Pork Carnitas is basically Mexican Pulled Pork with layers of subtle flavours, using Mexican spices, beer, orange juice and onions. The pork is slow-cooked for several hours, shredded and grilled to a golden crisp, creating the most tender carnitas that is so full of flavour. By combining my homemade fajita seasoning with other extra spices, the flavours of the pork turn out authentic and smoky.
Carnitas originated from Mexico with each region around the country adding slightly different variations of liquid seasoning either using beer, Coca-Cola, orange juice, lime juice, chicken broth or condensed milk. I’m not sure if I agree with the last one, but as I haven’t tried that combination, it may taste amazing. Something to try another day!
Carnitas are very versatile. You can serve them either in warm flour tortillas or corn tortillas, similar to how I serve my Fajitas. They also go great in taco shells, with rice, on top of warm tortilla crisps or simply on its own as a poke bowl with various salad ingredients and cooked beans of your choice.
Crispy Pork Carnitas
- 1.5 kilos boneless pork shoulder or pork Boston butt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt & pepper, to sprinkle on the pork pieces
- 1 onion, chopped coarsely
- 200ml gluten-free beer or Coca-Cola
For the Carnitas sauce:
- Juice of 2 oranges
- Zest of 1 orange
- Juice & zest of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons store-bought fajita or homemade fajita seasoning
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- Few dashes of chipotle or Tabasco sauce (optional)
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
Serve with either:
- a deep oven-proof casserole dish with a secure lid
- a slow cooker/ crockpot
- an Instant Pot
- Remove the pork from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for 20 minutes.
2. Mix all the ingredients for the carnitas sauce in a medium bowl.
3. Preheat the oven to 150°C/ 300°F.
4. Cut the pork shoulder into several large pieces. Using paper towels, pat any moisture off and sprinkle some salt and pepper over the pork pieces.
5. Heat a deep oven-proof casserole dish to medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sear the pork on all sides, turning every minute until the pork has browned.
6.Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions, stirring constantly.
7. Add the beer, followed by the carnitas sauce, pouring it over the pork and onions.
8. Cover with a secure lid and transfer to the preheated oven. Allow to cook “low n’ slow” for 2 to 3 hours, checking every now and then, stirring the sauce and flipping the pork over on different sides. The pork is ready when the meat easily falls apart by shredding it with two forks. If you like your meat extra tender, allow it to slow cook for a longer time and stop when you are happy with its tenderness.
9. Allow to cool slightly with the lid off, then start shredding all the pork pieces using two forks.
10. Preheat the grill/broiler to medium-high.
11. Place the shredded pork on a large baking tray, covering it slightly with the carnitas sauce and mix well. Leave the coarsely chopped onions and large garlic slivers out. These were used to add flavour. If added, they will burn and give a bitter flavour to the sauce.
12. Grill the pork for 4 to 5 minutes, or until some parts appear crispy and golden. Stir the carnitas often. Add more carnitas sauce to the pork if it starts to evaporate too much.
13. Once you are happy with the crispiness of the pork, transfer it to a serving platter, drizzling it with some of the carnitas sauce from the tray.
- Keeps for 3 days chilled
- Serves 8 persons
- Any leftover pork carnitas are suitable for freezing
- Serve with fresh salad leaves, avocado pieces, sour cream, store-bought or homemade chipotle sauce, tomatoes, shredded cheese and fresh lime pieces.
Alternative cooking methods:
- Slow cooker/Crockpot: Do steps 5 to 7 in a deep frying pan and add to the slow cooker. Allow 4 to 6 hours on LOW.
- Instant pot: Sauté the pork pieces. Add the onions and carnitas sauce. Close the lid and set the vent to “Sealing”. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Allow the steam to release naturally for about 15 minutes. If you would like to tenderise it more, repeat the high pressure, but for 15 minutes this time.
At the final stage of cooking, grill/broil the pork as explained in steps 12 and 13.