Carnitas, Mexican Pulled Pork

September 15th, 2009 by katie

We love a good taco or fajita but skirt steak can be expensive and even ground beef is too when you’re feeding a crowd.  Since you can get three pounds of boneless pork shoulder meat for only $5, I decided to try making carnitas for our last get together.  They turned out great and everyone really liked the change.


serves 6, prep 10 min, cook time 3-4 hours
  • 3 pounds pork shoulder (butt) roast
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • water to cover
  1. Cut pork shoulder in pieces and arrange in a large cast iron pan or skillet.  You want a pan you can cover at least partially and is large enough at the base so the meat is in a single layer (or close to).
  2. Add the garlic, salt, orange juice, and enough water to just cover the meat.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil and cover loosely.
  4. Allow meat to simmer until tender and liquid is evaporated.  If liquid evaporates and the pork in not yet fork tender, add more liquid and continue to simmer.
  5. Once the liquid evaporates and the pork is tender, there should be rendered fat in the pan.  Break the meat up into small chunks with a fork.
  6. Turn heat to medium and fry the meat until brown and crispy.
  7. Alternately, you can transfer the meat and fat to a sheet pan and roast briefly in a 400°F oven for about 30 min, stirring after 15 minutes.

A shout out to mrChaos:  many of the photos on chaos in the kitchen are so amazing because mrChaos takes the time to shoot and/or process them.  Between the cooking, serving, eating, feeding kids, cleaning up, bath time, food styling, food photography, and photo processing, we work as a team to get it all done.  He’s your typical modest guy and has contributed anonymously, but I think he has become a pretty fantastic photographer and deserves some cred.   He is a humble guy, however, and would tell me that I don’t know what I am talking about.  So how about we show him some love in the comments?  You can see some of his work here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Posted in Easy, Main Dish

19 Responses

  1. heidileon

    wonderful!. I think if people would know how easy is to prepare carnitas the world will be a better place to live…lol..

    congrats on your hubbie! I think your pictures are so beautiful but not the girlie way, now I see why!.

  2. nancy

    Ooooh, great! I’m always looking for Mexican food I can make at home–since that’s pretty much the only way I get any here in Canberra! I found corn tortillas in the supermarket for the first time today; maybe I’ll make these to celebrate….

    Oh, and kudos to your husband’s photographic prowess!

  3. Kristin

    I make carnitas in the crockpot…although tasty, I never got the crunchy outside like you do in the restaurants. I will have to try your method, we are mexican food fanatics in our house!!!

  4. cafefenix

    Never ocurred to me to make carnitas at home, seems easy and yummi. And the photos are fantastic.
    I wonder if it may work with turkey breast, adding some fat (¿chicken skin?)
    Thank you

  5. Melissa

    Thumbs up to mrchaos. His photo of the tenderloin is what compelled me to make it. I even sent the shot to Steve to show him what I was making. How funny that the hub has become the kick-ass food photographer in my house as well…

    AND hooray for carnitas! Any way you do it, the shoulder works really well for tacos and burritos and you can put whatever you want in there with it for flavor. I do Cuban pork with it as well and shred that for tacos.

    Looks delicious Katie!

  6. noble pig

    I love carnitas. I add milk to my OJ mixture…the pic is beautiful!

  7. Cookie

    We always order Carnitas at Mexican restaurants and I’ve never thought of making it at home. Do you think this recipe would work in a slow cooker as well?

  8. Amy

    I don’t cook much pork at home, but this sounds just easy enough that I think I could pull it off!

  9. Kevin

    Those tacos look so good! The crispy and yet tender carnitas are always welcome!

  10. Jess

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I’m half Mexican and grew up in Chicago with Sunday taco brunches and this recipe takes me back to the carnitas of our favored taqueria. I threw in a couple of a piquin chilis to add a little kick and it was incredibly subtle, but a nice touch in the end.

  11. sweetbird

    carnitas = yum

    mrChaos = great photographer

  12. kalia

    Would this work in an electric skillet? Man, this looks so good! Thanks for the recipe

  13. Cyndy

    I have always wanted to make Carnitas and never have. Thanks for the recipe, will have to try this. It not easy taking pics when you’re hungry and you have chaos going on. Great pic!

  14. Aggie

    I’m loving your blog!! You have some great recipes on here…I am looking forward to trying this one, my husband would love me for it!

  15. BigGirlPhoebz

    Just stumbled upon your site while googling pulled pork–love it!

    Come visit us sometime at BGSK.

  16. Sasha

    Tried this last night for dinner… EXCELLENT! And it was so easy. I’m going to try your Posole recipe later this week. Definitely will be making this again.

  17. Analog Girl

    I do historical reenacting & am always looking for easy GOOD things to make over a fire in cast iron; this seems perfect. And yes, the photos are Great too!!

  18. Rachel

    This is my second time following your recipe. We were thrilled with how delicious these carnitas are and anticipate this will become a stand-by.

  19. ArtE.

    WoW, will try this soon as possible.
    The photos are making me drool, Is that a lemonade or maybe limeade drink in background?

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About chaos

cha·os -noun 1. a condition or place of great disorder or confusion. My chaotic kitchen is the result of three kids, two adults, dog, cat, and fish, a food obsession, a wine drinking hobby, and too few hours in the day. Between trying to feed a family of five healthy, happy meals, watching my weight, saving my pennies, and staying partially sane I have picked up a few tricks along the way. So here they are: the very best tips, tricks, and recipes from my chaotic kitchen-to yours!

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