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Dutch Oven Carnitas

Try these Dutch Oven Carnitas for a juicy and flavorful addition to your tacos, burritos and rice bowls!

This Dutch Oven Carnitas recipe requires just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes of active prep!

When I first arrived in Nebraska, I discovered that ordering at Mexican restaurants requires a set of skills that I had not yet acquired. Having never lived in places where Mexican cuisine was widespread, I was overwhelmed by the variety on the menu. But now that I know my tamales from my tortas, I’m excited to share one of my all-time favorite pork dishes with you: carnitas!

Close up of crispy pork carnitas in taco shell.

Carnitas ingredients

Dutch Oven Carnitas require just a handful of fresh ingredients and a few optional spices.

Measured ingredients to make pork carnitas in dutch oven.
  • Pork shoulder: Choose a piece of pork that is reddish-pink in color with quite a bit of internal fat.
  • Kosher salt: Generously season your pork on all sides with kosher salt.
  • Spices: You actually don’t need any spices at all to make flavorful pork carnitas, but we still like to add a little something. I use cumin, oregano and ancho chile powder. If you don’t have ancho chile powder, you can substitute paprika or even leave it out.
  • Onion and garlic: The aromatics infuse the pork carnitas with an extra layer of flavor.
  • Oranges: You’ll add the juice of two oranges to the dutch oven, along with their peels.
  • Vegetable oil: While pork is often cooked in liquid when making carnitas at home, I prefer to use oil for several reasons. First, meat cooked in oil tends to heat up more evenly. Second, using oil to coat the pork makes it difficult for water to escape, which results in juicier carnitas!

Equipment: For this recipe you’ll need a dutch oven that can hold at least 5 quarts.

Step by step instructions

Pork shoulder cut into large chunks, seasoned and placed in dutch oven.

Step 1: Season the pork shoulder. Mix together the salt and spices. Then generously rub into the pork shoulder chunks on all sides. Place the pork shoulder in a single layer in the dutch oven.

Onions and garlic nestled between pork shoulder in dutch oven.

Step 2: Add the garlic and onion. Smash the garlic and cut the onion into wedges. Nestle the onion and garlic between the pork chunks.

Adding orange peel and vegetable oil to dutch oven.

Step 3: Add the orange juice, orange peel and vegetable oil. Squeeze the orange juice directly into the dutch oven and then add the orange peel. Add vegetable oil to the pot until the pork is just covered.

Tender chunks of pork shoulder carnitas after cooking.

Step 4: Transfer to the oven for 3.5 hours at 300°F (150°C). The Dutch Oven Carnitas are finished when the pork is fork tender.

Shredded pork shoulder carnitas on pan before broiling.

Step 5: Shred the pork. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and shred. Place the shredded pork on a rimmed baking sheet and spoon a few spoonfuls of the liquid from the dutch oven over the top.

Crispy pieces of shredded carnitas on a pan after broiling.

Step 6: Crisp up the carnitas. Place the carnitas under the broiler until crispy and enjoy!


Leftover Dutch Oven Carnitas can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

These pork carnitas can be frozen for up to three months. I recommend storing the carnitas in the freezer before the broiling step.

Defrost frozen carnitas in the fridge overnight. To reheat, place the pork in a baking dish, cover and cook at 350°F (180°C) until warmed through. Broil briefly to crisp up and enjoy!

Expert tips and tricks

  • Use less oil. Traditional carnitas are cooked in very generous amounts of lard or oil. To cut down on the oil, pack the meat tightly in a single layer so that it takes a lot less oil to cover the pork.
  • Don’t forget to crisp! I like to place the cooked and shredded pork under the broiler for a few minutes before serving to get a bit of a crispy crust on the carnitas.
  • Garnish with lime juice. You can enjoy your Dutch Oven Carnitas any way you’d like, but there’s one garnish I wouldn’t skip: lime juice. Fresh lime juice cuts through the richness of the savory carnitas for the perfect balance.

What to serve with carnitas

The meat in these Dutch Oven Carnitas is so tender and flavorful that we sometimes find ourselves eating it straight from the pan! For the carnitas that make it past the initial taste testing, here are some of our favorite serving options:

  • Classic tacos: Corn tortillas, cilantro, diced onion and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
  • Caribbean twist: Top with our mango pico de gallo for a fresh burst of tropical flavor.
  • Empanadas: Use our baked empanada dough to make carnitas empanadas.
  • Pupusas: Carnitas make an excellent pupusa filling!
  • Salbutes topping: Salbutes (fried puffed corn tortillas ) make the perfect vessel for crispy carnitas.
  • Burrito bowl: Mix with rice, beans and your favorite toppings.


What are carnitas?

Carnitas are a Mexican dish made by simmering pork in oil or lard until incredibly tender. Our version uses less oil, but still gives you juicy carnitas that will make your kitchen feel like a Mexican restaurant!

What cut of pork is best for carnitas?

When you’re in the grocery store, look for boneless pork shoulder or Boston butt, which is part of the pork shoulder. These cuts are nicely marbled and perfect for slow cooking in this Dutch Oven Carnitas recipe.

What type of oil should I use?

I’ve tested this recipe with vegetable oil, canola oil and sunflower oil all with great results.

Can you freeze carnitas?

Yes, you can freeze carnitas (prior to the broiling step) for up to three months.

What should I do if my dutch oven is too small to arrange the pork in a single layer?

I prefer to place the carnitas in a single layer, as you can get by with much less oil. If your dutch oven is too small, consider using a roasting pan covered with foil.

Three carnitas tacos garnished with radish and cilantro and served with lime.

Loving this Dutch Oven Carnitas recipe? For more dutch oven favorites, make sure to check out these recipes:

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Carnitas meat in crispy taco shell with radishes and cilantro.

Dutch Oven Carnitas Recipe

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  • Author: Viktor Kapustin
  • Total Time: 3 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4
    • Prep Time: 15 minutes
    • Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
    • Category: Dinner
    • Method: Dutch Oven
    • Cuisine: Mexican



  • 2 pounds (900 grams) pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch (5 cm) cubes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder (or substitute paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 oranges
  • approximately 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable oil
  • cilantro for serving
  • fresh lime juice for serving


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). 
  2. Mix together the salt, ancho chile powder, cumin and oregano. Coat the pork shoulder chunks on all side. Arrange in a single layer in a dutch oven.
  3. Nestle the onion and garlic between the pork chunks.
  4. Juice the oranges into the dutch oven, then add the peel. You can use the peel of just one orange to make it fit better or cut them into smaller pieces. Arrange the ingredients so that everything fits tightly in a single layer.
  5. Add just enough oil to cover the pork chunks. You’ll need approximately 1 cup (240 ml) of oil.
  6. Cover the dutch oven and place on the middle rack of the oven. Cook for 3.5 hours or until the pork is very tender.
  7. When the meat is done, transfer it to a baking tray and shred. Arrange the meat evenly on the baking tray and pour a few spoonfuls of leftover liquid on top. Broil for approximately 5 minutes or until slightly crispy.
  8. Garnish with fresh lime juice and cilantro.


Choosing your pork: Choose a well-marbled boneless pork shoulder or Boston butt. Slow cooking breaks down the connective tissues in these cuts, resulting in a melt-in-your mouth texture.

Storage: Leftover carnitas can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

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