Tacos de carnitas! Everyone’s favorite taco is also one of the easiest recipes to make at home. Seriously, make pulled pork in a dutch oven once and you’ll see that the flavor possibilities are endless.
When you braise and slow cook pork shoulder (also called pork butt) for a few hours, it becomes fall apart tender, shredded easily with the gentle push of a fork. It’s our protein of choice for Cinco de Mayo celebrations (pulled pork tacos are always a hit!) and just generally a crowd pleaser.
For this recipe, try to find a boneless pork shoulder that is about 4-5 lbs. You’ll definitely want leftovers, but also it’s a great make-ahead recipe that can easily feed a crowd.
Serve in tortillas with lots of chopped onion and fresh cilantro. Truly a family favorite!
- A 3 lb pork shoulder
- Dried spices: cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh fruit: 1 orange and 3 limes — we’ll use the juice, as well as the orange zest and lime zest!
- Chicken broth or beer — you just want some type of liquid to braise and simmer the pork in, adding enough so it doesn’t dry out or burn. Depending on the chicken stock or broth used, these carnitas are Whole30 compliant!
- Onion — thinly sliced or chopped onion, which cooks down into the pork. You can add a few garlic cloves if you like, too!
- Bay leaves
For serving, we keep it simple: lots of cilantro and minced white onion! Of course, you’ll want to grab your favorite tortilla (corn tortillas are traditional for street tacos, but we’re using small flour tortillas that we heat and char before serving).
However, you can pretty much guarantee that any time we serve tacos de carnitas, there’s going to be homemade classic margaritas, chips and queso or salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo. We like options!
How To Make Dutch Oven Pulled Pork Carnitas
- Cut pork shoulder into 2″ thick strips, about 3-4″ long.
- Season the pork shoulder with warm, fragrant spices. We love cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder! You’ll also need a couple teaspoons salt and black pepper.
- Heat a large pot over high heat, then add a few tablespoons of avocado oil or vegetable oil (not extra virgin olive oil, it’ll burn!). Brown half of the pork at one time, searing until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a large plate, then repeat with remaining pork until it’s all been seared.
- Don’t drain any of the drippings at the bottom of the pan! Instead, add sliced or chopped onion, then scrape up all the brown bits. This equals flavor!
- Add enough liquid! Return the pork to the pot, then add stock or beer. Water works fine too, but these add more depth of flavor. Don’t forget citrus juice (orange juice, lime juice)! Even grapefruit juice or pineapple juice would be delicious!
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature and simmer for 2 ½ – 3 hours, or until the pork is fall apart tender.
- Keep an eye on the liquid! If all the liquid cooks off, everything at the bottom of the dutch oven will burn.
At this point the carnitas should be fork tender and shred easily to the touch. Allow the pork to cool slightly, the transfer with a slotted spoon to a mixing bowl or large cutting board, then shred the meat. You can pull it or simply press down on it lightly with a fork.
How To Make Carnitas In A Slow Cooker
To make carnitas in a slow cooker, follow instructions through the browning of the pork and the onions. Next, transfer both to a slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients (chicken broth or beer, citrus zest and juice, and a couple bay leaves), then cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours.
Whether you make pulled pork tacos in a dutch oven or in a slow cooker, once it’s shredded, you can either return it to the liquid to keep it super moist, or place it on a rimmed parchment-lined baking sheet, then crisp under a broiler for a few minutes. Personal preference!
Can Carnitas Be Made Ahead?
Oh, absolutely! Pulled pork in a dutch oven is a great meal prep friendly recipe! You can make the pulled pork on a Sunday and enjoy burrito bowls or tacos all week long! Which means it’s also great for entertaining! Cinco de Mayo parties without the added stress of cooking while guests are there? Yes, please!
How Long Will Carnitas Tacos Keep?
The pulled pork itself will keep for up to 4 days in a refrigerator or up to 6 months in a freezer, however, you don’t want to freeze any of the other components — make the guacamole fresh, chop the onion the day you plan to eat it, and buy tortillas fresh!
