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Tacos de Carnitas

Tacos de Carnitas, cubes of pork simmered in water and seasonings until tender, then crisped up in a skillet and ready for tacos.

Tacos de carnitas on plate.

I had a houseful for the 4th and rain all weekend long!  Ugh, after days of blue skies, heat and humidity, the long weekend was rained out.  For the most part though, it didn't keep us from having fun.  I made sure we had plenty of food and I seemed to cook all weekend long.

I made tacos de carnitas one night and, man, were they good.  I've never made at home but came across a recipe that piqued my interest and decided to try.  And pork butt was on sale for a ridiculously low price, had to do it.

Ingredients for carnitas.

There are quite a few things I don't attempt at home because I have my favorite restaurants for said things, like carnitas, tacos al pastor, bahn mi sandwiches, pho, etc.  Get my drift?  And believe me, my recipe drawer is filled with clippings for such dishes.

I came across this recipe for carnitas a week or so ago and thought it'd be perfect for a crowd.  It's pretty simple, super flavorful and well, just delicious.

Pork browning in skillet.

The pork is simmered in water and aromatics until tender and the water has evaporated, then the pork "fries" in its own fat until browned and a little crispy.  I think that is what intrigued me, simmering cubes of pork.  I also liked the flavors of cinnamon, orange zest and cloves.

Typically, carnitas would be served on tortillas with chopped onion, cilantro and little salsa verde or hot sauce.  But my family also had to have avocado and sour cream, and I put out some crumbled queso fresco.

Tacos de carnitas with toppings on tortilla.

I am going to try and make more dishes at home that I've been afraid to try, for whatever reason.  I will definitely make these carnitas again.  I really think they stack up to a good food truck or restaurant, really good.

Try Tacos de Carnitas, you will not be disappointed, promise.  You might also like this easy pork chile verde.  Best, Kelly??

Close up of carnitas taco.

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Close up of carnitas taco.

Tacos de Carnitas

Cubes of pork simmered in water and seasonings until tender, then crisped up in a skillet and ready for tacos de carnitas.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 278kcal


  • 3-4 pounds pork butt
  • 6 cups water
  • 7 strips orange zest
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large white onion, diced (plus more for garnish, finely chopped)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (preferably Mexican canela, I used regular)
  • teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • teaspoons crushed oregano leaves
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 24 small corn tortillas, warmed
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Finely chopped white onion
  • Salsa verde, hot sauce or your favorite salsa


  • Trim any thick fat from the pork butt. Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes, discarding any that are pure fat, but don't try and trim away all the fat in the meat, that's needed for flavor and to help with browning later!!
  • Put the pork cubes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Skim off any scum that forms on the surface during the first 15 minutes. After scum is skimmed off, add the chopped onion, garlic, orange zest, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, bay leaves, oregano, cloves and salt. Simmer uncovered for another 1¼ hours until pork is very tender, adding more water if necessary to keep it submerged. Season with more salt. (I add the aromatics after removing most of the surface scum because otherwise, too much of it gets skimmed out with the scum.)
  • Continue simmering at a gentle boil until the water has evaporated, about 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and cinnamon. Cook a little longer to fry the meat, stirring often and adding a little water it it seems to be sticking and/or burning. (Alternately, at this point you could transfer the meat to a nonstick skillet to fry it longer for crispier meat.)
  • Spoon some carnitas onto each tortilla. Top tacos with chopped onion, cilantro and salsa. Serve.

Recipe Notes

  • I like to heat and lightly brown the tortillas in a nonstick skillet.
  • If you want to brown the carnitas a little more to finish, use a nonstick skillet or well-seasoned cast iron pan.  Spoon pan fat drippings/cooking juices over carnitas while browning.


Calories: 278kcal Carbohydrates: 27g Protein: 25g Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 3g Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g Monounsaturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 68mg Sodium: 398mg Potassium: 523mg Fiber: 5g Sugar: 1g Vitamin A: 99IU Vitamin C: 11mg Calcium: 85mg Iron: 2mg
Did you make this recipe? Please comment, rate it and share! And mention me on Instagram @thehungrybluebird or tag #thehungrybluebird so I can see!

*Adapted from The San Francisco Chronicle and The NY Times

5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating

Mark Wildenhaus

Thursday 7th of July 2016

What's not to like about a good ol' pork butt recipe?