Carnitas (Crispy Mexican Pulled Pork)

Carnitas (Crispy Mexican Pulled Pork)

I first discovered the existence of carnitas on Twitter from all those great foodies on there. After doing a little research into these little tacos of Mexican pulled pork and decided to make my own. I tweaked recipes to taste my palette so it may not be 100% authentic. A great Mexican meal for one, (freeze the pork for another day).

This dish can be cooked slowly in the oven or in a slow cooker. If you wanted to speed up the dish you could use a pressure cooker. The authentic way to cook carnitas was a slow cook on the hob.

What is Carnitas

Carnitas, literally translated means ‘little meats”, it is Mexican in its origin and usually made from pork. The pork shoulder is used because it is rich in fat and keeps the meat moist and tender during the cooking. The spices in this Mexican pulled pork dish would be different from region to region, in fact in the same village families would have their own set of secret spices to flavour the carnitas.

The meat can then be used as an ingredient in tamales, tacos, tortas, nacho filling and burritos. It truly is a great cheap versatile dish. It is great to have on stand by in the freezer if friends come round or to take to an impromptu BBQ.

The Crispy Bits of Pork

After a long slow cook and then finishing in the frying pan it produces those tasty little crispy pieces of pork. The great thing is that the rest of the pork is still moist and tender. To get the pork crispy it is best done either in a copper pan or a heavy cast iron pan. It is possible to do this in the oven, but, you have less control and the pork could dry out.

What To Serve With Your Mexican Pulled Pork

Sometimes I am happy just to serve them with a tortilla and pickled red onions. If you want a little more extravagance there are plenty of options.

budget pulled pork accompaniments

Carnitas Accompaniments

  • Shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Pickled red onions
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Guacamole (or avocado spread)
  • Feta (or whipped feta)
  • Pickled red cabbage
  • Pan fried peppers (red, green, yellow)
  • Minted yoghurt
  • Sriracha

Pickled Red Onions

Easy, just 10ml olive oil, 5ml white vinegar, ½ tsp of dried mint, ½ dried oregano, 1 tbsp of sugar. Mix well and then add half a thinly sliced onion. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes, the longer the better.

budget pulled pork

Crispy Carnitas (Slow Cooked Mexican Pulled Pork)

A simple Mexican style dish of pulled pork, minimum effort for maximum flavour
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Course Main Course, Snack
Cuisine Mexican


  • 1 1 small pork shoulder (700g) boneless
  • 2 tsp chilli paste or fresh chopped chillies
  • 50 ml boiling water
  • 20 ml white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 tsp cumin powder
  • 3 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp ginger ground
  • 1 orange halved + 2 1/4
  • 1/2 onion roughly chopped


  • Place all the ingredients (except the onion, pork and orange) into a casserole bowl and mix.
    2 tsp chilli paste, 50 ml boiling water, 20 ml white vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar, 4 tsp garlic powder, 3 tsp cumin powder, 3 tsp coriander, 1 tsp ginger
  • Then place the onions at the bottom of the casserole bowl and then place the pork on top. Slice the orange in half and place it at the slides of the pork.
    1 1 small pork shoulder (700g), 1/2 onion, 1 orange
  • Squeeze the other half of the orange into the bowl
  • Cover with a lid and place in the oven for around 4-5 hours at 170c fan oven, 190 no fan (if the liquid does not cover the pork completely keep turning the pork over so it cooks in the juices)
  • Once the pork feels tender and ready to fall apart with a fork remove the fat from the top of the pork. Then shred all the pork with two forks in the casserole dish with the cooking liquor
  • Keep warm until needed, take a portion out and fry in a frying pan, add a little extra sugar so the edge of the pork starts to go crispy.  Serve with your favourite accompaniments.
Keyword carnitas, Mexican pulled pork, pulled pork, taco
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

It especially appealed to me because it was made from pork shoulder, a great cut of protein for cheap dinner ideas. Secondly I could portion it up as cheap meals for one, and because it freezes brilliantly.

Another great taco filler is this Korean pulled pork, just introduce fish sauce to the sides to compliment the taste