Carnitas Burrito Bowl
While there are some amazing gluten-free tortillas available (shout out to Siete Foods!), if we’re skipping flour tortillas, it is usually because we’re craving a big burrito bowl!
You can go the salad route (chopped romaine, guacamole or sliced avocado, cotija cheese, lots of fresh cilantro, and onion), or serve it all over cilantro-lime rice. We like adding a side of black beans, too! Either way, pile it high with homemade carnitas and it’s sure to be delish!
- Don’t remove the layer of thick fat on the pork shoulder. This cooks down and melts into deliciousness when braised, but even if you want to remove some of it when shredding the pork, leave it in while it cooks. It’s adding a lot of flavor! Some tacos de carnitas recipes actually call for cooking pork shoulder in lard. We’re skipping that here.
- Check the liquid often! There should be an abundance of liquid left when the pork is finished so long as you cook at a true simmer. Check the temperature and liquid often to make sure there’s enough in there for the pork to braise.
We love a dish that practically cooks itself, and that’s exactly what happens when the pork braises in the dutch oven. Pinky promise that you’ll be hooked on this amazing Tex Mex flavor!
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More Recipes To Try:
- Skirt Steak with Cilantro Chimichurri
- Sweet Potato Fritters
- Mexican Cobb Salad
- Turkey Enchilada Skillet
- Braised Lamb Tacos recipe
- Sheet Pan Fajitas
Easy Stove Top Tacos De Carnitas
- 4-5 lb boneless pork shoulder cut into 2" thick strips, about 4" long (smaller pieces are fine too)
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp oregano or Mexican oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp avocado oil or other light, neutral oil
- 1 orange zested and juiced
- 2 limes zested and juiced
- ½ cup chicken broth or beer
- 1 large onion thinly sliced, plus 1 finely chopped onion for serving
- 2 bay leaves
- Small flour tortillas for serving
- Fresh cilantro for serving
- Lime wedges for serving
- Mix the spice rub. Combine 2 tsp Kosher salt, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, and ¼ tsp black pepper in a small bowl, then whisk well. Season the pork shoulder pieces on all sides.
- Sear the pork. Heat a large pot over high heat, then add 2 Tbsp avocado oil. When very hot, add half of the pork at one time, searing until golden brown on all sides, about 6-8 minutes total per batch. Transfer to a large plate, then repeat with remaining pork and set aside. Do not drain the drippings at the bottom of the pan!
- Sauté the onion. Add thinly sliced onion to the hot pan, then scrape up all the brown bits. This equals flavor! Cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Braise the pork. Return the seared pork to the pot, then add ½ cup chicken stock or beer. Add the zest and juice of 1 orange and 2 limes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer. Cook for 2 ½ – 3 hours, or until the pork is fall apart tender. Keep an eye on the liquid! If all the liquid cooks off, everything at the bottom of the dutch oven will burn. You shouldn't need to add any additional stock, beer, or water, but check it every 45 minutes or so.
- Cool slightly. Transfer the pork carefully to a large mixing bowl or tray and allow to cool about 20 minutes, until you're able to handle the meat. Pull or shred the pork. We like to press lightly on it with a fork.
- Crisp the carnitas! You can either return the pulled pork to the pot along with the drippings and the onion and serve it straight from there, or transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, then heat under a broiler on high for up to 5 minutes to get crispy edges.
- Serve immediately. Serve the pork in tacos that have been warmed with chopped onion, fresh cilantro, and lime wedges.
- Nutrition facts do not include tortillas, onion, or other condiments for serving, such as guacamole, salsa, or cotija cheese.
- Carnitas will keep for up to 5 days in a refrigerator or up to 6 months in a freezer.
- To make in a slow cooker: Follow instructions through the browning of the pork and the onions. Next, transfer both to a slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients (chicken stock or beer, citrus zest and juice, and 2 bay leaves), then cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. Finish the same way — either shredding and returning to the braising liquid or by crisping under a broiler.