Homemade Carnitas

A simple recipe for homemade carnitas, hopefully one you can make over and over again. Bone-in pork shoulder (or “boston butt”) is slowly cooked in a flavorful broth, then pulled apart and pan-fried in hot oil until crisp. Use these carnitas on tacos, in burritos, on a salad, or any which way you’d like!

Homemade Carnitas

Homemade Carnitas

homemade carnitas – the details

Pork carnitas are a staple in Mexican cuisine. A portion of the pork shoulder known as the “boston butt” is used since it’s rich and marbled with flavor. Traditionally, you’d cook the pork slowly in lard over extremely low heat until the meat is tender. Then, you’d increase the heat so that the oil is hot enough to crisp the edges.

To make homemade carnitas a little more accessible without having to purchase a large amount of lard, you’ll simmer the pork in a flavorful broth instead, full of aromatics and spices. To mimic the crisping of the meat, once the pork is tender, you’ll strain it, pull it apart, and then pan-fry it in a generous amount of oil. The result should be crispy golden edges surrounding juicy, tender meat.

This basic recipe can be used in all of your favorite Mexican dishes, from tacos to burritos and everything in between.

a few recipes to try using homemade carnitas…

Carnitas Tostadas with Hatch Red Chile Salsa
Carnitas Burrito Bowls
Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Lime Yogurt Sauce (replace the shrimp with carnitas)


Homemade Carnitas

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basic recipe for homemade carnitas

servings: 4-6


  • 4 lbs bone-in pork shoulder (“boston butt”)
  • 1 qt beef stock
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, top trimmed
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • neutral cooking oil


  1. Place the pork shoulder in a large Dutch oven (or heavy-bottomed pot). Pour in the beef stock. Pour in enough water to just barely cover the top of the pork. Add the onion, garlic, salt, coriander, cumin, and oregano.
  2. Bring the liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat all the way low, cover the pot, and gently cook for 3 ½-4 hours until fork tender. Turn off the heat and let the meat cool in the liquid for about 30 minutes.
  3. Transfer the pork shoulder to a cutting board (optional: strain the liquid, cool it down, and save it to use as a stock). Use two forks to pull the meat apart into smaller pieces.
  4. Heat a 12” cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to generously coat the bottom. Once hot, add half of the shredded meat in one even layer. Cook for a minute or so until the bottom is crispy. Flip the meat and crisp on the other side for just a minute. Season with a pinch of salt.
  5. Transfer the meat out and repeat with a little more oil and the remaining meat.

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Homemade Carnitas

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