Carnitas means “little meats” in Español and I presume that’s because by the time it’s done cooking, you’re faced with a big pot of tender, tiny shreds of garlicky pork meat, perfect for filling tacos.

How To Make Carnitas

Native to the state of Michoacán, traditional carnitas are covered in lard and cooked down for hours.

Because a huge vat of lard isn’t something most people want to cook with in these Moderne Tymes, I make my carnitas by simmering the pork until tender in water and spices, then using the rendered fat to do a final fry. This is why you’ll need to use a fatty cut of pork (shoulder roast) for this recipe, and not a lean cut like loin. Well, I guess you could use a lean cut, but it would probably turn out a little on the dry side of things and I can honestly say that nothing messes up a good taco quicker than a dry filling.

Have some corn tortillas hot and some cilantro and onion chopped and ready to top your tacos and it’ll be just like those street tacos that all the chain Mexican restaurants are peddling now. Pickled red onions are a nice touch, too.

How to Make Carnitas Video

Carnitas Recipe – Printable!



5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 9 reviews

  • Yield: 8 1x


  • 34 pound pork roast (boneless or bone-in)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon or lime
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • water
  • To serve: corn tortillas, cilantro, onion, hot sauce


  1. Cut the pork into about 2″ cubes, cutting around the bone as necessary but reserving the bone.
  2. Add the spices to a large pot.
  3. Zest the orange into the pot and then add the juice.
  4. Add the lemon juice, garlic, and pork cubes. (Put the bone on the bottom.)
  5. Add the salt and enough water to just cover the pork (4-6 cups).
  6. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 3 hours or until the pork is tender and most of the water is cooked off. No need to stir, just keep an eye on it to make sure it’s simmering but not boiling.
  7. When the water is almost cooked off, remove the meat from the bone if necessary and discard the bone.
  8. Increase the heat to high again and let the pork render the rest of its fat and fry for a few minutes, until some of it is crisp and brown. Stir and fry until the meat is fairly finely shredded and browned.
  9. Serve hot in corn tortillas with cilantro, chopped onion and hot sauce.

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can't wait to see what you've made!



  1. Brycen T on September 11, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Another delish looking taco!! Hilah, I was wondering is this doable in a crockpot? Would the meat still come out well say on low heat all day?

    • Hilah on September 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      Definitely, Brycen! Cut the water down to about a cup, cook on low for 8 hours. You could serve it as-is out of the crockpot, or what I might do is fry the meat up in a skillet to crisp it up. Of course, that means messing up another pan so you could skip it and skip some cleaning, too. Hope you try it either way!

  2. Tisha Townsend on September 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Yum, I’m going to have to try it this way. Last time I made it I used bone out pork with really lean meat and it was dry. I’m thinking bone it and a little fatty is the way to go, that’s where all the love is. I used a crock too, I’ll try stove top and see how it goes. That chili looks super good, are those the chilis that come dry and you boil them down?

    • Hilah on September 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Hey Tisha! Yes, get a nice fatty roast and try it again! You’ll be happy you did. 🙂 The chile sauce I made with dried chile de arbol, and soaked in boiling water until they were soft, them pop off the stems and put them in the blender with water, garlic, and salt and just a tiny splash of vinegar. The chiles are the small, skinny red ones.

  3. Tisha Townsend on September 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Do you take the skins off the chilis too? Or just blend that with the rest of the stuff? I also had another question: just how long does it take a cast iron skillet to season? I had gotten a set a little before you had posted that vid about your cast iron pans, and it seems like it is taken forever. I’m determined to stick with it, and do all the things I’m supposed to as far as care of the pans. Just wonderin’ when I’ll have eggs that don’t stick to the pan. Shoot.

    • Hilah on September 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      I just blend them up.
      I don’t know if I could say how long it takes, but it seems like you should be getting close! Jeez, that was a while back! I’m impressed that you’ve stuck with it this long. Do your eggs stick really bad? Has it gotten better? Also, what do you use to cook them? For some reason it seems like butter works better than oil for me in preventing stickage.

      • Tisha Townsend on September 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm

        The eggs don’t stick too bad, but it’s def not like in one of your videos where you cooked eggs, I think it might have been a fritata or something. I use olive oil, I’ve played with heat a little to see if that helps. I’ll try the butter for sure though. It does seem like parts of the pan aren’t sticky, but more on the perimeter. Most of the stickage is towards the center. I still like they way it cooks things though, so no intention of being a quitter! I quit non stick pans because they release chemicals, so I feel better about using caste iron anyways! Thanks for the tips Hilah, have a great day!

      • Tisha Townsend on September 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

        Hilah, I just made scrambled eggs using butter- it worked like a charm! Hardly any stickage and they taste delish! Thanks for the tip, problem solved!

        • Hilah on September 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm

          That’s wonderful! Thanks for the follow-up, Tisha! 🙂

  4. Luz María on September 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Great! Thank you! I’ll try!

    • Hilah on September 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Hope you enjoy, Luz!

  5. Mother Effingby on September 11, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Adding the orange zest reminds me of Mojo pork. Mojo sauce is a great pork marinade, made of orange juice (a rather unsweet kind of orange) cilantro and garlic. I like to add a number of other spices for a traditional Caribbean pork. This really looks good.

    • Hilah on September 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      I’ve never tried that but it sounds good! You’re talking about those bitter Seville oranges, aren’t you? I see those occasionally at the Latin grocery. I pulled one off a tree and tried to eat it once when I was in Barcelona. Boy. Howdy. Those are NOT good for straight snacking! 😛

      • Mother Effingby on September 13, 2012 at 10:18 pm

        Oh yeah. And there is an obnoxious difference in marmalade from France and from Amurrica. Smuckers makes good marmalade. Not bitter and not too sweet.

