These Dutch oven carnitas are easy to make and exceptionally flavorful. Slow braised with minimal ingredients, they are a healthier version of traditional fried carnitas. They’re great for tacos, atop your favorite salad or warm bowl dish, and this recipe for Dutch oven carnitas will soon become a household favorite!
My favorite taco spot in my hometown of Whittier, served up the crispiest pork carnitas. Authentic carnitas street tacos are always served inside two soft warm corn tortillas. This joint was so generous with their portions, I was able to easily divide up my pork into two separate tacos.
Carnitas are typically braised, and then fried in manteca, aka lard. This technique of course makes them exceptionally delicious, but I think you’ll find this slow braising technique *almost* just as good ;). I learned this recipe when Art and I took a cooking class a few years ago, and I’ve been making them this way ever since.
What’s Needed for Dutch Oven Carnitas?
- 3-4 pound pork shoulder or butt (preferably boneless so you don’t have to cut around it)
- Chicken broth or water
- Cumin, salt & pepper
- Bay leaf
Pork carnitas can be made using a variety of ingredients depending on the region from which they hail, therefore you may find several variations out there. I appreciate this carnitas recipe though for its simplicity in the ingredient department; short and sweet.
How to Make Carnitas in the Oven
All you have to do is add your ingredients above to a Dutch oven or some sort of roasting pan that takes a lid, add some water or stock, and your cubed pork. You’ll need 3-4 pounds of pork and you’ll want it cubed into approximately 1″ pieces.
Once all your ingredients are added, you bring the pot to a quick boil and then remove it from the heat, cover it and place it in the oven for a couple of hours to braise, not roast. After the meat has cooked for two hours, it will be soft and tender, but there will also be plenty of liquid left in the pan. This liquid will be used to further cook the pork on the stove top, achieving a caramelized effect without the use of lard.
If you would like an even crispier texture, transfer your carnitas to a sheet pan, and place under a broiler for 5 minutes or so.
Our Go-To Pork Carnitas Toppings
Toppings can include the ones pictured here, my favorite, as well as salsa and even refried beans. These carnitas are so tender and juicy though, I find that I don’t even need or want salsa, as a squeeze of lime is just enough to enhance the flavor and add some extra juice to the pork/tortilla combo.
What to Serve with Dutch Oven Carnitas
As I mentioned before, this Mexican pork carnitas pairs well with so many different sides. A few ways to complete this meal are:
- Rice (or cauliflower rice)
- Steamed veggies
- Chips and salsa
- Grilled corn
- Simple side salad
Can I Meal Prep Carnitas?
Absolutely! This Dutch oven carnitas recipe makes a big batch of tender shredded pork. You can prep a batch on Sunday and enjoy leftovers all week long in tacos, burrito bowls, salads, sandwiches, and more.
Can I Freeze Pork Carnitas?
Yes, very easily. Let the mixture cool completely, then seal the meat inside a freezer bag along with some of its cooking juices. To thaw, place in your fridge overnight.
Tips for Making this Carnitas Recipe in the Dutch Oven
I used a pork shoulder this time around, but you can also use pork butt as well, and both yield equally good results. The shoulder is just what the butcher had on hand and he recommended as the best that day.
During the last 30 minutes of cooking, be sure not to stir the pork carnitas too much. You want the meat to caramelize slightly on the bottom, and stirring will prevent this from happening.
If you have leftover carnitas, reheat in the microwave or a lightly oiled skillet.
More Easy Pork Recipes:
- Easiest Pulled Pork, Ever
- The Most Delicious Carnitas Bowl
- Braised Asian Pork
- Pork Sausage, Chestnut, & Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash
Braised Carnitas Tacos
- 3-4 lb pork butt or shoulder , cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 onion , thinly sliced
- 3-4 garlic cloves , peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 3 cups water or chicken broth
- corn tortillas and desired toppings
- Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF.
- Add all the ingredients to a Dutch oven and season with salt and pepper. Bring stock to a boil, then remove from heat and cover with a lid, and place in oven to bake for 2 hours.
- Remove lid and cook over medium heat for another 30 minutes or so, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pork has somewhat caramelized. Make sure not to stir the meat too much while it finishes cooking, so the meat can caramelize.
- Shred more if desired and serve in tortillas or over rice and beans.