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Main Dish | May 22, 2010

Mexican Pulled Pork Carnitas

Mexican Pulled Pork Carnitas
Mexican Pulled Pork Carnitas

I wanted to have a little Cinco De Mayo celebration earlier this month. Between baseball rain outs and reschedules, end of school year craziness, and lifeingeneral, our celebration was reduced to a throw together dinner. You know how my kids LOVE Boston Butt. I found a couple of recipes that looked easy and yummy-one was a Cooks Illustrated recipe and another claiming to be the “best pork carnitas, EVER.”

So, I ran to Dick’s Market, came home, turned on the oven, threw a butt roast in the oven for about 4 hours. Went back to micro managing my kids lives. At the 4 hour 15 min mark, dinner was ready. So- about 20 minutes total prep (working) time.

Other than Stephen picking off the radishes, it received rave reviews, which is no small victory. Trust me, this can be a tough crowd.

Mexican Pulled Pork Carnitas

Mexican Pulled Pork Carnitas

adapted from Cooks Illustrated



  • 1- 3 1/2 to 4 lb boneless pork butt don’t go smaller than 4
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 2 bay leaves crushed
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper ground
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice about 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 medium orange halved

Tortillas and garnishes:

  • 12-15 6 inch corn tortillas (I like white corn)
  • lime wedges
  • minced onion red, white or yellow
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • thinly sliced radishes
  • avocado chunked
  • sour cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place roast in heavy oven proof pan. Squeeze lime and orange juice on top of roast. Rub pork with all dry ingredients. Pour water around sides of roast. Lay halves of lime and orange in pan with roast and water. Lay onion slices on top of roast. Cover pan with tight fitting lid.
  3. Place roast in oven. Set timer for 2 hours. After 2 hours, turn oven to 225 degrees, or off completely. Do not open oven. Leave roast in oven for an additional hour, or two. Remove and let cool for a few minutes. Pull all remaining fat off of meat and discard. Chop pork and set aside.
  4. About 15-20 minutes before you want to eat, chop garnishes and set aside. Turn on griddle to about 300 degrees, or if using a pan on stove, medium high heat. Spray surface with Pam or rub with vegetable oil. Quickly grill tortillas in hot pan until each side is puffed, about 10-15 seconds each side. You may grill the tortillas ahead of time and wrap in paper towel and foil to keep warm. Top each tortilla with a bit of meat and other garnishes.
  5. Serves 4.

Recipe Notes

Tips, confessions: -I actually forgot to add the orange juice, it was still wonderful. -I grill the tortillas as we eat.

-Often people ask me if it’s ok to substitute Pork Loin Roast for Boston Butt. Boston Butt is a roast that has a high fat content. If you use another type of roast in this type of recipe, it will not be as flavorful. If you trim the fat off of the Boston Butt, it will not be as flavorful. The fat is what keeps the meat moist, and gives it a hard to duplicate flavor.

-When I cook Boston Butt’s I vary the amount of cooking time. It’s a perfect Sunday or busy day type of roast. Set the timer to cook the meat for about 2 hours, then either reduce the heat to about 225-250 or simply turn the oven off for up to 3 hours. If the oven door is not opened, it will stay warm for several hours and continue to cook the roast at a low temperature.

8 thoughts on “Mexican Pulled Pork Carnitas

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  1. I tried this recipe tonight, and my kids loved it. Instead of the garnishments listed, I made the salsa with corn, black beans, avacodo, tomotoes, good seasoning dressing etc., which they put on it. I also made mexican rice which some put in the tortilla too. Delish!

  2. Made these last week – DELISH! I haven't had radishes since I was a kid. I forgot how much I LOVE them.


    p.s. I look forward to making the graduation brownies next. 🙂

  3. I used a pork tenderloin and just marinated an hour longer. It came out delicious and less fat (which is a good thing too).

  4. Pork carnitas can be cooked in a slow cooker as well. It is so convenient to fit around a busy schedule – just load the cooker, turn it on and go. If you time it just right, it should be ready for dinner time. To get that crispy effect, preheat the oven as soon as you get home, pull or chop the pork and spread on a large baking pan. Pop it in the oven until it reaches the desired crispiness.