Dutch Oven Pork Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

Last Updated on August 12, 2022 by Kayla Berman

Dutch Oven Pork Carnitas are the most delicious Mexican style pulled pork! Made with pork shoulder, garlic & onion, fresh citrus, and lots of spices … this healthy dinner recipe is juicy, tender, crispy, and full of rich flavor. This dish is slow cooked for hours, works great as meal prep, and makes amazing tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more!

dutch oven pork carnitas in a taco

Juicy, Tender, Fall-Apart Mexican Pulled Pork

Whenever I go to Chipotle or any local taco shop I order the carnitas as my meat of choice. And I always love it so so much that I knew I needed to make my oven version.

Let me tell you … if you think the carnitas from Chipotle are delicious (as I did), boy do you need to try these Dutch Oven Pork Carnitas. They are without a doubt one of the best recipes I have ever made and truly blow Chipotle’s shredded pork out of the water!

Braised in the dutch oven for hours and then broiled to golden brown perfection – this easy recipe is great for meal prep or a healthy dinner! It is slow cooked, juicy, tender, crispy, and full of incredible flavor.

Carnitas make for the best homemade tacos I have ever had. Hands down! You simply have got to try them.

If you’re looking for more Mexican inspired dishes check out my sheet pan chicken fajitas, marinated steak taco salad, instant pot chicken enchiladas, or healthy taco casserole.

broiled pork carnitas on a sheet pan with fresh cilantro

Ingredients

Pork carnitas call for only a few ingredients! However, those few ingredients pack an incredible savory punch.

Onion, garlic, citrus, and lots of spices come together to make juicy shredded pork full of rich and authentic flavor.

Ingredient Notes

  • Pork Shoulder: The main and most important ingredient here is of course pork! I used a 3 lb pork shoulder. Check out my FAQ sections for more information on the best cut of pork to use.
  • Avocado Oil: To sear the pork I recommend using a high smoke point oil. Like 1-2 tbsp of avocado oil! Other high smoke point oils include canola, peanut, or sunflower.
  • Onion & Garlic: The aromatics, onion and garlic, provide this easy carnitas recipe with so much flavor! You’ll need 1 yellow onion and 5 fresh garlic cloves.
  • Orange & Lime: Orange juice and lime juice give these carnitas beautiful citrus notes. It is so delicious! Add the juice of 1 orange and 1 lime.
  • Chicken Stock: Chicken stock is the main component of the braising liquid in this recipe. 2 cups is perfect! I think chicken broth would also work.
  • Herbs, Spices, & Seasonings: To give this Mexican inspired pulled pork all of its incredible flavor we add tons of herbs, spices, and seasonings. Add 2 bay leaves, 2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp salt, and pepper.
pork carnitas ingredients

How To Make Dutch Oven Carnitas

Dutch oven carnitas are actually quite simple to make, despite taking a bit of time! The most work comes from trimming and preparing the pork shoulder.

Then all you do is add the flavorful ingredients to a dutch oven and cook low and slow for a few hours. You could stop there or take the extra step of broiling for deliciously, crispy carnitas!

Trust me the longer cooking process will be so worth it in the end. This pork recipe is truly drool-worthy!

Step By Step Instructions

Step 1: Start by trimming the pork shoulder.  I like to remove a large portion of the fat, but still keep some to keep the pork moist and juicy.  Then cut the pork into large chunks.  If there is a bone you can keep this in and just do your best to cut into chunks.

Step 2: Then add the avocado oil to a large dutch oven on the stove top over medium-high heat.  Once hot, add the pork chunks to the dutch oven and sear on both sides.  Then remove.

Step 3: Next add the onion and garlic to the dutch oven.  Sauté until soft and translucent.

Step 4: Then add the seared pork back in with the chicken stock, orange juice, lime juice (1/2 lime), bay leaves, oregano, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine and cover. 

Step 5: Place the pork in the oven at 300 degrees. Braise for 2-3 hours depending on the size of the pork chunks.  2 1/2 hours works perfectly for me.

braised pork carnitas in dutch oven

Step 6: Once the pork is tender and falls apart easily it is done.  Remove from the dutch oven and transfer to a sheet pan.  Shred the pork.

Step 7: Place the dutch oven with the cooking liquid back on the stove.  Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce for about 5-10 minutes.  The braising liquid should reduce to a thicker sauce, about 1 cup.

Step 8: Pour the reduced sauce over the shredded meat on the sheet pan.  Combine evenly and spread out.  Broil for 5 minutes until golden and crispy.

Step 9: Top with fresh cilantro and lime juice (other 1/2 lime).

Step 10: Serve pork carnitas in tacos, burrito bowls, quesadillas, and more!

Expert Tips

Trim the pork very well! I myself do not like a lot of fatty pieces, so taking the time in the beginning to trim is one hundred percent worth it.

Use real orange and lime juice for the best flavor.

Shred the pork with two forks. It will truly fall right apart!

