Discover the Ultimate Authentic Carnitas Recipe: Unleash your culinary skills with this tantalizing Mexican delight. Savor the tender and juicy pork infused with traditional spices, creating a symphony of flavors that will transport your taste buds to the streets of Mexico. Delight in this timeless recipe passed down through generations, and experience true culinary authenticity at its finest.

Delicious and Authentic Carnitas Recipe

This Mexican Carnitas recipe is about as good as it gets. The tender pieces of pork are like little morsels of savory magic, and they can be used in so many different recipes, making this a very versatile recipe. If you love this tender shredded pork, you’ll also love our shredded beef barbacoa recipe. It’s just as easy to make and can be used in many dishes.

I remember the first time I tasted really good authentic carnitas. I was at La Sandia, a Mexican restaurant owned by one of my favorite Mexican chefs, Richard Sandoval. I ordered the skillet pork carnitas from the menu. They were unbelievably good. There was a sweetness to the pork that really put them on another level from any carnitas I’d had before. I wanted to learn how to make them at home.

A few months later, I was lucky enough to meet Chef Sandoval at a book signing at the restaurant. I couldn’t help but ask him what the secret was. You know what he said? He began experimenting with his own authentic carnitas recipe after that. He knew that good carnitas needed fat. To be truly authentic, they should be slow cooked in lard. They also need citrus/acid and a sweet element – oranges and Coke.

This is really all you need to create the most authentic, crispy, and delicious pork carnitas you’ve ever tasted. It works every time, and there’s very little preparation involved.

I prefer to work with boneless pork shoulder and cut it into large chunks for this recipe. You can also use bone-in pork shoulder and leave it whole if you wish.

The way I get around using full lard to braise the meat is to add in as much of the fat as possible. Buying a fatty piece of shoulder is the best way to do it. Brown and cook the fat with the rest of the meat to create juicy and unctuous Mexican carnitas.

Carnitas are often made in the oven or slow cooker because they need a lot of time for the meat to break down and become tender. However, I am going to show you how to cook pork carnitas on the stove.


The first step is to salt the pork and brown it in a stock pot on all sides. This takes about 6 minutes. Once it’s browned, add the rest of the ingredients to the stock pot – orange juice, spices, and can of Coke. If the meat isn’t at least 3/4 covered, you can add some extra water to get it 3/4 submerged.

If cooking on the stovetop, set the heat to medium-low so that liquid in the pot is just bubbling but not boiling. Cover with a lid and maintain this level of heat for around 3-4 hours. If using a slow cooker, set it to low and leave it for at least 4-6 hours. The pressure cooker will take considerably less time – in an Instant Pot, set it for 45 minutes on the “Meat” setting.

After the cook time is up, you will have a pot of meat that looks incredible and smells amazing. I prefer to keep the meat in as large pieces as possible until deciding how I’m going to use it. Of course, it comes out fall-apart tender and perfect for carnitas tacos, burritos, or tortas. Really there is no limit to how you use the carnitas pork – you can even just serve it by itself because it’s THAT good.

For authentic Mexican carnitas tacos, I shred the meat into small, bite-sized pieces and then crisp it up either on a pan on the stove or on a baking sheet under the broiler. For just a couple of servings, the pan works just fine. Add a little oil and heat on high. Then add the meat and allow it to brown without moving it for around 30 seconds per side.

When the meat is crisped up, you can pile it onto warmed corn tortillas followed by diced onion or pico de gallo, cilantro, and a spritz of lime. That’s all you need to make the perfect authentic carnitas tacos.

The addition of Coke might seem strange, but believe me – it’s really integral to the outcome. The acid and sugar really give it a boost. Be sure to use real cane sugar Mexican Coke if you can find it. Do not use Coke Zero or Diet Coke as a substitute. If you don’t want to use Coke or don’t have any on hand, you can replace it with extra water and 2 tbsp cane sugar or light brown sugar.

This Mexican dish originates from the state of Michoacán in Western Mexico. Traditionally, authentic carnitas are made by braising or simmering the pork shoulder in lard or other oil until tender. Orange juice helps to tenderize the meat which lends to the tender, fall-apart meat. The Coke adds sugar to make this meat some of the best you have ever tasted.

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If you have leftovers, this recipe makes quite a bit. Wrap them up tight and freeze them for up to 4 months. When ready to reheat, thaw completely and crisp them up on a sheet pan under the broiler or in a frying pan on the stove.

