The Best Carnitas {Mexican Pulled Pork}



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The best carnitas

Whenever I’m looking for a complete knock-out recipe, I always turn to America’s Test Kitchen for inspiration. As crazy as this sounds, as I’m plugging’ away on the elliptical each day trying to burn off calories from indulging in desserts like Fried Ice Cream Cake, I watch past episodes of America’s Test Kitchen. And on a recent episode, I watched them create this insanely delicious looking recipe for Carnitas. I hadn’t made homemade carnitas, simply because the thought of heating a pot of oil to fry the pork did NOT sound like something I was up for, but they showed me that no oil is required to get fabulous results!

For those of you unfamiliar with carnitas, it’s typically pork that’s been cooked in a big pot of lard. Yes, fatty pork slow-fried in port fat. While delicious, I had absolutely no intention of buying a few pounds of lard to cook a few pounds of pork in. This non-traditional method that I’m going to show you today eliminates the lard, and the frying, but still produces an amazing result!

You will start with around 4 pounds of boneless pork butt. Make sure there is no bone, otherwise you’re going to have a hard time with the next step which involves cutting the meat into small 2-inch chunks before cooking it. You will need an oven-safe dutch oven to get this recipe started. Toss the 2-inch chunks of meat in the dutch oven, and to it add 2 cups water, juice from 1 lime,1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 2 bay leaves, and an onion that has been peeled at halved. In a small bowl, juice 1 large navel orange. Discard any seeds, then toss the orange and the juice from the orange in the pot. The orange is going to produce great flavor!

Heat the dutch-oven to medium-high heat on the stovetop. Allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes. The goal here is to get everything up to temperature pretty quickly before placing it in the oven. After the mixture has simmered for about 10 minutes, cover it and place it in a 300 degree oven. At this point it’s going to cook for a good 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. You’ll stir the meat halfway through the cooking process.

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When the meat is tender, you’ll take it out of the oven and use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the cooking liquid. Discard the orange, onion pieces, and bay leaves from the dutch oven. Next, you will place the dutch oven back on the stove over high heat. Your goal now is to reduce the liquid down until it is thick and almost syrup like. This process will take about 15 minutes. While the liquid is reducing down, you’ll take two fork to split each piece into two so that you’re left with smaller chunks of meat like what you see above.

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The liquid should reduce down to about a cup. I know it seems impossible when you first start because there is a lot of liquid, but it’ll happen, just be patient! Arrange the meat on a rimmed baking sheet, toss with a little salt and pepper and when the cooking liquid has reduced down to about a cup, pour it over the meat and toss to coat. Place the meat in the broiler, on high for about 8 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the meat, then cook for another 8 minutes longer. When the meat is starting to crisp up and looks golden brown, you’re done.

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Carnitas work wonderfully for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and whatever else you can think of! I used the carnitas for tacos the first time around, and then used the leftovers for quesadillas. The crispy little pieces of pork are so flavorful and delicious, you will find yourself craving it! While this is not the authentic way to cook carnitas (Rick Bayless would likely not approve of this method!), it’s a bit easier and also a bit healthier.

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This recipe will feed a crowd! And while it does take a bit of time to make, it’ll be worth it, I promise! :)

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Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 2 hr 30 min
Total Time: 2 hr 45 min


  • 4 pound boneless pork but, cut into 2 inch chunks (remove any excess fat)
  • 2 cups water
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 large naval orange, halved
  • Salt, pepper



  1. Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Cut the boneless pork into 2 inch chunks.
  3. In a large dutch oven heated over medium-high heat, combine pork, water, lime juice, cumin, bay leaves, dried oregano, juice from orange, orange halves, and onion halves. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then cover and transfer to the oven.
  4. Bake for about 2 hours, stirring halfway through. When the meat is tender, remove the dutch oven from the oven.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the dutch oven and transfer it to a large bowl. Discard the bay leaves, orange halves, and onion halves. Place the dutch oven with the cooking liquid on the stove over high heat. At this point you want to reduce the liquid down to about a cup. It will be a thick almost syrup like consistency. This will take about 15 minutes.
  6. While the liquid is reduce, turn the broiler on to high, and take two forks to split each piece of meat into two so that yo are left with smaller pieces of meat.
  7. Transfer the meat pieces to a rimmed baking sheet. When the liquid has reduced down to a cup, pour it over the meat mixture and toss to coat.
  8. Place the meat in the broiler for about 8 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the meat and cook it for 8 minutes longer. When the meat is crispy, it’s done.
  9. Use the carnitas for tacos, quesadillas, or burritos.

Recipe slightly adapted from
America’s Test Kitchen

Hi, I’m Ashley & I’m so happy you’re here!

Ashley is the founder of CenterCutCook and a former teacher that now spends her days in the kitchen so that she can share her favorite recipes with you!