These Dutch oven carnitas are easy to make and exceptionally flavorful. Slow braised with minimal ingredients, they are a bit of a healthier version of traditional fried carnitas. They’re great for carnitas tacos, atop your favorite salad or warm bowl dish, and in a burrito. This pork carnitas recipe 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. I think you too will love this easy carnitas recipe.
Why this recipe works
- Just a few ingredients are necessary and very minimal prep time
- Fairly affordable and the recipe makes a large batch to feed a crowd. Because of the cut of pork you use, it’s a reasonably priced meal to feed the family a few nights in a row, or to feed a group.
- So delicious, it will please everyone in the whole family! Even my pickiest eater loves these crispy pork carnitas!
- Very versatile protein that can be used a variety of ways. So eat pork tacos one night, and carnitas enchiladas the next! Another favorite way to enjoy dutch oven carnitas is in these healthy bowls.
- 3-4 pound pork shoulder or butt (preferably boneless so you don’t have to cut around it)
- Onion, sliced. You can use a yellow or white onion, doesn’t matter!
- Chicken broth or water
- Cumin, salt & black pepper
- Bay leaves
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. A popular way to make them is to cook them with orange halves or orange juice. I appreciate this carnitas recipe though for its simplicity in the ingredient department; short and sweet.
The best part of this recipe is how delicious and tender the pork comes out. The second best part is how easy these crispy carnitas are to make.
Step 1 – Begin by cutting up the pork into large chunks, about 1-2 inches. Warm a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, and add all of your ingredients, giving it a good stir.
Step 2 – Once all your ingredients are added, you bring the pot to a quick boil and then remove Bring the pork to a simmer and remove from the heat. Cover, and place in the oven for a couple of hours to braise, not roast. Be forewarned, your house is going to smell amazing during the cooking process!
Step 3 – After the meat has cooked for two hours, it will be soft and tender, but there will be some braising liquid left in the pan. Remove the pan from the oven and place on the stove top. Continue to cook on medium, until the cooking liquid is mostly evaporated. Cooking this way achieves a caramelized effect without the use of lard.
Step 4 – Once the liquid is evaporated and the pork is crispy, remove from the heat and allow to sit for a few minutes, Then take a couple of forks and pull the pork pieces apart till it resembles pulled pork. Of course you can leave the pork in bite-size pieces, but I find shredding it makes it a bit easier for fillings and toppings.
If you would like an even crispier texture, transfer pork to a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and place under a broiler for 5 minutes or so. I promise the pork comes out so tender and with so much flavor as is, this step isn’t really necessary.
Serving Dutch oven carnitas
Start with a warm corn or flour tortilla, and fill with the tasty pork. Top with a variety of garnishes, including cilantro, salsa or pico de gallo, hot sauce, radishes, guacamole, sour cream or a squeeze of lime. There’s almost no wrong way to top them off, and I promise you will agree the meat makes the best tacos!
This recipe is only tested slow braising it in the oven, so I can’t guarantee results. But yes, you can make carnitas in the slow cooker by placing all ingredients in the slow cooker and cooking on high for 6-8 hours. Then removing the pork and broiling it until crispy.
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.
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.
Expert recipe tips
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.
Tried this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or rating, letting me know how you enjoyed it! Connect with me on Instagram and Pinterest, and never miss a post by signing up for my weekly newsletter!
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.
I typically make my carnitas in lard (cringe, I know!) and the flavor is to die for, so I was skeptical about the flavor in these. Happy to report everyone loved these and I am thrilled about finding a healthier version. Thanks for sharing!
These are delicious! Thank you for sharing the recipe. One question… The last 30 minutes of cooking is on the stove top, or in the oven?
Andrea Howe says
On the stove top 🙂 Thanks for trying my recipe!
Thanks for the clarification.
Wow. Those carnitas look really delicious. Thanks for sharing your recipe. We will try it very soon indeed.
My husband made this for dinner tonight and it was SO GOOD! Will be on regular rotation in our house.
Made these for dinner last night and they were a HUGE hit! We will be having your carnitas recipe on heavy rotation around here.
Lauren Nagel says
A MUST make recipe! Can’t get enough of these, loved it thank you!
this is one of my favorite recipes my mom makes!
Omigosh, these look delicious, and styled so beautifully! Isn’t high quality pork sooooo wonderful?!
Andrea…just made these tonight. DELISH!! I scooped out the meat, and put it under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up just a bit as the liquid reduced. So good!