put under the broiler on high until crispy.

If we are not in the mood to do it all at one time because it does take a few hours, I skip the broiling step and store the carnitas in the fridge.

For the full recipe and detailed instructions, please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

When I am ready to eat I just toss some in my cast iron skillet and get them hot and crispy!

You can even do the braising in your crockpot or slow cooker and finish them by reducing the liquid on the stovetop and crisping the pork with either the broiler or a skillet.

This pork carnitas recipe will blow your mind and provide you with dinner for an entire week, provided you don’t get tired of pork.

close up of carnitas on a fork

I eat them for breakfast with some sautéed spinach, avocado, and an over-easy egg. You can even throw it on some greens for a great salad. There are so many options.  

The carnitas meat is super juicy, tender, and has a great citrus flavor, and I especially like the crispy edges the pork gets from a trip under the broiler!

A great recipe that takes a few hours but most of the time is the braising time. Perfect for making on a Sunday afternoon.

overhead picture of a sheet pan of shredded pork

TOP THESE OVEN BRAISED CARNITAS WITH

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WHAT TEMPERATURE DO I COOK PORK CARNITAS?

Cook the pork by braising it in the oven at 250F for 3-4 hours. Every hour stir and check the temperature of the meat.

two plates of street tacos with a sheet pan of shredded pork

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN PORK CARNITAS ARE DONE?

Once the braising is done, remove the pan from the oven. Using a meat thermometer, check the internal temperature of a few of the largest pieces of meat.

If they register 200F or more, they are done. Return them to the pan and let sit for 20 minutes to cool a little.

HOW DO YOU REHEAT CARNITAS IN THE OVEN?

Wrap the meat in foil and seal tightly. Heat in the oven at 250F for 10 minutes or until the temperature reaches 165F.

Open the foil and and broil the shredded pork for a few minutes to to get nice and crispy on the edges.

WHAT CAN I MAKE WITH PORK CARNITAS?

There are so many ways you can eat carnitas and will quickly become your favorite Mexican food! My family loved it and yours will too!

  1. Tacos
  2. Burritos
  3. Enchiladas
  4. Quesadillas
  5. Breakfast Hash
  6. Cilantro Rice Bowl
  7. Salad Topping
  8. Sliders
  9. Mexican-Style Pizzas
  10. Empanadas or Hand Pies
  11. Nachos

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

collage of shredded pork with text "authentic pork carnitas"

The pork carnitas freeze beautifully and make a great meal for someone who doesn’t feel like cooking!

MORE EASY PARTY FOODS

square picture of carnitas for recipe card

Pork Carnitas

Yield: 15 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Juicy and crispy pork carnitas are the perfect meat to put in your tacos! The pork is braised with oranges and limes and when broiled turns crispy on the outside and stays juicy on the inside! Grab your dutch oven!

Ingredients

  • 7.5-pound pork shoulder (with the bone-you can go up to 9 lbs)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 oranges (halved)
  • 1 lime (halved)
  • 4 jalapeños (tops removed, peppers sliced in half)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons chipotle powder
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 onions (peeled, quartered)

Instructions

  1. Cube up the pork shoulder and place in dutch oven with the bone. Put on the stove top on high heat.
  2. Add water and all spices. Add onions, lime, jalapenos, and oranges (squeeze the citrus into the pot and toss in the rinds.)
  3. Bring to a boil and preheat oven to 275. Cover, place in oven and cook for 2 hours and 15 minutes until meat is nice and tender.
  4. When done braising, remove the pot from the oven. Remove meat, onions, and jalapenos onto cookie sheet.
  5. Throw away fruit, fat, and bone. Shred meat. Reduce the pot juices on the stovetop until reduced by 2/3.
  6. Toss shredded meat, onions, and jalapenos back into the juice. Place all onto a cookie sheet and put under the broiler on high until crispy!
  7. Serve with your favorite toppings!

Notes

*If you love this recipe, leave me a comment and rate it with some stars. Thank you!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 25 Serving Size: 3 oz
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 410Total Fat: 29gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 122mgSodium: 351mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 32g

This nutrition information was generated via a third party, Nutritionix, and can not be held liable for any discrepancies in the information provided.

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This recipe inspired from this great blog.

{Originally posted 3/01/2015 – updated 09/17/20 with new recipe notes and photographs}

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How to cook Crockpot Taco Meat - Leftovers Then Breakfast

Tuesday 20th of October 2020

[…] Pork Carnitas […]

Sierra

Monday 10th of August 2020

Found this recipe a couple months ago and it is AMAZING!! Came back so I can make it again - the leftovers are incredible as well. These are as good or better than anything I've ever had in restaurants (and I worked in high end Mexican restaurants for nearly 10 years). Thanks so much for this awesome recipe!

Jennifer

Monday 10th of August 2020

Thank you so much! I am so glad that you love it as much as we do. Try it pan fried with some eggs for breakfast:)

Easy Slow Cooker Hot Dogs {Large Batch!} Leftovers Then Breakfast

Friday 19th of June 2020

[…] Carnitas […]

Chrisy @ Homemade Hooplah

Wednesday 10th of February 2016

I've actually been looking for a good carnitas recipe :D Can't wait to try it!

chubcheeks@bellsouth.net

Friday 12th of February 2016

Thanks Chrisy!! You won't be disappointed

Sara

Wednesday 10th of February 2016

Carnitas is my favorite, I order it all the time at Mexican restaurants. Your version looks especially delicious with that browned top!

chubcheeks@bellsouth.net

Wednesday 10th of February 2016

Thank you! The crispy edges are what keeps me coming back for more!

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