The Art of Carnitas: A Mexican Delicacy


When it comes to irresistible Mexican cuisine, carnitas reign supreme. Originating in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, these “little meats” are a true delicacy. Imagine succulent pieces of pork, braised and simmered in lard until tender, then crisped to perfection. The result? Juicy and crispy carnitas, a heavenly filling for tacos. Traditionally served on fresh corn tortillas with cilantro and onions, carnitas are a treat for the senses.

The Perfect Recipe for Carnitas

One of the best things about carnitas is that they don’t require a lot of cooking time. In just 4 hours, you can enjoy this mouthwatering dish. To make the process easier, we recommend using boneless pork butt. This way, you won’t have to deal with the bone when trimming.


  • 4 lb pork butt
  • 2 cups lard (substitute with cooking oil)
  • 12 oz Mexican coke (Coke made with real sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons Meat Church dia de la Fajita seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon comino (cumin)
  • 2 oranges, halved
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 dozen corn tortillas
  • Garnish:
    • 1 small white onion, diced
    • 1 bunch cilantro, diced
  • Tools:
    • Large dutch oven
    • Instant-read thermometer

Prepare the Pork

Start by cutting the pork butt into 1-2 inch cubes. Liberally season the meat with Meat Church dia de la Fajita seasoning on all sides, followed by a light sprinkling of cumin. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to penetrate.

In a large dutch oven or pot suitable for frying, heat the lard until it reaches at least 300 degrees. The goal is for the heated lard to come halfway up the pieces of pork. Adjust the amount of lard accordingly. Place the pork in the dutch oven and simmer for 6-8 minutes, flipping it at least once.

Further reading:  Herb Crusted Pork Rib Roast

*You can simmer the pork until it’s tender, which would take longer than 8 minutes. However, we suggest removing the dutch oven from direct heat and smoking the pork for added flavor. If you prefer to skip the smoking step, you can simmer until the meat is tender, reaching an internal temperature of 195 degrees.

Smoke the Pork

Remove the dutch oven from the heat and squeeze the juice of the oranges into it. Add the Mexican coke, making sure not to completely submerge the pork. If needed, reduce the amount of liquid. Toss in the bay leaves and place the uncovered dutch oven in a smoker set to 250 degrees. Smoke the pork until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 170 degrees. This should take about 2 hours.

Cover the dutch oven with a lid and increase the smoker temperature to 300 degrees. Continue cooking until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 195 degrees. This final stage should take approximately 1 1/2 more hours.

Remove the dutch oven from the smoker, carefully taking out the pork with tongs and placing it on a sheet pan. Using two forks, gently pull the pork apart, leaving it slightly chunky rather than completely shredded like traditional pulled pork.

Crisp the Carnitas

To achieve that irresistible crispy texture, ladle some of the residual lard across the pork and the sheet pan. Place the sheet pan back in the smoker at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. If your smoker cannot reach 400 degrees, increase the temperature to 350 and position the pan closest to the firebox. Rotate it a couple of times during the cook. Alternatively, you can use a cast iron skillet over direct heat.

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Once done, remove the pork from the smoker and let it cool for 15 minutes.

Prepare the Tortillas

While the pork is cooling, prepare your tortillas. Dip each tortilla into heated lard, then place them on a plancha or a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cook for 1 minute per side until they become slightly crispy and golden.

Build Carnitas Tacos

Finally, it’s time to assemble your carnitas tacos! Fill the tortillas with the mouthwatering pulled pork, and top them with diced onions and cilantro. If you like a little extra kick, add some hot sauce. Get ready to indulge in one of the most beloved tacos of all time!

Now that you have the secrets to making delectable carnitas, it’s time to bring the flavors of Mexico into your own kitchen. For more mouthwatering recipes, cooking tips, and barbecue inspiration, visit Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ – your go-to source for all things cooking. Enjoy the incredible journey of culinary exploration!