Pork Carnitas Recipe with Mexican Style Pulled Pork

I love Pork Carnitas… so I decided to do my version using pulled pork. The traditional way of cooking carnitas is to braise pork shoulder in lard or oil until it’s falling apart, then crisp the chunks of pork and make tacos. My version is a little different because I want to incorporate the smoker into the cooking process to really give the meat some taste. Pork Carnitas with Mexican Style Pulled Pork I start this recipe with a 7-8lb boston butt cut from the top portion of the pork shoulder. Instead of trimming the fat off the pork, I cut slits diagonally across the fat cap going in opposite directions. This creates more surface area for the seasoning to form bark and the fat gets crisp and delicious! For the first part of the recipe I want to develop some flavor inside the meat, and to do this I use a marinade to soak the butt overnight. Here’s the recipe for the Marinade: – 32oz Orange Juice – 5 Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce (about ½ small can) – 1 Orange quartered – 2 Limes halved – 1 Onion quartered Place the Pork Butt on a large platter and season all sides with my Salt, Pepper, Garlic. For a simple ratio use 1 part salt, ½ part granulated garlic, and ¼ part ground black pepper. Make sure to sit the pork butt fat side up. You should see the score marks in the fat cap. Chop the Chipotle Peppers and spread over the top. Be sure to get it into the crevasses created by scoring. Next you’ll need something big enough to hold the pork butt and the marinade. I use 2 ½ gallon zip top bags you can find at the supermarket. The pork butt goes into the bag and then orange juice and onions. Squeeze the lime and lemon quarters into the bag as well. Get as much air out of the bag so the pork butt is covered and place it in the refrigerator overnight. It needs at least 12 hours in the marinade but I’ve went as long as 24. Pork Carnitas with Mexican Style Pulled Pork The next day remove the pork butt from the marinade and discard the liquid. Use paper towel to blot the pork butt of excess moisture and place it on a platter or pan for seasoning. For the seasonings you need: Ground Cumin, Ground Chipotle Powder, Ancho Chili Powder, and Cinnamon. You can find these at most supermarkets but if you have a Pensy’s spice store nearby I suggest giving it a visit. The spice selection there is amazing. The first layer of seasoning is more of the All Purpose rub I mentioned earlier. This blend goes great on everything and it’s the foundation of basic tastes that everyone is familiar with. The other seasonings are used to create the Mexican flavor I want the pork to have, and I really don’t measure how much of each ingredient goes on the pork butt. Just eyeball each, one-by-one, and season all sides of the pork. Lastly, just for a little extra color, sprinkle on The BBQ Rub. It has enough cumin, chili powder, and paprika to go right with Mexican flavors. Pork Carnitas with Mexican Style Pulled Pork Now it’s time to fire up the smoker. For this cook I used my Big Green Egg ceramic grill set up for indirect cooking. You can use any smoker or grill set up for indirect heat; the goal here is to maintain a steady temperature of 275-300 degrees. For wood smoke I add a few chunks of hickory wood to the hot lump coal. Pork Carnitas with Mexican Style Pulled Pork As soon as the grill hit 275 it’s time to start cooking. Center the Pork Butt on the cooking grate and close the lid. There’s no need for opening the cooker for at least 4 hours. I want the outside to develop a nice crust or bark. Keep a close eye on the temperature of the grill and adjust the fuel or air as needed. It’s also perfectly ok to cook this pork butt at lower temperatures; just remember it’s going to add time to the cooking process. Pork Carnitas with Mexican Style Pulled Pork During the first four hours I’m not the least concerned with internal temperature of the pork butt. It’s all about the color of the bark. Open the lid at 4 hours and you’ll see that it’s starting to look a little crusty and maybe even turning a bit dark in places. This is perfect. Now it’s time to braise the pork and make it fall-apart, tender. Take the pork butt inside and place in a large aluminum pan. For the braising liquid you’ll need: – 32oz Tomato Juice – 16oz Orange Juice – 1 Onion quartered – 5-6 cloves of garlic smashed – 2-3 Bay Leaves – 2 Guajillo Peppers (dried) – 2 Limes quartered Pour the juices into the pan around the pork about 2 inches. Make sure you’re using a pan big enough to hold the liquid. You can reduce the amount of juice used if you use a smaller pan. Add the onions, garlic, bay leves, peppers, and limes. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place back on the grill still running at 275 degrees. 6_7 I also insert a meat probe at this point, so I can monitor the internal temperature without having to open the lid. This will help reduce the cook time because the grill doesn’t have to recover from heat fluctuations. Wired meat thermometers are fairly inexpensive and worth the money. I think I paid $39 for the Thermoworks DOT and it’s simple to use. You can check it out here >> It should take about 3-4 hours for the pork butt to fully cook from this point. The target finishing temperature is right at 200 degrees. I usually set the alarm for 198 and check the meat with a hand held thermometer to feel for tenderness. When the probe slides in with little or no resistance the pork butt is done. It also has a built in thermometer of sorts. When you can pull the blade bone out clean, I guarantee you the butt is ready. Bring the pan inside and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Pork Carnitas with Mexican Style Pulled Pork Now that the pork has rested for a few minutes, remove it from the braising liquid and place on a platter. You can reserve the liquid for later use if you plan on reheating the pulled pork. Strain the liquid and let cool. Skim the fat off the top and refrigerate. Then just pull the pork. I like to leave it in larger chunks instead of chopping it. I makes for a better taco that way. Mexican Style Pulled Pork The best part of the day is assembling the tacos because that means it’s time to eat! My favorite accompaniments are Fresh Cilantro, Thin Slice Radish, Sliced Avocado and Lime Wedges. Pork Carnitas with Mexican Style Pulled Pork Warm corn tortillas in a cast iron skillet for a few seconds on each side. It’s best to keep a warm towel over the tortillas as you warm each one to prevent drying out. For these tacos I suggest doubling up the corn tortilla to prevent everything from falling through. There’s nothing worse than picking up a taco and all the ingredients staying on the plate. Lay two tortillas on a plate, place a mound of pulled pork down the center. Garnish with a couple slices of avocado and radish. Next a little cilantro or in my case a lot! Then the best part: Chipotle Sour Cream Sauce – 8oz Sour Cream – 4oz Mayo – 4-5 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (chopped) – ½ Fresh Lime (juice only) – ¼ teaspoon ground cumin – salt and black pepper to taste It’s best to mix this sauce up ahead of time and let it rest in the refrigerator for an hour. Last but not least squeeze a fresh lime wedge over the taco and a few shakes of your favorite Mexican hot sauce. Prepare to have your taste buds blown because this is one serious pulled pork taco! Pork Carnitas with Mexican Style Pulled Pork Mexican style pulled pork is a great dish to serve the next time you’re craving something from south of the border. Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think. Malcom Reed Connect on Facebook Follow me on Twitter Subscribe to my YouTube Channel Find me on Google+ Follow me on Instagram Buy Killer Hogs Products Here

