Feeding a lot of people is something we do often here, so I’m always excited about recipes that make entertaining easy. My friend Brooke sent me this truly outstanding carnitas recipe last fall, and it’s quickly become a favorite for family gatherings or potlucks.
In wintertime especially, it’s hard to go wrong with a big pot of tender shredded meat. Even if you’re not cooking for a crowd, pulled pork can be used all week for the best tacos ever, followed by pulled pork sandwiches, followed by a pork-and-bean soup. Or even just piled on top of some salad or roasted vegetables.
And if you’re having people over for Super Bowl Sunday, this is a really easy way to do it. Cook the meat all day in a slow cooker, and put it out with warm tortillas and taco fixings. Your guests will love it, and you’ll be free to watch the game (or visit with friends).
This recipe makes a lot, but don’t worry about having too much – you can always freeze leftovers in small ziploc bags as a gift to your hungry self in the future.
Seasonings are very simple. A generous amount of salt and pepper, plus a simple spice rub made with cumin, oregano and olive oil.
Rub the pork with salt, pepper and spice rub.
A bit of orange juice, onion and a jalapeno if you have it (I don’t always). This was a double batch – eight pounds of pork – and it’s no more work.
I was out of fresh onions, but in a pinch dehydrated onions work surprisingly well.
I haven’t had to skim the fat – there really isn’t much. But you can if you need to.
The meat is done when it falls apart when you try to pick it up.
The original recipe includes a final step to briefly fry up the meat. You can and should – but I’ll also tell you it’s still delicious if you don’t.
Fry it in batches, a layer of pork at a time, to brown it a bit.
The quick fry gives you nice little browned bits. But if you’re pressed for time, or just can’t be bothered, the pulled pork is still juicy and wonderful without the extra step.
Carnitas make incredible tacos, of course. But the pulled pork is also great on sandwiches, or over salads, or just snacking out of the fridge while you’re thinking of what else to eat with it.
I love sharing recipes here, and I love it just as much when friends share back. Thanks to Brooke for this one!
Party recipes from the archives:
- Spinach dip (without the mix) [post] [printable]
- Three-ingredient artichoke dip [post] [printable]
- Turkey chili [post] [printable]
- Veggie chili [post] [printable]
- Corn and black bean salad with chipotle dressing [post] [printable]
- Pizzatatoes [post] [printable]
- Potato salad with lemon and fresh herbs [post] [printable]
- Roasted potatoes with garlic and lemon [post] [printable]
- Shredded kale and brussels sprout salad [post] [printable]
- Sweet vinegar slaw [post] [printable]
- Candied walnuts (or pecans) [post] [printable]
- Snowy honey roasted almonds [post] [printable]
- Labneh party spread [post] [printable]
- Mediterranean dip [post] [printable]
- Mediterranean popcorn [post] [printable]
- Caramel dip for apples [post] [printable]
- Kettle corn [post] [printable]
- S’mores cookies [post] [printable]
Slow-cooked Pulled Pork Carnitas
An outstanding dish for entertaining. All you need is a pot of this plus warm tortillas and taco fixings. Adapted from Recipe Tin Eats.
- 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder (aka pork butt)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, deseeded, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 oranges, juiced (3/4 cup juice)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Rinse and dry the pork shoulder. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.
- Mix the spice rub – oregano, cumin, salt, pepper and olive oil – and rub all over the pork.
- Place the seasoned pork in a slow cooker, fat cap up. Top with the onion, jalapeño, minced garlic (don’t worry about spreading it) and orange juice. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 6 hours.
- When done, the meat should fall apart when you try to lift it with tongs. Remove the meat from the slow cooker and let cool slightly. Then shred the pork using two forks.
- There should be 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cooking liquid left in the pot. If you have excess, you can reduce the liquid by cooking at a lively simmer (either in the slow cooker on the sauté setting with the lid off, or in a saucepan), skimming off extra fat if necessary. The liquid will be very salty. Set aside.
- Quick sear (optional): Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large non stick pan over high heat. Working in batches, place a layer of shredded pork into the pan and drizzle over some juices. Wait until the juices evaporate and the bottom side is golden brown and crusty. Turn and just briefly sear the other side. Remove pork from skillet.
- Drizzle cooking juices over shredded pork and serve immediately with warm tortillas and taco fixings, or bbq sauce and buns, or however else you’d like to enjoy it.
- Salt is a big seasoning here. I’ve already adjusted it down from the original recipe, but be sure to adjust it downward if you are making less meat than indicated by recipe.
- Cooking overnight: for lunch time entertaining, you can cook the pork overnight in a slow cooker on low. In the morning add some water if the cooking liquid has cooked off. You can keep the pork on the warm setting for another 4 hours.
- Electric pressure cooker (eg Instant Pot): cook 1.5 hours on high. Cook for more time if the meat does not fall apart when you pull at it with a fork.
- To cook in the oven: add 1 cup of water to the braising liquid. Place in 325 degree F oven for 2 hours, covered, then roast for a further 1 to 1.5 hours uncovered. Add more water if the liquid dries out too much. You should end up with 1 1/2 to 2 cups of liquid when it finishes cooking.
- To store for later eating, shred the meat without pan frying and store the juices separately in the refrigerator. Pan fry to reheat the meat, adding some juices to moisten.
- To freeze leftovers: store meat in ziplock bags or airtight containers. Freeze in small batches for convenience. Defrosts easily overnight in refrigerator.
Here’s the link to a printable version.
The carnitas- browned or not- also make a wonderful topping for
cacio e Pepe; add some of the pork ‘broth’ for extra flavor
hi tara – this is a fantastic idea! thank you so much for sharing back!
Thanks for posting another great recipe that feeds a crowd! I’ve signed up to bring dinner to my eldest’s high school robotics team. So this is perfect timing. I’m thinking a burrito bar which is great for carnivores and herbivores.
From another post, I think you’ve done the same. If you don’t mind sharing, what did you decide to bring?
hi katherine – argh i got so behind on comments! so sorry. burrito bar works great with this recipe! i hope it worked out for you. what a lucky robotics team! =)
Thank you for the recipe. I typically just rub Hawaiian salt and add liquid smoke to pork shoulder for a little taste of Hawaii.
hi lulu – great adds, thank you so much for sharing! a little taste of hawaii is always a good idea. =)