While carnitas is directly translated as 'little meats', there is nothing little about this Mexican favourite. Packed with flavour, the dish is a low and slow one with pure magic as result: Fall-apart-tender pork that is crisped to golden perfection, then wrapped in a warm tortilla before its final disappearing act from everyone's plates.


Step 1
  • Set the oven to 100°C.
Step 2
  • Mix the spices and rub into the meat. Place in an ovenproof dish.
Step 3
  • Squeeze the orange and grate the garlic cloves. Mix with cola and pour over the meat.
Step 4
  • Cover with a lid or aluminium foil. Cook in the middle of the oven for at least six hours, preferably overnight.
Step 5
  • Leave to cool slightly. Pull the meat into strands with a fork and mix with the sauce.
Step 6
  • Peel and finely slice the red onion and place in a jar.
Step 7
  • Bring the vinegar, caster sugar and water to the boil and add to the onions.
Step 8
  • Leave to stand for at least two hours, preferably overnight.
Step 9
  • Warm the meat and serve in tortilla bread with salad, pickled red onion and a dollop of sour cream.
Step 10
  • Top with fresh coriander.

Questions about carnitas

Indulge in this amazing Mexican dish following this recipe, and keep reading if you want to learn more about the most frequently asked questions about it.

How do you know when carnitas are done?
The best way is to check the internal temperature. Perfect tenderness and juiciness are found between 90°C and 92°C. That's when the tough and rubbery connective tissues have melted away and dissolve into the meat. If you don't have a thermometer, it's the point where the meat falls apart by itself, basically when your mouth starts to water uncontrollably.
Can you overcook carnitas?
Definitely. If the internal temperature goes above 98°C the muscle fibres will toughen up again, making the meat dry and difficult to chew. If you have overcooked the meat, try adding some leftover stock.
Why do people put milk in carnitas?
Though it's not a traditional ingredient when cooking carnitas, some cooks like to add milk to their recipe. Milk helps to tenderise the meat and break down the tough connective tissues during the cooking process. It also enhances the richness of the flavour, adding a sweet, creamy tinge to the meat.
How do you keep carnitas from drying out?
The biggest culprit of dry carnitas is overcooking. Our three top tips are: Cover the meat with aluminium foil during the cooking process, keep your oven between 100°C and 120°C, and be vigilant during the last few hours when the risk of drying out is higher.
At what temperature should I cook carnitas?
Low and slow is where the magic happens. The perfect cooking temperature is between 100°C and 120°C. For added texture, you can crisp up the shredded meat by placing it under the broiler for a few minutes or giving it a quick fry in a skillet.


Smoked paprika powder
1 tbsp
Boneless pork shoulders
600 g
Chilli flakes
1 tbsp
Ground ginger
1 tbsp
2 tsp
Garlic cloves
Red onions
White vinegar 12%
50 ml
Caster sugar
90 g
150 ml
Salad mix
Sour cream
200 ml
Fresh coriander, chopped
300 ml

Carnitas: Mexican soul food at its best

When it comes to the best street food in the world, carnitas is ranked amongst the most popular recipes and it's little wonder why. A Mexican staple, this mouth-watering pulled pork has a depth of flavour that is hard, if not impossible, to replicate. Combined with a fresh lightness from toppings like coriander and lime, this dish gets a perfect 10.

Try these toppings

From salsa and guacamole to fresh coriander and grated cheese, your topping options are as endless and adventurous as you choose. The most traditional combination is finely chopped raw onion, fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime.

How to serve carnitas

The traditional way of serving carnitas is on a tortilla. With so many varieties available – from gluten free to paleo – it remains one of the most popular ways of serving this Mexican favourite. Other options include hard-shell tacos, burritos or even lettuce leaves as a light and healthy alternative.