Dutch oven carnitas is prepared by slow-cooking pork until tender and succulent, then crisping it up under a broiler resulting in the perfect combination of textures. This delicious Mexican pork dish is simple to prepare and can be served in a variety of ways. Naturally gluten-free and keto adaptable.
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What you’ll love about this recipe
- It’s simple! Although this recipe does take several hours to prepare, all but ten minutes of that time is hands-off. It requires very little effort in the way of prep, no special skills, and very little kitchen equipment so it’s easy to clean up.
- The textures and flavors! Nothing quite compares to well-cooked carnitas and for good reason. It is savory and buttery with notes of citrus as well as subtle earthy, woody, and floral notes from the herbs and spices. While the flavor is on point, the textures are really the selling point. The pork is first slow-cooked in lard so it’s uber tender and juicy and subsequently finished off under a broiler to crisp it up. The combination of the two textures is absolutely divine.
- It’s gluten-free and keto adaptable! As someone who often limits the amount of gluten in their diet, carnitas is a go-to. It’s 100% gluten-free and can be enjoyed as is or served in soft corn tortillas as tacos. This recipe is also easily made keto simply by omitting the orange.
Ingredients (+ notes & substitutions)
- Boneless pork shoulder or Boston butt roast: Pork shoulder may have skin still attached which will need to be removed. Both cuts of meat can be pretty fatty so you will likely want to trim some of the fat off as well; how much of the fat your remove is up to you. Personally, I like to leave some of it intact for flavor. After trimming the pork, you will need to cut it down into chunks, approximately three to four inches wide.
- Lard: Like authentic carnitas, this recipe calls for lard. Because cooking the pork in lard renders it super tender, it is an essential ingredient. Most major supermarkets sell tubs of lard near cooking oils. Mexican markets and Amazon also sell lard (see product link below).
- Navel orange: To prepare a keto-friendly version of this recipe, skip the orange.
- White onion
- Bay leaves
- Cinnamon stick: The cinnamon flavor is very subtle. That being said, if you are not a fan feel free to omit it. You can sub the cinnamon stick for 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon if needed.
- Black pepper
- Kosher salt
- Oregano: Preferably Mexican oregano.
How to make Dutch oven carnitas (+ tips)
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
2. Add the pork, lard, water, garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, black pepper, cumin, salt, and oregano to the Dutch oven. Use your hands or a citrus squeezer to juice the lime and orange into the Dutch oven. Then, place the spent lime and orange halves in the Dutch oven, cover, and bake for 3 hours.
3. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and set your broiler to high heat. Broiling the carnitas will give them the crispy texture that is so delicious! If you’re not a fan of crispy carnitas, you can certainly skip broiling.
4. Transfer the pork to a large baking sheet and break it apart into small chunks or shred it using two forks. To prevent the pork from drying out too much drizzle one cup of the cooking liquid atop it. Toss to coat and arrange it in a single layer.
5. Broil for 8-10 minutes until browned and crispy. Remove from oven, toss with more of the cooking liquid, and serve warm.
How to serve carnitas:
- Serve as is with your favorite toppings and sides.
- In a tortilla as tacos, a burrito, enchiladas, or a quesadilla.
- On a torta.
- Use it as a topping for nachos.
- On a salad.
Toppings for carnitas:
- Diced white onions.
- Chopped cilantro
- Freshly squeezed lime juice
- Salsa like this roasted salsa verde, this habanero salsa, or this chile de Arbol salsa. OR this pico de gallo or pineapple pico de gallo.
- Hot sauce
- Sour cream or Mexican crema.
- Cheese such as queso fresco, cotija, cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Chihuahua.
- Guacamole or sliced/diced avocado.
- Pickled carrots, radishes, onions, and/or chile peppers.
Leftovers should be refrigerated in an airtight container and will keep for up to four days.
Freezing is also an option. Make sure to allow the pork to cool completely prior to transferring it to an airtight freezer-safe container or freezer bag and placing it in the freezer. It will keep for up to three months.
This recipe does not call for any gluten-containing ingredients, so yes, it is gluten-free.
While this version is low carb, it is technically not keto because of the orange juice. To make it keto, simply leave out the orange.
Both al pastor and carnitas are traditionally prepared with pork. Carnitas which translates to “little meats” is pork that is slowly braised or simmered in lard over low heat until tender.
Al Pastor which translates to “shepherd style” is cooked using the same method as Lebanese lamb shawarma; the pork is slow-cooked over a flame on a vertical rotisserie.
What to serve with carnitas:
- Refried beans
- Black or pinto beans like these salsa verde pinto beans.
- Rice like this cilantro lime rice or this creamy poblano rice with corn.
- Chips and salsa, guacamole, and/or queso.
If you make this Dutch oven carnitas I’d love your feedback. Please leave a comment and/or a rating below as I greatly value your opinion. Or snap a pic and tag me on Instagram @taoofspiceblog. Love, light, and happy cooking ya’ll ♥
- 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder or Boston butt roast, trimmed and cut into 3-4-inch chunks
- 1 cup lard
- 1 cup water
- 1 medium white onion, halved
- 8 cloves garlic, smashed
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick, could sub for 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablesoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1 lime, halved
- 1 navel orange, halved (omit for keto)
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Add the pork, lard, water, garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, black pepper, cumin, salt, and oregano to the Dutch oven. Use your hands or a citrus squeezer to juice the lime and orange into the Dutch oven. Then place the spent lime and orange halves in the Dutch oven, cover, and bake for 3 hours.
- Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and set your broiler to high heat.
- Transfer the pork to a large baking sheet and break it apart/shred it using two forks. Drizzle one cup of the cooking liquid atop the pork, toss to coat, and arrange it in a single layer.
- Broil for 8-10 minutes until browned and crispy. Remove from oven, toss with more of the cooking liquid, and serve warm.
Storage: Leftovers should be refrigerated in an airtight container and will keep for up to four days. Freezing is also an option. Make sure to allow the pork to cool completely prior to transferring it to an airtight freezer-safe container or freezer bag and placing it in the freezer. It will keep for up to three months.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 828Total Fat: 56gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 31gCholesterol: 234mgSodium: 404mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 63g
The nutritional information provided is computer generated. It is only an estimate and intended for informational purposes only. Nutrition details may vary depending on various factors such as origin, freshness of ingredients, etc