Serving up Mexican Pork Carnitas

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Mexican Pork Carnitas start with deliciously seasoned pulled pork that is folded into or piled onto homemade corn tortillas with a variety of toppings to finish them off.

Pork carnitas are fun for a Mexican Fiesta with everyone in the kitchen pitching in with the chopping and making homemade corn tortillas. The job is easiest using a tortilla press but they can also be flattened with your hands or the help of a rolling pin. Let everyone give it a try and you’ll see how many ways it can be done.

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Seasoning Pork Carnitas

Carnitas simply means ‘little meats’ and there are as many ways to season it as their are cooks. Some insist the meat be seasoned with nothing other than oranges and milk while others include spices and Mexican Coca-Cola. Coke in Mexico is made from cane sugar instead of corn syrup so has a slightly different taste. My recipe is made with regular Coke and that’s perfect for my everyday palate and cooking style.

Pulling Pork

Pulling Pork Carnitas
Pulling Pork for Mexican Pork Carnitas -photo credit Jim Little

The secret to pulling pork is to do it when it’s warm; just grab two forks and start pulling the meat apart. The job takes a bit of time depending on how finely you want the pork separated. The meat can be pulled in advance and reheated many hours later or even the next day. If you like kitchen parties time the meat to be done just as guests arrive and designate some carnivore to do this job.

Close up of pulled pork for Pork Carnitas
Close up of pulled pork for Pork Carnitas -photo credit Jim Little

Some cooks like the meat soft while others insist it be cooked again to brown the meat until it’s crispy with caramelized bits of deliciousness. We tried it both ways.

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Authentic corn tortillas are made with masa harina and we love the unique aroma and taste. With a bit of effort you can set yourself up for making these and you’ll save time. Once you’ve done it a few times it’s easy to whip up eight tortillas. I describe my step-by-step process in this post on how to make Corn Tortillas.

Toppings for Pork Carnitas

The final dish is as individual as you. Don’t default to the usual taco toppings, try something different.

Some sources say Pork Carnitas must be topped with chopped white onion and fresh cilantro, so be sure to try that. I intentionally made small tortillas so we could experiment with the taste of different topping combinations. Try some of these:

  • Diced avocado or avocado crema
  • Homemade chipotle mayo (which just happened to be in a squeeze bottle in my fridge)
  • Diced tomato or prepared salsa
  • Minced white onion
  • Lime wedges
  • Chopped cilantro
Mexican Pork Carnitas served with chopped white onion and cilantro
Mexican Pork Carnitas -photo credit Jim Little

Let me know in the comments below if you tried Pork Carnitas and what you did.


More Recipes – Mexican Flavours

Click on the text in the photo to go to the recipe.

Ingredients

3-4 lb boneless pork shoulder (butt end), cut into large chunks
1 Tbsp oregano
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 large onion, quartered
8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
finely chopped zest of 1 or 2 oranges
¾ cup orange juice (about 3 oranges)
¼ cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
¾ cup regular Coke or Mexican Coca-Cola
2 bay leaves
TOPPINGS - minced white onion, lime wedges and chopped cilantro

Directions

1
OVEN METHOD - Preheat oven to 300°F.
2
While oven is heating brown meat on the stove. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, browning on all sides in batches. Transfer to large bowl as it browns.
3
Add oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, orange zest, orange juice, lime juice, Coke and bay leaves to the meat. Gently mix.
4
Transfer mixture to large baking dish with high sides, or 2 smaller ones. Cover with foil and bake for 3 hours, or until very tender.
5
To check for doneness remove one piece of pork. If it easily pulls apart with a fork it’s done.
6
While still warm, pull the meat using 2 forks. This can be done right in the baking pan or in another dish. When finished stir meat with the pan juices.
7
Can be done in advance and reheated.
8
Serve with corn tortillas and toppings of your choice.
9
SLOW COOKER METHOD
10
Place meat in a large bowl.
11
Add oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, orange zest, orange juice, lime juice, Coke and bay leaves. Gently mix then transfer to a slow cooker.
12
Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours.
13
To check for doneness remove one piece of pork. If it easily pulls apart with a fork it’s done.
14
Transfer the meat to a large dish with sides. Pour the liquid into a bowl or large measuring cup and set aside.
15
While still warm, pull the meat using 2 forks.
16
Preheat broiler.
17
Transfer the meat to a baking sheet or large baking dish. Pour half the liquid over the meat and gently toss.
18
Broil meat until nice and crispy, 5-10 minutes. Add more of the liquid if desired.
19
Serve with corn tortillas and toppings of your choice.

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Ingredients

Directions

  • 3-4 lb boneless pork shoulder (butt end), cut into large chunks
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • finely chopped zest of 1 or 2 oranges
  • ¾ cup orange juice (about 3 oranges)
  • ¼ cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • ¾ cup regular Coke or Mexican Coca-Cola
  • 2 bay leaves
  • TOPPINGS - minced white onion, lime wedges and chopped cilantro
  1. OVEN METHOD - Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. While oven is heating brown meat on the stove. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, browning on all sides in batches. Transfer to large bowl as it browns.
  3. Add oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, orange zest, orange juice, lime juice, Coke and bay leaves to the meat. Gently mix.
  4. Transfer mixture to large baking dish with high sides, or 2 smaller ones. Cover with foil and bake for 3 hours, or until very tender.
  5. To check for doneness remove one piece of pork. If it easily pulls apart with a fork it’s done.
  6. While still warm, pull the meat using 2 forks. This can be done right in the baking pan or in another dish. When finished stir meat with the pan juices.
  7. Can be done in advance and reheated.
  8. Serve with corn tortillas and toppings of your choice.
  9. SLOW COOKER METHOD
  10. Place meat in a large bowl.
  11. Add oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, orange zest, orange juice, lime juice, Coke and bay leaves. Gently mix then transfer to a slow cooker.
  12. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours.
  13. To check for doneness remove one piece of pork. If it easily pulls apart with a fork it’s done.
  14. Transfer the meat to a large dish with sides. Pour the liquid into a bowl or large measuring cup and set aside.
  15. While still warm, pull the meat using 2 forks.
  16. Preheat broiler.
  17. Transfer the meat to a baking sheet or large baking dish. Pour half the liquid over the meat and gently toss.
  18. Broil meat until nice and crispy, 5-10 minutes. Add more of the liquid if desired.
  19. Serve with corn tortillas and toppings of your choice.