perfect Mexican carnitas

Perfect Mexican Carnitas

by Aug 6, 2021Recipes, Mexican, Street Food0 comments

Perfect Mexican carnitas doesn’t have to be impossible to achieve. Carnitas meaning “little meat” originated Michoacan and the world is better for it. Traditionally fried in pork lard in a copper pot until fork tender, seared on a hot griddle to caramelize, there are many variations and uses for carnitas, with tacos being the most known.

Carnitas tacos platter

How To Make Traditional Carnitas

In Michoacan, when making carnitas the main herbs used are bay leaves, thyme, and marjoram. These herbs together are called “Hierbas de Olor” (Herbs that smell). These days, there are so many variations as each family has their own twists and variations for their own family carnitas recipe. Some use Mexican Coke as it contains cane sugar, some use milk and some even use chipotle peppers for added kick.

Carnitas ingredients

There is one thing for sure that is traditional and that’s the use of pork lard being used for frying the pork. While it’s not different than deep frying anything as the pork is removed before slow roasting in the oven and packs a huge flavor punch. Unfortunately, finding a tub of pork lard can be hard to get your hands on but if you can manage it, you’ll find amazingly deep and rich pork flavor.

perfect Mexican carnitas

Perfect Mexican Carnitas

Perfect Mexican carnitas doesn’t have to be something that you have to travel to Mexico to, although it would make for a great vacation, perfect carnitas can be made in the comforts of your own home.

The best cut of pork to use is pork “shoulder” or “butt” because it has a good blend of meat and fat ratio. Slowly rendering the natural pork fat will deepen the pork flavor during the slow roast.

The Best Carnitas Street Tacos

Making the best carnitas street tacos is fairly straight forward once you get going on perfecting your perfect Mexican carnitas recipe to your liking. The next thing to focus on are the condiments! As with everything in life, it’s all a matter of preference but making sure you have several options to choose from is key. For me, there are three things that make a perfect street taco.

    • Pickled Red Onions. This adds a slight crunch but mainly a nice tangy contrast to the sweet/meatiness of the carnitas. Check out of our recipe for picked red onions if you need some help making them.
    • Diced white onions and cilantro. This one is a classic and you would be hard pressed to find a taco stand or restaurant that doesn’t offer these to you when ordering tacos
    • Amazing roasted salsa. There are literally dozens of different salsas in Mexico but my favorite is when it’s roasted. The charred skins of the onions, jalapenos and tomato add so much flavor and character to the salsa, it’s easily my go to. Check out our version of roasted salsa.
    • Last but not least, the tortilla. For any taco, easily my go to would be flour or white corn. I think each type of tortilla has it’s uses. Blue corn for quesadilla, hard shell….actually i’ve never seen these in Mexico, only in the states, but you get my point. Find the one you like and stick with it.

Endless Possibilities

Carnitas is one of those dishes that I make in bulk for two reasons. One, it freezes perfectly. This allows you to portion it out, freeze it and use on a lazy-rainy day. Two, the uses and possibilities are endless, and I mean endless.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or late night snack, carnitas doesn’t discriminate on the time of day on consumption.

Whether it’s a breakfast bowl with black beans, eggs and potatoes, tacos, burritos, Mexican Torta, empanadas or getting a little crazy and fuse cuisines together to create your own dish.


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Perfect Mexican Carnitas

Slow roasted Mexican carnitas takes time and patience but in the end you'll be rewarded with perfectly tender and caramalized pork ready for any creation your imagination can think of.
4.5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6 people
Calories 223 kcal


6 quart dutch oven


  • 3 lb pork shoulder
  • ½ cup pork lard or cooking oil
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, cut into large dice pieces
  • 4 clove garlic
  • 1 whole orange + peels
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2-3 cups hot water, until all pork is covered


  • Cut pork shoulder into 1" cubes
  • In a large dutch oven, heat vegetable oil on medium high heat and pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
  • Add pork into the pork to pan fry, careful to not overcrowd the pot or pork pieces will not brown.
  • Once all pork is browned, place all the pork, onions, bay leaves, oregano, salt, pepper, orange juice, and garlic.
  • Combine hot water and then milk to the pot. ** If you add the milk first it may curdle due to the hot temperature.
  • Cover and roast in the oven for 3-4 hours or fork tender.


Calories: 223kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 20gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 199mgPotassium: 380mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 50IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 46mgIron: 2mg
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