For perfectly crispy carnitas – do not skip the broiling.

carnitas in a flour tortillas with cilantro, cotija cheese, and red onion

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between pulled pork and carnitas?

Carnitas are essentially a type of pulled pork! It is not the traditional American pulled pork most people think of – with barbecue sauce and served on hamburger buns. But it is a shredded cut of pork all the same!

Carnitas are a Mexican style pulled pork. They are seasoned with Mexican spices and are cooked differently than pulled pork.

Carnitas are slowly braised, shredded, and broiled while pulled pork is typically smoked and shredded.

What is the best cut of meat for pork carnitas?

The best cut of meat for pork carnitas is the pork shoulder. The large amount of fat in a pork shoulder is what makes for easily shreddable, juicy, and delicious carnitas.

You could use either a bone in or boneless pork shoulder! The bone could add more delicious flavors and after braising will be super easy to remove. But using a boneless cut will make preparing the pork quite a bit easier. So it is up to you!

Pork butt or “boston butt” is a good alternative and can also be used. However, a lean cut like pork loin won’t produce the best results.

Can I make this recipe in a slow cooker instead?

Yes, you can definitely make this recipe in a slow cooker! Like an instant pot.

You will follow mostly all the same steps, except instead of using the stove top and oven you will use a slow cooker’s various settings.

For the main braising portion, simply slow cook on low for 4 hours.

How to best serve carnitas?

One of my favorite ways to serve this recipe is carnitas tacos! They are truly incredible.

Fill a flour tortilla with the crispy pork carnitas and top with Cotija cheese, fresh cilantro, and red onion. It is so simple but so good! You could also use corn tortillas.

These carnitas would also be delicious in burrito bowls, burritos, salads, quesadillas, and so much more. Other great toppings would also be pico de gallo, sour cream, and guacamole!

Can I make this recipe ahead of time and re-heat?

Totally! I recommend re-heating in the oven.

Simply spread the carnitas out on a large sheet pan and cover with aluminum foil. Place in the oven at about 350 degrees to warm back up. You can also broil again.

It will be just as delicious as the first time!

How to store dutch oven carnitas?

Store this recipe in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will last for about 5 days – 1 week.

carnitas taco

Love this recipe? Check out more healthy dinner recipes…

Connect With Me!

If you make this pork carnitas recipe or any of my other recipes, I would absolutely love to know! Tag me @wellnessbykay on Instagram so I can see and share your recreations.

dutch oven pork carnitas with fresh cilantro

Love this recipe? Leave a comment and a rating! I love to see and it helps me continue to develop delicious recipes for this blog.

Print

Dutch Oven Pork Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

Dutch Oven Pork Carnitas are the most delicious Mexican style pulled pork! Made with pork shoulder, garlic & onion, fresh citrus, and lots of spices … this healthy dinner recipe is juicy, tender, crispy, and full of rich flavor. This dish is slow cooked for hours and works great as meal prep, and makes amazing tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more!

  • Author: Kayla Berman
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 Hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 56 Servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Braised
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 lb pork shoulder
  • 12 tbsb avocado oil, or other high smoke point oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 1 lime, juiced (separated)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Start by trimming the pork shoulder.  I like to remove a large portion of the fat, but still keep some to keep the pork moist and juicy.  Then cut the pork into large chunks.  If there is a bone you can keep this in and just do your best to cut into chunks.
  2. Then add the avocado oil to a large dutch oven on the stove top over medium-high heat.  Once hot, add the pork chunks to the dutch oven and sear on both sides.  Then remove from the dutch oven.
  3. Next add the onion and garlic to the dutch oven.  Sauté until soft and translucent.
  4. Then add the seared pork back in with the chicken stock, orange juice, lime juice (1/2 lime), bay leaves, oregano, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine and cover.
  5. Place the pork in the oven at 300 degrees. Braise for 2-3 hours depending on the size of the pork chunks.  2 1/2 hours works perfectly for me.
  6. Once the pork is tender and falls apart easily it is done.  Remove from the dutch oven and transfer to a sheet pan.  Shred the pork.
  7. Place the dutch oven with the cooking liquid back on the stove.  Bring to a simmer and allow to reduce for about 5-10 minutes.  The braising liquid should reduce to a thicker sauce, about 1 cup.
  8. Pour the reduced sauce over the shredded meat on the sheet pan.  Combine evenly and spread out.  Broil for 5 minutes until golden and crispy.
  9. Top with fresh cilantro and lime juice (other 1/2 lime).
  10. Serve pork carnitas in tacos, burrito bowls, quesadillas, and more!

Keywords: dutch oven pork carnitas, dutch oven carnitas, carnitas recipe dutch oven, carnitas in dutch oven, pork carnitas dutch oven, pork carnitas, mexican style pulled pork, dutch oven mexican style pulled pork

This post may contain affiliate links, which if a product is purchased through I may recieve a small compensation. I only recommend products I love and use in my life and cooking! Thank you for supporting wellnessbykay.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe rating

*