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18 responses to “Pork Carnitas Recipe with Mexican Style Pulled Pork”

  1. Rob Bell says:

    Just wanted to say, this recipe (carintas) was amazing. I got turned on to your rub from the guys over at BBQ Islands in Scottsdale, AZ. Your site has help a new guy in the BBQ world look like a rock star. Keep up the great work and I look forward to trying more of your products and recipes!


  2. Penney Williams says:

    Doing this for Labor Day, looking forward to it. Thanks for the video it was fun and informative 🙂
    Just FYI, Penzey’s doesn’t want your business if you voted for President Trump so I haven’t shopped there in 22 months. Luckily we found a neat little spice shop not too far, Nashville Spice Company in Nashville, Indiana. Great folks and they will ship to you!!

  3. Pj says:

    How long would a 3.5 lb pork butt take?
    I have it marinating tonight. Just want to get an idea of when to start it tomorrow. And the recipe and video make me so excited. Would love your advise. Thank you.

    • Malcom Reed says:

      It all depends on your pit and your cooking temp, but I would estimate 4-5 hours. Give yourself plenty of time – you can always hold it in a dry cooler until you are ready to serve and it will just get better with the hold.

  4. Berto says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I’ve cooked it twice now, so delicious. Everyone that tried it really liked it. This is a winner in my book.

