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Slow Cooked Mexican Pulled Pork Carnitas

Slofoodgroup Team March 21, 2024

Perfect Carnitas for Tacos, Tostadas, and More

Carnitas—it can be a gamble to order it off a menu because while some places have perfected the art of carnitas, others try to pass off a dry, leathery pulled pork as carnitas. We want to be clear, though, carnitas should never be dry. It is a pork confit, slow cooked in lard and other liquids and fragrant spices to produce a tender, juicy, fall-apart filling for tacos and other comforting favorites. We like to finish ours in the smoker, topping with a banana leaf to maintain moisture levels, while adding smoke and reducing the liquids. We highly recommend making this dish at home for serving to a large crowd or utilizing in multiple meals, because this recipe yields about 10-15 servings.

How to Make Tender, Flavorful Carnitas


  • 2-4 pounds pork shoulder roast, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 pound lard
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more for dry brining
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 Saigon cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons pasilla chile powder
  • 2 large yellow onions, sliced thinly
  • 7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 16 ounces cola
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • optional: 1 banana leaf
  • optional: hickory smoking chips


  1. Pat the pieces of pork shoulder with a paper towel and add a thick layer of salt on all sides. Place it on a tray and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat and add the butter to melt. Once melted, toss in the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning. Add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.
  3. While the onions are cooking, grind the coriander, white pepper, cumin seeds, and Mexican oregano until you have a powder.
  4. Remove the onions and garlic from the pan and set aside.
  5. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and rinse thoroughly to remove the salt. Pat dry again.
  6. Add lard to the pan and turn the heat up to med-high. Once the lard is fully melted, add the pork a few pieces at a time, ensuring the bottom half of each piece touches the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes. Flip, and then cook for about 10 minutes on the other side. Remove the pieces and set them aside. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Each side should have a slight golden crisp, but not be charred.
  7. Turn the heat off and add the fresh ground spices, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, salt, and pasilla powder to the lard and stir.
  8. Mix in half of the coke, the orange juice, evaporated milk, broth, and the onion/garlic mixture. Stir
  9. Cover and cook in the oven at 275℉ for 4 hours.
  10. Mix in the remaining cola.
  11. At this point, you can either finish in the oven or move to a smoker. Place a banana leaf over the meat. If smoking, use a high smoke. Cook at 325℉ for an additional 1.5 hours.
  12. Use a couple of forks to shred the pork. A hand held potato masher also works to break the pork apart..
  13. Serve on tacos or tostadas with a simple slaw and cotija cheese, or use in sandwiches, over rice, or any other way your heart and stomach desire.