  6. Mother Effingby on September 13, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Scrambled eggs are one of my favorite things to make. Definitely use butter. Making them is such a slow and relaxed thing for me to do. My husband doesn’t ever get it. Here’s his method. First, use the wife’s best non-stick pan. Turn on HIGH, crack eggs in pan, whisk with a fork. Walk away and put the bread in the toaster, make sure your eggs are hard and rubbery, and put extra slash marks on wife’s non-stick omelet pan. She only has 3 of them, now, thanks to you, boy.
    Don’t forget to burn the toast. Take hard cold butter out of the fridge and with a cold knife butter the blackened tile without breaking it. Serve with warm Diet Pepsi. Happy Mothers Day.

    • Tisha Townsend on September 13, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      Oh my, that gave me a chuckle! Some men just do not belong in the kitchen! I had to have the conversation with my man about how to wash a cast iron pan, and he just does not get the part about not using soap. Every time I see him go near it, I shudder!

    • Hilah on September 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Ahaha! The warm diet Pepsi really completes the meal. 😀

  7. Mandy on September 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    I have a pot just like yours with the handle. I have never seen one other than mine which I got from my g-ma. The may be super common but 6 kids I don’t get out much. But I do stand over that pot at the stove a whole lot!!! Lol:))

    • Hilah on September 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm

      I got mine from my grandma, too, Mandy! I’ve not seen one like it anywhere else. That’s pretty neat! 🙂

      • Mandy on September 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm

        Cool 🙂 that is neat!

  8. Julie on September 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Can you show us how to make your hot sauce you put on your carnitas? It looks good.

  9. Robert Pepin on October 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I have always had such horrible luck with making anything pork related, until I made this! Thanks, Hilah! I did, however, not heed your warning and used loin. It still turned out fantastic! I made crispy taco shells as per your other recipe to go with it.

    Also, I kept calling it pork confit instead of carnitas which, as far as I could tell, had no negative effects on the final result.

    • Hilah on October 16, 2012 at 8:41 am

      Ha! I’m so happy to hear it worked out for you, Robert! Did you end up adding some cooking fat to the pot to keep it moist, or was the water enough?

      • Robert Pepin on October 16, 2012 at 9:03 am

        Just the water worked for me. However, next time I will be adding some fat just to play it safe.

  10. Susie on March 12, 2013 at 2:14 am

    I am making these for the second time but this time I am making them in a crock pot because I live in Minnesota and that is what we do….No, just kidding, I am using the crock pot because my pork roast is frozen. Who can sit around and wait for a pork roast to thaw? no way jose’ . I started them with the crock pot and the cook on high then turned it down to low and am going to bed now. I hope I wake up to magic! I have big plans to turn some of the meat into tamales and the rest with corn tortillas, cilantro, avacado, and salsa verde . Ole’ Hilah! I will let you know how it all went.

    • Hilah on March 12, 2013 at 11:07 am

      Oh, yes, PLEASE let me know how that goes. I’ve never tried cooking frozen meat in a crockpot but if it works, it’s an awesome trick.

      • Susie on March 12, 2013 at 5:20 pm

        The crock pot worked like a charm with the frozen roast! Plus I woke up to the house smelling wonderful. I did have a lot of liquid left in the crock pot so I dumped it into a dutch oven to reduced it. When it was down to about a cup or maybe a little less, I added the meat back in. I let it cook until it evaporated and the meat started to crisp like your original recipe. So frozen pork roast…no problem! Thanks for the recipe Hilah 🙂

  11. Leticia on March 20, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    I did this recipe and we all loved it, you are awesome. This is the second recipe I tryed and both came out great. Thanks for sharing your recipes 🙂 for some reason my five stars are not clicking but its a definit 5 from me.

    • Hilah on March 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      Thank you, Leticia! 🙂 So glad you all liked it.

  12. Michael Davis on August 31, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Just checking back as I prepare to make this for the 3rd time. The first time, I didn’t realize that I needed to leave the lid off so I cooked it forever with the lid on and wondered why it didn’t have the cris-pee-bits (hand movement). Then I realized what I did. Even then, the flavor was knock me down delicious, though. The next two times, it was perfect, both the flavor and the cris-pee-bits (hand movement). As I prepare to make it again, I realize what a wonderful meal this is, both the flavor and the cris-pee-bits (hand movement) texture. Thanks!

    • Hilah on August 31, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      Yay! I’m so happy to hear that this has become a regular for you AND that you got the cris-pee-bits, Mike! They are the best part. Thanks for writing. 🙂

  13. Natalie on February 1, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    So glad you added this recipe! Carnitas tacos are my absolute favorite! I can’t wait to try out this recipe. Thanks for the chile sauce recipe too! Tacos with diced white onion, cilantro, lime, and chile sauce rock my socks and so do you Hilah! Keep rocking’ those Mexican favorites we all love and wish we could make for ourselves 🙂

    • Hilah on February 2, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      These are going to be a hit, Natalie! Thanks for writing. 🙂

  14. Skylar on December 15, 2015 at 7:26 am

    I plan on trying this recipe tonight and wanted some feedback on a few things I was going to do. I made a dry rub for the meat based on taco seasoning, which I am going to let it kind of marinate in before I start cooking. I am also going to quick sear each side of the meat before i start it in the pot. Also to the boiling water i am going to add some cilantro leaves.

    • Hilah on December 15, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Hi Skylar,
      Your changes sound like they would work fine. I don’t think searing the meat first will add much, though, since you’ll be sort of searing it at the end. I wouldn’t bother with that if I were you.

  15. Jessi on March 25, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    could this be done in a pressure cooker?

Leave a Comment

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.