Dutch oven carnitas are slowly cooked, seasoned perfectly and comes out so juicy and tender! With only 10 ingredients, making carnitas at home couldn’t be easier. Cooking pork shoulder this way makes a great family dinner or meal prep for bowls, tacos, burritos, or salads. Dutch oven carnitas are gluten free, Whole30, keto and low carb.
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Why You’ll Love Dutch Oven Carnitas:
- This carnitas recipe is really versatile! It’s great to meal prep on the weekend and use throughout the week for many different types of meals such as burritos, tacos, bowls, wraps, breakfast skillets and more.
- Dutch oven carnitas are Whole30, low carb, paleo, gluten free and dairy free, making them a great option for families or gatherings where people may have different dietary needs! There’s very simple, straightforward ingredients so it’s a great option for everyone.
- It’s freezer friendly! You can prep and make dutch oven carnitas and freeze all of it or half of it for later! Stocking your freezer with easy-to-grab protein is helpful for busy weeks or to gift someone after surgery or a baby.
- Pork butt is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat for the amount of servings you get and number of people it feeds, so this recipe is ideal for feeding a crowd, meal prepping or freezing.
The ingredients you’ll need to make carnitas in the dutch oven are really simple, and while it’s a more involved cooking process, the ingredient list is short!
You will need a 3 to 4 pound boneless pork shoulder, along with chicken broth, 1 large white or yellow onion, 2 oranges and 1 lime.
The seasonings you’ll need to cook your carnitas include: cumin, garlic powder, oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Our Favorite Dutch Ovens:
- Low price: Amazon Basics Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- Middle Ground: Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- Splurge: Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
How to Cook Dutch Oven Carnitas:
First, adjust your oven racks so the middle rack will have clearance to fit your dutch oven with the lid, and then preheat it to 300 degrees F. Start with the pork shoulder by dicing it into 2 to 3 inch cubes. If you have a bone-in pork shoulder, cut around the bone and discard it.
Add the cubed pork, chicken broth and spices into your dutch oven and heat it over medium high heat.
The next step for making your dutch oven carnitas is to add in the orange juice and lime juice. Do this by halving the oranges and lime and squeezing the juice out of each half directly into the dutch oven. Add the orange halves after you’ve juiced them into the pot as well, and discard the used lime halves.
Bring the dutch oven to a simmer and then cover it with the lid. Place the covered dutch oven into the preheated oven and let the carnitas cook for 2.5 to 3 hours, or until the cubed pork shreds easily when prodded or scraped with a fork.
Halfway through the cook time you’ll want to remove the dutch oven and give the contents a good stir so that the bottom pork pieces come up to the top and everything gets mixed again. Then cover once more and put back into the oven to finish the last half of the cook time.
Once the carnitas are done in the oven, transfer the pork to a sheet pan using a slotted spoon and discard the oranges and bay leaves. Heat the dutch oven over medium high heat and bring the liquid that’s remaining to a boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to keep the liquid at a simmer.
Let it simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes. The liquid will start reducing and thickening. Once it’s thick and there’s about a cup and a half of liquid remaining, remove it from the heat.
While the liquid is simmering, use that time to shred your pork on the sheet pan. Carnitas can be shred thinly, or you can keep the pork cubes in larger chunks by shredding each cube into about 3 pieces.
Once your liquid is reduced, spoon it over the shredded pork and toss it to coat. Spread the pork into an even layer on the sheet pan.
The final step is to broil the carnitas to crisp them up. You do this by placing the sheet pan into the oven and broiling for 8 to 9 minutes, tossing the pork and broiling another 3 to 4 minutes. During this process, keep an eye on it and stay close so it doesn’t burn. The carnitas are done when the edges of the pork to be crisp and golden brown.
There are many ways dutch oven carnitas can be served and enjoyed! They are great in burritos, and you can make them into breakfast burritos or freezer burritos. You can serve them in tacos and set up a taco bar. They are delicious in salads, quesadillas, wraps, and bowls such as burrito bowls.
Recipes to repurpose the leftovers in:
- Use the pork carnitas in place of the chicken in Salsa Verde Chicken Skillet
- Replace the ground beef in Taco Pasta Salad with carnitas
- Use leftovers in this Fajita Egg Bake
- Crisp it back up in a skillet and make a veggie breakfast skillet
- Serve it with BBQ sauce and pineapple coleslaw
To store leftover carnitas, you want to let them cool completely first. Then you can store them in an airtight container, meal prep containers or bags and keep them in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. These dutch oven carnitas make amazing leftovers for skillets, tacos and salads. They can be reheated in the microwave, in the oven or in a skillet. Reheating in the skillet will bring back those delicious crispy edges.
If you are making carnitas with the intention of freezing, or planning to freeze a portion of the recipe (such as half), you will want to only cook them up to the point of broiling. Place the carnitas, or the portion you’re going to freeze, into an airtight container or bag with sauce and freeze for up to 4 months.
When you’re ready to make them, thaw the meat in the fridge overnight. To reheat, spread the carnitas out over a sheet pan and reheat in the oven by baking for about 20 minutes on 350 degrees F. Once the meat is warmed, broil for a few minutes to crisp the edges as directed in the instructions.
If you’ve already broiled it and want to freeze the leftovers, you can as well! It still freezes great, you just may not want to broil for the second time as the meat can dry out. Add a few tablespoons of water to the thawed meat and mix it in with the sauce prior to spreading on the sheet pan to reheat and broil.
Expert Cooking Tips:
- Pork butts are not usually uniform in weight in the grocery store. That is why the weight measurement for the pork is between 3 to 4 pounds for a boneless roast. If the one you pick up is slightly larger, you can adjust as needed by adding a bit extra liquid and spices.