  5. KramerJames says:

    After asking “who cooked this pork” my salty brother in law looked me in the eye and said “wow, I didn’t know you had it in ya”. This recipe brings families together and you’ll be the star of the taco bar.

  6. Rebecca says:

    Making this for the second time!!! Love this recipe! Thanks Malcolm

  7. Gregg says:

    Enjoy your website immensely. Smoking the pork butt as I’m typing. Haven’t braised yet. My question is; I’m only cooking for two so the butt is only 3 3/4lbs. Obviously I’m not going to smoke for 4 hours but not sure for how long exactly. Play it by ear and eyes I guess. A little over 2 hours probably(?). My point is maybe do an internal meat temp next time you make this dish so people who are cooking a different sized butt will kind of know when to start the braising part of the recipe. Again, enjoy your site.

  8. Rai Trippe says:

    Your pork carnitas are “KILLER” good for sure. I did a double recipe starting Tuesday night with two whole butts in marinade overnight for 12-13 hours. On Wednesday smoked on the Egg for 4 hours and then braised in separate foil covered aluminum pans for about 4.5 hours at 275 in the oven (had to cheat a little here because no way both pans would fit in the Egg). Took them out at a temp probe perfect 200 degrees. Let it all rest, pulled the meat, & vacuum sealed it for freezing until Saturday‘s weekend guys trip to a friend’s farm property. Saved & froze the skimmed braising liquid for reheating. Served it to a hungry crowd of 11 guys for a late lunch. The carnitas tacos with all the fixins’ and chipotle sour cream sauce were awesome! We ate ALL of the carnitas pork, ran out of tortillas, and then started piling the carnitas pork on top of nacho chips and corn chips. You won’t believe how super delicious that was! Thanks again for another great recipe.

  9. Chris says:

    Hey Malcolm, I love your videos and recipes! In this recipe you use hickory. Would mesquite work, as well, or do you recommend the hickory?

    • Malcom Reed says:

      I’m not a fan of mesquite – but it really comes down to personal taste. If you like mesquite, then use it! It will work for this recipe

      • Chris says:

        Hi again, I did this recipe this past weekend using the mesquite (I just believed it to be more Mexican), and it was the bomb! I was really impressed with the layers and layers of authentic Mexican flavors in the pork, and even with all of the condiments on the taco, my guests and I could still taste the cinnamon notes – so perfect! My guests were very impressed with the flavors, and your chipotle white sauce was a big hit, too! I live in San Diego, where we are known for our taco shops, and this recipe is the best tasting carnitas recipe I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve eaten at more taco shops than I can count! How does a Mississippi boy nail the flavors of a SD/Mex taco so well? I’ve cooked/smoked about a half dozen of your recipes, and each have been absolutely incredible! I can’t wait to cook more of your recipes – the 4th is coming up soon! Thank you, Malcolm!

  10. Oscar says:

    Love your recipes. Planning to do it on Friday for wife and kids. But they cannot do spicy. Does cooking with guajillo and chipotle peppers make it come out spicy?

    Thank you

  11. Pete DeWolff says:

    Hi Malcom,
    I have made this recipe 4 times. Always a hit with everyone. This last time I added the onions from the braising liquid back to the pulled pork and crisped up and browned the pork/ onion mixture in the oven under the broiler on high for a few minutes. I then poured a little of the braising liquid over it to serve. This really sent your fantastic recipe to even newer heights. Thanks for sharing your bbq expertise with all of us.
    Pete DeWolff

  12. Todd Ramirez says:

    Hi Malcom,

    What do you think about using your Grande Gringo on the carnitas?

  13. Pat G says:

    I’ve made this a few times, always a crowd pleaser. My family loves this in burritos.

  14. Gwen says:

    A question about marinating the pork butt. I had intended to smoke it today, so I marinated it last night at about 9 pm. However, I had some interruptions in my day and it’s now later than I’d like to start cooking the meat in order to allow 7-8 hours total time of cooking etc. Will the meat be okay if it marinates until tomorrow morning (7 or 8 am) and I start smoking it then? (That would be roughly 34-35 hours of marinating). So excited to try this recipe!

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