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Carnitas, meaning “little meats” in Spanish, are a staple of Mexican cuisine. This melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork dish is traditionally made with slow-cooking a fatty cut of pork like shoulder or butt in a flavorful broth or adobo. But what if you don’t have a slow cooker? Fear not, carnitas can still be achieved with some kitchen magic and the help of your oven or stovetop.

This recipe delivers all the juicy, crispy goodness of classic carnitas, minus the need for a slow cooker.

Easy Pork Carnitas
Easy Pork Carnitas


4 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 2-inch cubes (bone-in can also be used, but adjust cooking time accordingly)

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle of Seville orange juice (or a mix of equal parts orange and lime juice)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
  • Limes, cut into wedges (for garnish)

  • Directions:

    1. Season the Pork: In a large bowl, toss the pork cubes with salt and pepper.

    2. Brown the Pork: Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the pork cubes in batches and brown them on all sides for 5-7 minutes per batch. Don’t overcrowd the pot, as this will prevent proper browning. You may need to work in several batches depending on the size of your pot.

    3. Sauté the Aromatics: Once all the pork is browned, remove it from the pot and set it aside. Add the diced onion to the pot and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant.

    4. Deglaze and Simmer: Pour in the orange juice and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. This flavorful residue deglazes the pan and adds depth to the sauce. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then add the chicken broth, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, chili powder, coriander, and bay leaf. Stir well to combine.

    5. Return the Pork: Return the browned pork cubes to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 2-2 ½ hours, or until the pork is very tender and easily shreds with a fork.

    Optional Broiling for Extra Crisp:

    Preheat your oven to broil with the rack positioned close to the heat source (about 4-6 inches).

  • Once the pork is tender, remove the bay leaf and use tongs to transfer the pork to a baking sheet. Shred the pork with two forks, discarding any large pieces of fat.
  • Drizzle the shredded pork with about 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the pot. Broil the pork for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy in some spots. Keep a close eye to avoid burning.

  • 6. Serve and Enjoy: Spoon the shredded carnitas onto warm tortillas and top with your favorite taco toppings like chopped onion, cilantro, chopped avocado, salsa, crumbled queso fresco, and a squeeze of fresh lime.

    Nutrition Facts:

    (Per serving, without toppings)

    Calories: 450

  • Fat: 30g
  • Saturated Fat: 12g
  • Cholesterol: 100mg
  • Sodium: 450mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5g
  • Protein: 40g

  • Please note: This is a general estimate and the actual nutritional content may vary depending on the specific ingredients you use.


    This oven-baked carnitas recipe delivers all the flavor and texture of a slow-cooked version without the need for additional equipment. With a little planning and some simmering time, you can create restaurant-quality carnitas at home.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

    1. Can I use bone-in pork shoulder for this recipe?