- If you can’t find a boneless pork shoulder, you can use a bone-in roast instead. You will want to get one that weighs a bit more than the 3-4 pounds called for here because you will need to cut the bone out and discard it when you are chopping the pork.
- Try to cube the meat in roughly the same sizes. This will ensure that the pork cooks evenly, finishes at the same time and is seasoned well.
- In place of chicken broth, you can use water, but I recommend opting for a more flavorful option if you have it on hand, such as beef broth, vegetable broth, or bone broth.
- If you do not have fresh limes, you can use a concentrated lime juice, the kind that’s kept in the refrigerator. Use 3 tablespoons to replace 1 large lime. Do not use lemon in place of the lime in this recipe.
- If your meat does not shred very easily when scraped with a fork, it is not done cooking and needs to cook longer even if it’s past the time suggested in the recipe.
To make these dutch oven carnitas in a crock pot, you will simply add all of the ingredients into the slow cooker insert. Only add enough liquid to cover the pork shoulder. Cover the slow cooker with the lid and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or until the meat shreds easily with a fork. If it doesn’t shred easily, it needs more time.
Then, discard the oranges and bay leaves and follow the remaining instructions for shredding the pork and broiling.
To make your carnitas in the instant pot or pressure cooker, follow the instructions in this post for instant pot carnitas.
Yes. Pork shoulder and pork butt are the same cut of meat and you may often see the terms used interchangeably. It may also be referred to as a Boston Butt. Pork shoulder is a cut of meat from the upper portion of a pig’s front shoulder. It can be sold boneless or bone-in.
Yes, you can freeze carnitas! If you are making it with the intention of freezing, or planning to freeze a portion of the recipe (such as half), you will want to only cook them up to the point of broiling. Place the carnitas, or the portion you’re going to freeze, into an airtight container or bag with sauce and freeze for up to 4 months. When you’re ready to make them, thaw in the fridge overnight, reheat the meat and broil as instructed.
If you’ve already broiled it and want to freeze the leftovers, you can as well! It still freezes great, you just may not want to broil for the second time as the meat can dry out.
Yes! You can prep and make these carnitas ahead of time, such as the day or night before, and finish them up by broiling when you’re ready. To make them ahead of time, follow the instructions up to the point of broiling. Shred the pork, mix it with the sauce and then store in an airtight container or bag for up to 3 days.
Once you’re ready to eat them, spread the shredded pork out on a sheet pan and reheat in the oven for 20 minutes on 350 degrees. Then, turn the oven to broil and broil as instructed until they’re golden and crispy.
The cooking time may vary depending on the pork butt. Muscle meat contains collagen, and the more collagen a cut of meat has, the longer it needs to cook to break down. Carnitas are not done until the meat is very tender and easily shreds with a fork. If it doesn’t do that, it simply needs a bit more time. It’s extremely hard to overcook carnitas, so don’t worry about that!
If you don’t have oranges, you can use 1/2 cup of pure orange juice, or 1/4 cup of frozen orange juice concentrate.
If you don’t have a fresh lime, you can replace it by using 3 tablespoons of the refrigerated lime juice concentrate. Do not substitute lemon or lemon juice in place of lime in this recipe.
Other Easy Pork Recipes You’ll Love:
- Breakfast Burrito Skillet
- Slow Cooker Creamy Sausage Gnocchi Soup
- Italian White Bean Soup
- Air Fryer Sausage & Peppers
- Homemade Maple Breakfast Sausage
- Homemade Currywurst
PS. If you’ve made this recipe, don’t forget to rate this recipe and let me know in the comments how you liked it!
- 3-to-4-pound boneless pork shoulder (also commonly called pork butt)
- 2 cups chicken broth (can use water)
- 1 large yellow or white onion, peeled and quartered
- Juice from 2 oranges
- Juice from 1 large lime
- 3 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoon oregano
- 2–3 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- Adjust your oven racks so there’s enough clearance for the middle rack to fit your dutch oven. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Chop the pork shoulder into 2 to 3 inch cubes and add the pork, chicken broth, onion and spices into the dutch oven
- Squeeze the juice from the oranges and lime into the dutch oven. Add the orange halves into the pot as well. Discard the used lime
- Bring the dutch oven to a simmer over medium high heat. Once it’s started simmering, cover it with the lid and carefully place it into the oven. Let cook in the oven for 2.5 to 3 hours, or until the meat shreds easily with a fork. Halfway through the cook time, remove the dutch oven and give it a stir to bring the meat that was on the bottom of the dutch oven to the top and place it back into the oven
- Once the meat is fall apart tender and you’ve removed the dutch oven from the oven, transfer the pork from the dutch oven to a sheet pan using a slotted spoon. Discard the oranges and bay leaves
- Heat the dutch oven with the remaining liquid over medium high heat until it’s brought to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the liquid reduce, uncovered, for about 25 minutes until it’s thick like a sauce and there’s only about 1.5 cups of liquid left
- While the liquid is simmering, use that time to shred the pork on the sheet pan. You can shred it thinly or keep it in larger chunks depending on your preference. Once the liquid has reduced, spoon the sauce over the shredded pork and toss to coat. Spread the pork into an even layer on the sheet pan
- Broil the shredded pork with the sauce for 8-9 minutes, toss the pork and broil another 3-4 minutes, or until the pork edges are crispy and golden brown. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn
- Remove the sheet pan and serve in burritos, bowls, tacos or salads
- Calories: 410
- Fat: 18 g
- Carbohydrates: 7 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 52 g
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