Ingredients You’ll Need

For this delicious and authentic carnitas recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 2.5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely sliced (with or without seeds for spiciness)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 can of Coke (Mexican cane sugar version recommended)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Corn tortillas, for serving
  • Diced onion, for garnish
  • Fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Lime wedges, for serving
  • Jalapeno slices, for garnish (optional)

This recipe will yield tender and flavorful carnitas that can be used in various dishes.

How to Make Authentic Pork Carnitas

This authentic pork carnitas recipe is incredibly flavorful and easy to make. Here are the steps:

1. Start by rinsing the pork shoulder and patting it dry with a paper towel. Then, season it with salt and pepper.

2. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork pieces and brown them on all sides for about 3 minutes per side.

3. Once the pork is browned, add the remaining salt and pepper, cumin, oregano, garlic, orange juice, Coke (or water with sugar), and bay leaves to the pot.

4. Cover the pot and simmer the meat over low heat for 3-4 hours until it becomes tender and falls apart easily when forked. If using a slow cooker or pressure cooker, follow the appropriate cooking times mentioned in the recipe.

5. After cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Add shredded meat to the pan and allow it to brown for at least 1 minute on each side.

6. Remove from heat and assemble your carnitas tacos by placing a generous amount of meat in each tortilla. Top with diced onions, fresh cilantro, and jalapeno slices according to your taste preferences.

Enjoy your delicious homemade authentic pork carnitas!


1. What cut of pork should I use for carnitas?

I prefer to use boneless pork shoulder for carnitas. It has a high fat content which helps make the meat tender and juicy. You can also use bone-in pork shoulder if you prefer.

2. Can I use water instead of Coke?

The addition of Coke in this recipe adds a sweetness and depth of flavor to the carnitas. If you don’t have Coke on hand or prefer not to use it, you can substitute it with extra water and 2 tablespoons of cane sugar or light brown sugar.

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3. How long does it take to cook the carnitas?

If cooking on the stove, the carnitas will need to simmer for 3-4 hours over low heat. In a slow cooker, they will need to cook on low heat for 5-6 hours. In an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, cook for 45 minutes on high pressure.

4. Can I freeze leftover carnitas?

Absolutely! This recipe makes quite a bit of carnitas, so you can wrap up any leftovers tightly and freeze them for up to 4 months. When you’re ready to reheat, thaw them completely and crisp them up under the broiler or in a frying pan.

5. Can I make smaller portions of carnitas?

If you want to make smaller portions of carnitas, simply reduce the amount of ingredients used accordingly. The cooking time may vary slightly depending on the size of your meat chunks.

How are carnitas traditionally made?

Carnitas are traditionally made by braising or simmering pork shoulder in lard or other oil until tender. The pork is usually cut into large chunks and seasoned with herbs and spices such as salt, black pepper, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves. Orange juice is often added to help tenderize the meat and give it a subtle citrus flavor. Some traditional recipes also call for the addition of a sweet element, such as Coke or sugar, to enhance the taste of the carnitas. The meat is cooked slowly over low heat for several hours until it becomes tender and falls apart easily. Once cooked, the carnitas can be shredded and used in various dishes like tacos, burritos, or tortas.

Why do you add orange juice and Coke to carnitas?

The addition of orange juice and Coke to carnitas serves several purposes. Firstly, the orange juice helps to tenderize the meat, making it juicy and easy to shred. The acidity in the juice also adds a bright, tangy flavor that complements the rich pork. Secondly, the Coke adds sweetness to the dish. The sugar in the soda caramelizes during cooking, creating a delicious glaze on the meat and adding depth of flavor. The combination of orange juice and Coke creates a perfect balance of sweet and tangy flavors that take these carnitas to another level of deliciousness.

Can I freeze the leftovers?

Absolutely! This recipe makes quite a bit, so you can wrap up the leftovers tight and freeze them for up to 4 months. When you’re ready to reheat, thaw it completely and crisp it up on a sheet pan under the broiler or in a frying pan on the stove.

In conclusion, this authentic carnitas recipe provides a flavorful and tender pork dish that is sure to impress. With its traditional cooking methods and blend of spices, it captures the true essence of Mexican cuisine. Whether served in tacos or as a main dish, this recipe is a must-try for those seeking an authentic taste experience.

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