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Citrusy Pork Carnitas Taco Bar

Alanna Hale
Cook Time:
2 hrs
Prep Time:
30 mins

Chef notes

I love making this recipe when I'm hosting. I prep the pork and let it simmer while I get ready, set the table and make cocktails. Once my guests arrive the house smells amazing, and I don't need to break a sweat to get everyone fed!

Technique tip: Searing the pork in the pan first helps the flavors develop and gives the meat a nice color. If you like carnitas extra crispy, broil it on a sheet pan before serving.

Swap option: To make in a slow cooker, season the pork and sauté as directed. Add to a slow cooker with the other ingredients but omit the water. Cover and cook on high for 7 hours or on low for 10 hours.


  • 1 (2½- 3-pound) boneless pork shoulder or butt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled but whole
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
Taco bar
  • 30 small corn tortillas (or 12 large almond or flour tortillas)
  • cups guacamole
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 limes, quartered


For the carnitas:


Cut the pork into 2-inch chunks, cutting off any large pieces of fat. In a large bowl, combine the pork, chili powder, cumin, salt, oregano, paprika, pepper, pepper flakes and cinnamon. Toss until the pork is coated.


Heat the avocado oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Working in batches, add the pork and cook until a nice crust forms, about 1 minute per side. 


Return all of the meat to the pan and add enough water to cover the pork.


Add the onion, garlic, orange juice and lime juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the pork is very soft and tender, 1½ to 2 hours.


Once the pork is soft and easily broken up with tongs, increase the heat to medium. Continue to cook, stirring the pork with the tongs until the liquid is fully absorbed and the pork is falling apart and can be easily shredded.


For crispy carnitas, increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Alternatively, spread the shredded carnitas on a foil-lined sheet pan and broil for 2 to 3 minutes until crisp.

For the taco bar:

Wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until warm.

Set out the tortillas, carnitas, guacamole, sour cream, red onions, cilantro and lime wedges.