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Overhead of Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl with rice beans cilantro prepared mango

Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl

Pull out the braising pan and get ready for a fiesta! This Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl is tender and sweet; delightful for both the eye and the mouth. And, in case you were wondering, yes, you can make it in your Dutch Oven or InstaPot!

Close Up Pork Carnitas
Closeup Picture of the Pork From Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl

What is Carnitas?

Carnitas is a traditional Mexican dish from the state of Michoacan. It is a tender, juicy, and utterly delicious braised pork shoulder (also referred to as Pork Butt). The shoulder is usually the preferred cut of pork, as the marbled fat helps tenderize and flavor the meat as it cooks. Think of it as Mexico’s version of BBQ pulled pork, with the one substantial difference of browning the meat as a finishing step before serving.

Overhead place setting of Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl with rice beans cilantro prepared mango
Bird’s Eye View of Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl

I Hear Carnitas a Lot But They All Seem Different

Similar to pulled pork, each family has their own preferred recipe. In their own right, many of these recipes are equally delicious. And honestly, how can you go wrong? Tender pork seasoned and marinating for hours in fat and juice yields a most perfect delectable fare. If you’re ever in Chicago, trek over to the Pilsen neighborhood and visit Carnitas Uruapan Restaurant. It’s a bit off the beaten path but has some of the most amazing carnitas I’ve eaten. Theirs is a more savory version than this recipe, but one bite and you’ll comprehend the absurdly long queue of carnivores.

As mentioned above, there are a variety of different styles and tastes of carnitas. Some more pork forward, others more spiced and savory, while even a few offer a twinge of sweetness. My preferred carnitas (and the recipe posted) is a bit like me, a little sweet and overall wonderful… (Insert laugh here… :)) But in all seriousness, in my opinion, having some sweetness in the meat makes for a better finish. As the meat browns, the sugars start to caramelize bringing a new element of flavor to the pork. When paired with more earthy sides such as rice and beans, and then having a punch of bright flavor from the mango, the overall effect is “WOW”.

close up of Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl with rice beans cilantro

How and What to Serve with Carnitas

So, now that you’ve made the carnitas, how do you eat it? First off, carnitas can be shredded or left in larger hunks, all dependent upon your utilization of this precious pork. For our bowls, we presented it in medium sized pieces. The real question is, what’s your medium? This meat can be used as a bowl (obviously), in tacos, nachos, salads, enchiladas, and…coming soon to the Cakes and Coriander website, my wife’s favorite dish, Oaxacan Chocolate Mole Carnitas Enchiladas! My wife is not alone in favoring these as I’m salivating just thinking about them.

This Carnitas Bowl would also go great with our Mighty and Healthy Fresco Elote Salad or even our Fresh and Easy Mexican Caprese Salad! Serve it over either salad or use these salads as sides/toppings. Any way you mix them, these would be excellent pairings.

close up of Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl with rice beans cilantro prepared mango

Tips and Tricks For Making Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl

  • Yes, you can freeze it! Bag, tag, and portion out the carnitas. When you’re sad, lonely, or just plain hungry, pull it out of the freezer and de-thaw in a saucepan with a bit of chicken broth to keep the meat hydrated.
  • You can use a slow cooker or Insta-Pot! If you’re using an Instapot, limit the broth in the recipe to half and cook for 29 minutes with a natural pressure release. Once finished, if it is too liquidy, set the Insta-Pot to saute mode and cook down the carnitas broth. That said, before breaking down the meat you want a broth to meat ratio of about 1:4 to keep the meat juicy and tender.
  • Where can I find the peppers/chili powder used? Most large grocery stores have a Mexican/Latin section with the ingredients readily available. The peppers tend to be found hanging in clear cellophane bags. If you don’t have access, you can also buy them on amazon here: Guajillo Chili Powder & Dried Ancho Chilis.
  • Don’t have a dutch oven or other braising pot? We love this 6-quart amazon brand dutch oven. Not only is it cost efficient, it works super well and has lasted us 4 years so far and shows no signs of slowing down (and we cook a LOT).
  • Have issues with cutting mango? Check out this video. It gives a quick tutorial that will make mangos your new favorite fruit.
  • Just FYI, we don’t rinse our long-grained white rice from this recipe. It usually comes enriched and rinsing takes the enrichment off.
  • This recipe yields enough pork to feed 8-10 people. We have added ingredients (in the second portion of ingredients) to make bowls enough for 4 servings.

Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl

5 from 4 votes
Course: Dinner, MeatCuisine: Mexican
Cook Mode

Keep the screen of your device on

Servings

8-10

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

2

hours 

10

minutes

***This recipe is for 4 carnitas bowls. There will be additional pork that can be used any way you want***

Pull out the braising pan and get ready for a fiesta! This Authentic Mexican Pork Carnitas Bowl is tender and sweet; delightful for both the eye and the mouth. And, in case you were wondering, yes, you can make it in your Dutch Oven or InstaPot!

Ingredients

  • Carnitas Ingredients**
  • 4 Lbs Pork Shoulder

  • 1+1/2 tsp Himalayan Pink Salt

  • 1 Tbsp Canola Oil or Neutral High Heat Oil

  • 1+3/4 Cups Sweet Onion Slivered

  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Garlic Crushed

  • 3 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar

  • 3/4 Cup Orange Juice

  • 1 Strip Orange Zest (no pith)

  • 1 Tbsp Lime Juice

  • 2 tsp Lime Zest

  • 3 Chilis Dried Ancho Chilis (Destemmed and mostly deseeded)

  • 1+1/2 tsp Guajillo Chili Powder

  • 2+1/2 Cups Chicken Broth (Meat should be ¾ covered)

  • 1 Tbsp Oregano Powder

  • 1 tsp Cumin

  • 2 tsp Coriander

  • 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

  • Accompaniments for Bowls (4 Servings)
  • 2 Cups Long Grain White Rice Cooked

  • 1+1/2 Cups Black or Pinto Beans

  • 1 Cup Roughly Chopped Cilantro

  • 3/4 Cup Green Onions, sliced (we chop both green & white portions for our bowls)

  • 1 Lime

  • 1+1/2 Cups Sliced Mango (Optional, Serving Prepared- dip in lime and sprinkle with Tajin or a 1:1:1 ratio of sugar, salt, and chili powder)

  • 1 Avocado (sliced into small chunks)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350° F
  • Clear top oven grates to make room for dutch oven.
  • Cut the pork shoulder into large 3-4 inch pieces.
  • Salt each piece making sure all sides are salted.
  • In a large dutch oven over high heat, brown the pork on all sides with either canola oil or other neutral high heat oil.
  • Once browned, pour in the white wine vinegar and scrape with a wooden spoon to deglaze.
  • Immediately add the onions, garlic, spices, and peppers.
  • Reduce heat to medium and add broth, zest plus juice from the orange and lime.
  • Bring the liquid to a boil and mix in brown sugar.
  • Set the lid on and place it in the oven.
  • Cook for 2 hours, check after 1.5 hours if additional broth is needed. (If the meat is less than half covered, add ½ cup of additional broth.)
  • Meat should be tender when done, but not to the point of shredding upon contact.
  • Remove from the oven and let the carnitas rest for 15 minutes. Towards the last 5 minutes, turn on the broiler in the oven.
  • Slightly break down the larger chunks into smaller pieces. Whatever meat you will be serving, place under the broiler until it is browned (about 2-5 minutes) Carnitas is best browned immediately before serving.
  • In bowl, place rice & beans. Top with carnitas and avocado. Place chili dipped mango on top and sprinkle entire bowl with cilantro & green onion.

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5 Comments

  1. Elise Dombeck

    Our family tried the instant pot version of this recipe tonight and it was delicious! Great write up and the steps were so easy to follow. This is definitely going to be added to our recipe rotation!

  2. I have made something similar that is so delicious but this is amazing. Can’t wait to try the enchiladas mole. Thank you for these delicious recipes.

    • janet bryant

      Is there a recipe for the mole sauce? If not, is there a brand to purchases?

      • Hi Janet, thank you for the nice comment and question! Yes, there is a mole recipe. If you’re at the top of the page, you can click the Jump to Recipe Button and it should bring you directly to the recipe. The first list of ingredients is specifically for the mole and the first portion of directions is for cooking it. Let us know if this helps and if you have any further questions!

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