How to Make Carnitas: A Comprehensive Guide to the Iconic Mexican Dish


If you’ve never tried this iconic Mexican dish, you’re in for a treat. Carnitas, which literally translates to “little meats,” is a flavorful, slow-cooked pork dish that is often served with tortillas, beans, and rice. If done right, carnitas can be crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, bursting with flavor that’ll have your taste buds dancing in delight.

In this article, we’ll be exploring different perspectives on this beloved Mexican classic. Whether you’re a health-conscious foodie or a creative culinary enthusiast, we’ve got a section for you. So sit tight, and let’s get cooking!

Recipe-based article

If you’re looking to make traditional-style carnitas, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4-5 pounds of pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups of water
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced

Here are the steps:

  1. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pork and water, and stir well. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and bay leaves. Stir well.
  3. Cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The pork should be very tender and falling apart.
  4. Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy.
  5. Squeeze the orange and lime juice over the carnitas and stir well.
  6. Remove the bay leaves and serve hot with tortillas, beans, and rice.

Pro tip: If you prefer your carnitas to be even crispier, you can broil them in the oven for a few minutes after step 4.

History and context-based article

Carnitas has a rich history that dates back to colonial times in Mexico. The dish originated in the state of Michoacán, where it was first made by farmers and rural families who would cook pork in large copper pots over an open fire. The meat was then used to feed the community for special occasions, including religious festivals and weddings.

What sets carnitas apart from other Mexican dishes is its simplicity. Unlike some of the more complex dishes in Mexican cuisine, carnitas relies on a few key ingredients and a slow cooking process to create a dish that is bursting with flavor. It is considered an essential part of Mexican culture and is often served at family gatherings and celebrations.

In different regions of Mexico, you’ll find variations on the traditional carnitas recipe. For example, in the state of Jalisco, carnitas are often seasoned with garlic and served with crispy pork skin. In the state of Guerrero, carnitas are typically made with goat meat instead of pork.

Culture-based article

One of the best things about carnitas is the culture and community that surrounds it. Street vendors and restaurants in Mexico often specialize in carnitas, offering their own unique take on the dish. In fact, some carnitas vendors have become such celebrities in their communities that they are known by name.

One such vendor is Don Raul, who operates a small carnitas stand in the town of Quiroga, Michoacán. Don Raul’s carnitas are so beloved that they have attracted visitors from all around the world. Don Raul prepares his carnitas using a traditional cooking method that involves cooking the pork in huge copper pots over an open flame.

If you’re looking to experience the culture of carnitas without leaving the comfort of your own home, there are plenty of recipes and techniques available online. You can try making your own homemade tortillas or experiment with different types of fillings and toppings to create your own unique twist on the classic dish.

Health-conscious article

Although traditional carnitas can be quite rich and fatty, there are plenty of ways to make a healthier version of the dish. If you’re looking to cut back on calories, you can use leaner cuts of pork or substitute the pork with chicken or beef. You can also use healthier cooking methods, such as grilling or baking, to reduce the amount of added fat.

Another way to make your carnitas healthier is to choose healthier toppings and fillings. Instead of using cheese or sour cream, try topping your carnitas with fresh herbs, chopped vegetables, or salsa. You can also use whole wheat tortillas or lettuce wraps instead of traditional white tortillas.

Creativity-based article

If you’re feeling creative, there are endless possibilities when it comes to making unique and flavorful carnitas dishes. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Try using different types of meat, such as lamb or venison, to create a more unique flavor profile.
  • Experiment with different types of spices and seasonings to create a new twist on traditional carnitas.
  • Use your carnitas as a base for a fusion-style dish, such as carnitas nachos or carnitas sushi rolls.
  • Try using different types of tortillas, such as corn tortillas or flavored tortillas, to add a new dimension to your dish.


Carnitas is a versatile and delicious dish that has captured the hearts and taste buds of people around the world. Whether you prefer a classic recipe or a more innovative twist on the traditional dish, there’s no denying the appeal of this iconic Mexican favorite.

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