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Taco with pork carnitas and toppings.
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5 from 1 vote

Authentic Dutch Oven Carnitas

These Authentic Dutch Oven Carnitas are fall-apart tender and juicy, then broiled until golden and crispy. With lots of citrus tones and authentic flavors, this Mexican pulled pork makes the best tacos, burritos, bowls, and more. Plus it’s an amazing make-ahead or freezer meal
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Finishing Time30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 45 mins
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 6 (about 18 tacos)
Calories: 431kcal

Equipment

  • Dutch oven

Ingredients

  • 1 (3.5-4 lb) boneless pork butt or 5-6 lb bone-in pork butt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 onion peeled and halved
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 oranges juiced and spent halves saved
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt plus more to taste
  • ½ tsp pepper plus more to taste

Optional for Tacos

  • 18 corn tortillas warmed
  • Lime wedges
  • Red onion diced
  • Cilantro chopped
  • Salsa of choice

Instructions

  • Trim and cut the meat: Trim the thick fat cap on the meat to ⅛ inch thick, leaving the rest of the fat. (Yes, it is very fatty… don’t worry, we are going to cook the extra fat off later). Remove the bone from the meat if needed, then cut the meat into 2-inch chunks.
  • Add to Dutch Oven: Add the pork, water, onion, lime juice, orange juice, oregano, cumin, bay leaves, salt, and pepper to a 6.5 qt or larger dutch oven. Add the spent orange halves on top.
  • Simmer: Place the pot on the stove over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • Cook in the oven: Once simmering, cover pot with lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender and falls apart when prodded with a fork. At the 1 hour mark remove the pot from the oven and flip the pieces of meat, bringing the pieces from the bottom to the top and vice versa.
  • Reduce the sauce: Once tender, remove the meat from the pot and onto a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. Then place the pot with the remaining juices on the stove over medium-high heat. Bring to a rapid simmer and cook, stirring often, until the sauce is thickened, syrupy, and a rubber spatula leaves a trail when dragged across the bottom of the pot (about 15 minutes). You should have about 1 cup of liquid remaining.
  • Shred the meat: While the sauce is reducing, use two forks to shred each chunk into 3 pieces (2 pieces if the chunk is small).
  • Toss meat and liquids: Toss the shredded meat with the reduced liquids until the meat is well coated. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  • Broil: Line a sheet pan with foil, then place a wire rack on top of the sheet pan. Line the meat across the wire rack (it will take up most of the rack). Then place on the middle rack in the oven and broil for 4-7 minutes, or until the edges are golden and crispy but not burned. Flip the meat and broil again for 4-7 minutes.
  • Serve: Serve while hot with warm tortillas and toppings. Enjoy!

Notes

Tips & Tricks
  • Cut the cubes of meat into equal sizes. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but they should be similar so that they cook evenly. 
  • Pork butt rarely comes in exactly the right size… if yours is just a little too large, just add a sprinkle of extra spices and a bit more water until it covers the meat. It doesn’t have to be exact - this recipe is very forgiving! 
  • Make sure to cook the meat until it is truly tender. If it doesn't shred or start falling apart when prodded with a fork you need to cook it longer. Don’t worry, it is hard to overcook this meat.
 
Make Ahead Instructions
Make up to the point of broiling: Shred the meat, mix it with the reduced sauce, then store in a zipper bag or container in the fridge for up to 3 days. When ready to eat, spread the meat onto a wire rack as directed. Heat in a 350° oven until warm (about 10-20 minutes depending on how much you are reheating). Once warm, broil as directed to get the edges nice and crispy.
 
Freezer Instructions
Cook and shred the meat as directed, then reduce the sauce. Combine the shredded meat and sauce, but skip the broiling. Freeze the meat just like that for up to 3 months. 
When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter until thaw. Spread on a wire rack as directed and heat in a 350° oven until warm (about 10-20 minutes depending on how much you are reheating). Once warm, broil as directed to get the edges crispy. 

Nutrition

Calories: 431kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 57g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 181mg | Sodium: 590mg | Potassium: 1149mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 114IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 4mg