Easy Carnitas

Easy Carnitas

Carnitas is one of those incredible meats that is both delicious in its own right, but also serves a far greater purpose as well. The best meals for busy families are ones that can be reused and repurposed throughout the week. Carnitas is the perfect example of this. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. From tacos to quesadillas to even a quick sandwich, the possibilities are endless.

This is not a quick meal — the total process takes a few hours, but it doesn’t require extensive cooking or slaving over a stove. Once the ingredients have been placed in the cauldron, sit back, relax and watch the magic happen.  

The recipe uses a few relatively simple ingredients — the only thing you might have trouble finding — that isn’t a pantry/kitchen staple — is poblano chiles. These, however, should be able to be found at most grocery stores. You could substitute Anaheim peppers or even jalapeños, but try to find poblanos if possible. 

Aromatics, chiles and broth

Of course, perhaps the most important part of the recipe is the meat. We use pork butt, which is a fantastic cut of meat for a wide variety of dishes. Similar to beef chuck roast or any other thick cut of meat, pork shoulder has to be treated in a different way to other cuts. It’s not a meat that allows for quick cooking (unless sliced very thin), but given the right time and care can be absolutely delicious. It also happens to be rather cheap, which is always a bonus 🙂

Pork butt seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin and smoked paprika

As with almost every meat dish, the first step is to get a nice sear on the meat. For this, make sure to use an appropriate cooking vessel for searing and braising large cuts of meat. We use a dutch oven, but if you don’t have one, any large, heavy bottomed pan will work for this step. For the actual braising of the carnitas, however, a heavy, deep sided pan (enamel, cast iron or something of the sort) will be required. This dish can definitely be made in a slow cooker, and cooking time will be similar. An Instapot is another great option, which we do use from time to time — the major benefit being cooking time reduced by about a half. The flavor, texture and overall quality of meat, however, can never quite as good as doing it slow and slow in the oven! 

What meat will look like when properly seared

Once meat is seared on both sides (about five minutes per side), remove from pan and add the aromatics. Feel free to add more olive oil if needed. Add onions and poblanos first, as to ensure the garlic doesn’t burn. 

Add onions, poblanos and garlic to the pan

Add meat back to pan, and add in liquids.

Meat, aromatics and broth ready to cook!

Allow to cook for a few more minutes just to incorporate properly, and then stick in a 375°C oven! 

3 hours later, this is what you’ll be left with… juicy, tender, delicious carnitas! 

So good!

You can literally use this with anything…ok not anything but the possibilities truly are endless. We use it in sandwiches, pastas, and of course in tacos and quesadillas. The simplest and best way to use this meat though, is in burritos. Simply fill a flour tortilla with cilantro lime rice (recipe below), some carnitas, sour cream, cheese and guac, and you have an authentic Mexican spread at home for your family!  

Easy Carnitas

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine Mexican


  • Dutch Oven
  • Oven
  • Tongs
  • Knife
  • Cutting board



  • 1 Poblano Chile Diced
  • 1 White or yellow Onion Either 1 small, or ½ a large one. Diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • cups Chicken stock
  • ¼ cup Orange juice
  • 2 tbsp Cumin
  • 2 tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil might need more/less depending on your preference

Cilantro lime rice

  • 1 cup Cooked rice We use Basmati, any long grain white rice will work. Of course can substitute brown rice if healthier option preferred
  • 1 Lime
  • cup Chopped cilantro Doesn't have to be exact — enough to mix through rice. Can use more/less if preferred
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 1 pinch Pepper


  • Pre-heat oven to 375°C
  • Pre-heat dutch oven, or other heavy bottomed pan on stove
  • Sprinkle salt, pepper, cumin and smoked paprika on pork butt
  • Add olive oil to pan, then add meat
  • Sear on all sides, about five minutes per side
  • Take meat out and add diced poblano and onion. When softened and translucent (around 5 minutes), add garlic. Careful not to burn the garlic!
  • Add meat back into pan, and add fluids.
  • Bring to boil, cover with lid, and pop in 375°C oven
  • Check periodically, at least once an hour, turning meat with tongs, and ensuring even caramelization. Add more liquids if meat starts to burn before being fully braised


The finishing of the dish is the most important part. Any time after about 2 and half hours, the meat will be “done”. As soon as it’s shreddable, it’s perfectly edible and quite tasty. We however like to get a caramelization on the meat as seen in the above pictures. This requires a bit of patience — and also observation — as meat can overcook and burn pretty quickly.
Remember to pour in more fluids (chicken broth), if meat is starting to burn.  
Keyword Burritos, Tacos